We get lots of questions at Gardening Know How, which is why we try wholeheartedly to provide the best answers possible. Maybe you’ve got a general inquiry or one that pertains to a particular plant in the garden. Chances are we’ve covered it somewhere. One of the plant families popular in many gardens include lilies. Here are the 10 most commonly asked questions about lily plants we receive.
Lily plant grow from bulbs but, unlike many other bulbs, they don’t always go completely dormant. Autumn is usually the best time for transplanting lilies in most areas but, technically, you can transplant at any time during the warm months, but when temps are very high, the water stress on the plant greatly increases the chances that the plant will die. If you transplant during high heat, provide lots of water for at least a week or two after transplanting. Providing temporary shade for the plant is helpful as well.
It is normal for them to bend over when the blooms start to get old. Once the flowers have been pollinated and start to set seed, they will naturally bend over, often all the way to the ground. You may even see the seed pod on the inside of the lily. Additionally, some lily varieties can reach several feet tall, and while they’re usually fairly sturdy, the added weight of those pretty blooms can cause the plants fall over. This can be easily remedied by providing a stake for extra support.
How quickly a tree lily grows can vary and is mostly dependent on its current soil and air temperatures. With warm spring temperatures, you might expect to see sprouts within in 2-4 weeks, but if it’s colder, it might take longer than that. Colder regions may benefit from adding an extra layer of mulch over the planting area, which will help insulate the soil temperatures and further help the plant along. All in all, though, there’s reason for the saying, “patience is a virtue.” Seasonal fluctuations are not uncommon from year to year, making the appearance of sprouts variable at best.
With exception to peace lily and calla lily (Note: these are not true lilies and are not toxic the way lilies are.), all other lily varieties are major threats to cats (and some dogs), causing kidney failure and death. It takes only a small amount to result in poisoning. There’s also potential for toxicity in humans, depending on the type of lily which may range from fairly mild to even death. And all parts of lilies, those in the Lilium genus, are toxic. So if you have pets or small children, you may want to reconsider planting lilies in the garden just to err on the safe side.
If you live in a regions not prone to freezing, you can leave the bulbs in all year long. Gardeners in colder climates, however, should consider pulling up bulbs for overwintering indoors. Lily bulbs left in the ground during winter freezes may not come back in spring and can even rot. Wait until all the foliage has died back, then dig up the bulbs and separate any with offsets. Check the bulbs for mold or damage and discard any that aren’t healthy. Allow them to dry in a cool, dark location for a few days and then store the lily bulbs in a peat moss filled cardboard box or paper bag.
While deadheading spent blooms is a common practice in many gardens and one that can often encourage reblooming, this isn’t the case for lilies. Deadheading of lily plants isn’t necessary. Once they’re finished blooming, that’s it. They will not bloom again. You can, however, cut the flower stalks back after the blooms have faded. It is best to keep the leaves in place though until they die back naturally in the fall or winter. Cutting them before this will weaken the plant because it needs the leaves to store energy for next year.
If you find that you have no flowers on a plant, a number of factors, from age to environmental or cultural issues, could be to blame. Members of the lily family require a minimum of 5-6 hours of full sun to bloom. If yours are located in an area that’s not getting enough sun, then this could be the problem. Moving the lilies to another location can help. Also, have you been fertilizing the flowers? Too much nitrogen, for example, can prevent blooming. Adding phosphorus, like bone meal, can alleviate the issue.
Absolutely, you can grow more lilies from the seeds, but just be aware that it requires a little more effort and patience since they will take much longer to grow and bloom than those planted from offsets or other means. In fact, for some lily varieties, it could take years. Don’t let this deter you though. If you have the time and feel like experimenting, by all means go for it. Simply wait for the seedhead to dry up and brown before collecting the seeds. Depending on the type of lily you have, these may require a cold period (stratification) prior to planting.
Yes, it is definitely possible to grow plants from bulbils. The bulbils can be easily separated from the parent plant and put directly into the garden in the late summer, which gives them plenty of time to develop a strong root system before winter sets in. Likewise, you can collect and store the bulbils over winter and plant them outside in the spring. Place them in labeled Ziploc bags. Then put them into the fridge for about a month or so to give them a cooling period. Take them out of the fridge and transfer them in growing trays or pots, then place these under Florescent lighting to grow them over winter. By spring the bulbils should be adequately sized for planting in the garden.
While this could be due to any number of insects, the most common culprit for this type of lily damage is the lily leaf beetle, which is bright red and relatively easy to spot on the plant. Both adults and their larvae can cause unsightly damage to lily plant foliage. While picking off adult lily beetles in one method of control, treating the plants with neem oil is more effective at controlling both adults and larvae. Neem oil is organic and safe for people, pets and bees.
Just like humans, plants need companions. Landscape or garden designers often suggest planting in groups of three or more. While this is a sound design principle, if one of these three plants gets a pest or disease, the whole grouping will soon suffer. Companion planting with other species of plants can deter certain pests and help them become more resistant to diseases. Variety in the landscape also ensures that there will still be plants even if a disease or pest wipes out one species. Additionally, companion plants can also attract pollinators and beneficial insects.
Roses are such reliable performers in the garden that they are oftentimes planted alone as specimen plants or in groupings with other roses. However, they are notoriously affected by many different pests and several diseases too. Rose companion plants not only repel these pests and diseases, but they can also bring out the deep, rich colors of roses even more by adding complimentary or contrasting color.
While many plants make excellent companions for roses, here are the top 5 companion plants for roses and their attributes:
1. Lavender (Lavendula spp.) – Hardy in zones 5-9. As companion plants to roses, lavender repels rabbits, deer and aphids. They also attract pollinators. The blue-green, fine textured foliage of lavender and lavender-purple blooms beautifully accentuate the dark green foliage and colorful blooms of roses. Lavender’s low-growing habit can also hide bare spots near the base of large rose shrubs.
2. Ornamental Onions (Allium spp.) – Hardy in zones 3-9. Plants in the onion family are said to intensify the scent of roses. They also repel aphids, weevils, Japanese beetles, and moles. Alliums also can prevent black spot when planted near roses. Aesthetically, they add different color and texture to the rose garden.
3. Catmint (Nepeta spp.) – Hardy in zones 3-9. Catmints are naturally disease and pest free plants. When planted with roses, they deter rabbits, deer, and Japanese beetles. Catmint also attracts pollinators. Like lavender, the colors and texture of catmint beautifully contrast roses.
4. Wormwood (Artemisia spp.) – Hardy in zones 4-8. Wormwood repels many insect pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, beetles, ants, slugs and snails. They also deter rabbits, deer and rodents. Wormwood does, however, attract beneficial insects to the garden. The low growing, fine, feathery silver foliage of wormwood planted around roses creates the appearance of a living floral bouquet.
5. Ornamental Sage (Salvia spp.) – Hardy in zones 4-9. Salvias deter deer and rabbits. They also attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. Visually, the bloom colors and texture of salvias are very complimentary to roses. While lavender can sometimes be a difficult plant to grow, salvias are very easy to grow and have a similar appearance.
Every year, prior to the onset of summer, I review our first aid kit with a checklist in hand to make sure it is well-stocked. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen – check. Antibiotic ointment – check. Adhesive bandages – check. Sterile gauze pads – check. Yarrow – check. Wait. Yarrow? Did she just say yarrow? Why, yes! I did.
Common yarrow, a member of the Asteraceae (Daisy) family, is rated for USDA plant hardiness zones 3-9 and features rounded clusters of white or pinkish flat-topped flowers. Each dainty flower in the cluster is 3-5 mm. in diameter. The leaves of this perennial are described as finely dissected and are 1-6 inches (2.5 to 15 cm.) long and up to an inch wide. A single yarrow plant can grow up to 36 inches (91 cm.) high.
While yarrow today is regarded more as an ornamental or maybe even an insect-repelling plant, it is, indeed, a first aid plant and has been for centuries. The history of yarrow reveals that this plant possesses medicinal properties as a hemostatic (blood coagulation), analgesic (pain reliever) and antiseptic. Read on to learn more about common yarrow uses.
Yarrow Plant History
Greek Trojan War hero, Achilles, may be best known for his weakness (his heels), when really, he should be most renowned for his use of yarrow, which he applied topically to his troops’ wounds during the siege of Troy. Achilles medicinal knowledge of yarrow actually came from his mentor, the mythological centaur Chiron. Achilles does get a nod to his role in yarrow’s history via the plant’s botanical name (Achillea millefolium or Achilles’ Thousand-Leaved plant). And, due to the application of yarrow on the battlefields, it was commonly referred to as Herba Militaris (the military herb) in classical times. While Achilles has been credited largely for yarrow’s discovery and use, some evidence suggests that its use pre-dated Achilles and was possibly a part of Neanderthal culture.
Most sources support the belief that the early colonists introduced yarrow into North America while others ascribe to the notion that it is a plant native to Native America, given how the plant’s use was so deeply embedded in native American culture. The Native Americans embraced the medicinal properties of yarrow and used it to remedy a large number of external and internal ailments including wounds, burns, toothaches, arthritis, digestion and sore throats, just to name a few yarrow uses.
Given its reputation as an effective blood coagulant and astringent, you would be surprised to know that yarrow can actually elicit a nosebleed if a fresh leaf is inserted in the nostril and twisted. Who would deliberately cause a nosebleed, you ask? Well, the young and lovelorn, for one. In the book A Modern Herbal, authored by Briton Mrs. M. Grieve in 1931, girls were taught (or misled…ahem) that they could determine if their suitor’s love be true if their nose bled upon inserting yarrow while reciting a prepared rhyme. Nosebleeds were also induced by those who believed they cured headaches. A trade-off of one problem for another, if you will…
I’m sure that after reading about the history of yarrow, many of you are wondering how to use yarrow in a medical application. Fresh leaves can be chewed into a paste and used as a simple poultice on wounds. Leaves can also be dried and pulverized into a powder that can be used on bleeding wounds. Yarrow can also be brewed into a tea – those who suffer from menstrual discomfort, for example, may wish to try the tea. Some people even infuse yarrow into an herbal oil.
Yarrow is very easy to grow and, if this yarrow plant history is any indication, would be a valuable addition to the flora in your backyard because it is first aid within reach and in a pinch!
Water sections of your lawn or garden beds with ease with the Essential Watering Kit, which includes a sprinkler sled on wheels, Multi-Shower Watering Nozzle, Analog Water Timer and brass quick change garden hose fittings – all you need to add is a hose! The Italian-Made sprinkler sled will allow you to easily reposition the sprinkler without having to turn off the spigot, courtesy of large stabilizing plastic wheels. The Multi-shower Watering Nozzle will meet all your various watering needs with 10 individual settings, from jet to spray. It will also be easy to schedule the timing and duration of your lawn and garden watering with the Analog Water Timer, which features two simple-to-use kitchen-timer style dials. Lastly, the brass quick change garden hose fittings make attaching these three aforementioned watering accessories to your garden hose a snap!
Lastly, with the Garden Essential Set, you’ll have your essential tools at your side when you need them. This set features a Digging Knife, Italian Bypass Pruner, gloves, holster and belt loop- everything you need for the toughest pruning chores!
Please do the following anytime from Monday 7/16 through midnight Wednesday 7/18:
Go to the Gardening Know How Facebook page. Find the Garrett Wade giveaway Facebook post pinned at the top of the page. Make a comment underneath this post with your answer to the following question: Visit the Garrett Wade website. Which garden tool or accessory on this website is a must-have gardening essential for you?
When it comes to improving the fertility of soil, nothing is better than compost. The rich, organic matter adds needed humus to improve soil structure and water retention. It returns nutrients back to the soil that would otherwise end up in landfills. The enormous populations of microbes in compost help convert and move nutrients in the soil to plants so they can grow, reproduce and thrive. But even compost can use a little help from fertilizer, now and then. There are 3 key ways to use natural and organic fertilizers to amp up your compost and soil fertility.
First, fertilizers can help balance between the “greens” and “browns” in your compost and stimulate the right kind of microbial activity. Bacteria thrive on the sugars and simple carbohydrates in the fresh, nitrogen-rich green items in the pile – grass clippings, vegetable peelings, fresh weeds, etc. Fungi prefer the complex carbohydrates of dry, carbon-rich browns, like leaves, branches and other yard waste. Keeping these two ingredients in balance helps keep the microbes in balance, too. But at certain times of the year, the supply of brown materials tends to overwhelm the green supply. Organic fertilizer ingredients like molasses,alfalfa meal or wheat middlings can help supplement the greens in the pile by providing more of the sugars bacteria need to thrive.
A second use of fertilizer is to add essential plant nutrients directly into the pile as it is composting. While compost tends to be rich in nitrogen, it is often lacking in phosphorus and potassium. To achieve a more balanced macronutrient ratio, an application of steamed bone meal like NaturalPhos® can help pump up the phosphorus while potassium sulfate can augment with potassium. Adding trace minerals directly into the pile is beneficial, as well – it gives microbes a chance to start processing the minerals into plant-usable forms before they even get to the garden. Azomite® and kelp meal are great additions for delivering trace minerals directly into your compost. Thanks to the organic matter in the pile, you don’t have to worry about these nutrients leaching out before they get to your garden.
Finally, organic fertilizer feeds the microbes in your compost after they’ve used up their food supply in the pile. If the compost pile is heating up to the necessary 135-150F, it means that the bacteria and fungi are busy breaking down and consuming the carbohydrates they find. When compost is “finished” and ready to spread in the garden, most of the carbohydrates have been consumed, and the microbes are hungry for more. Carbohydrate-rich fertilizers like Garden Maker Naturals alfalfa meal,soybean meal, distillers grains and wheat middlings provide good nutrition for the microbes and an additional shot of nitrogen and organic matter for the soil. This is also an excellent time to add pre-formulated natural and organic fertilizers to help meet plants’ specific nutritional needs. When digging a planting hole, we recommend mixing your compost with some Garden Maker Naturals Terrific Tree & Shrub fertilizer for the best nutritional start for your trees or shrubs. For garden beds, lay down the compost first, then work some balanced N-P-K fertilizer like our Tasty Tomato or Superb Starter into the top couple of inches of soil to make good contact with the microbes. Feeding your soil microbes + feeding your plants = a fabulous, fertile garden!
The wind in the willows sang softly to me
Follow my voice wherever it leads
From mountains, through valleys, to deep rolling seas
Born on the wings of a breeze
~ Ralph McTell, The Wind in the Willows
As gardeners, we work our sites to make them accommodate our needs or we adapt to the site’s natural conditions. When soil is poor, rocky, chalky or sandy, we amend it or build up berms. In dry, arid locations, we add irrigation systems or xeriscape. In windy sites, we plant windbreaks or select plants that not only tolerate thee conditions but also beautifully sway and dance in the breeze.
High winds not only damage plants with weak root systems or branches, but they cause plants to dry out quickly. Planting large plants as windbreaks is a common solution to windy gardens. Large evergreens with needle-like foliage can soften high winds. Broadleaf evergreens, needle-leafed evergreen, as well as deciduous shrubs can be planted as a straight shielding hedge or staggered to break the intensity of the wind. However, not all yards have the space for these large plants. In city lots, for instance, wind can be intensified as it bounces off buildings, walls and fences.
In some cases, gardeners must simply grow plants that can tolerate windy conditions. These plants sway and bend, not snap and break. They also tolerate dry conditions and do not have high water needs. The effect of wind can actually add more interest to certain plants; for example, the beauty of grass blades and plumes swaying in the breeze or the soothing sound of quaking aspen leaves rattling against each other in the wind. Below are the top 10 plants for windy areas:
1. California Lilac (Ceanthus spp.) – Hardy in zones 8-10. California lilac plants can be shrubs or trees depending on variety.
2. Mountain Ash (Sorbus spp.) – Hardy in zones 3-7. Mountain ash trees are not true ash trees. They are actually town trees and thrive in wind-prone landscapes.
3. Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) – Hardy in zones 7-9, crepe myrtle trees offer attractive summer blooms and interesting peeling bark. Many varieties tolerate wind well, making them suitable for planting in these areas.
4. Hawthorn (Crategus spp.) – Hawthorns look great when planted in groups and can provide much needed screening from harsh winds. They’re hardy in zones 3-9.
5. Olive Tree (Olea spp.) – Hardy in zones 8-11, olive trees add ornamental appeal to the landscape – the fruit is a bonus. They make great screens in wind-prone areas.
6. Century Plant (Agave spp.) – Some varieties of agave are hardy down to zone 5, but most are hardy in zones 8-11. They make exceptional specimens in the garden and tolerate windy conditions.
7. Juniper (Juniperus spp.) – Hardy in zones 2-10, there are a number of juniper shrubs that will tolerate windy landscapes.
8. Japanese Silvergrass/Maiden Grass (Miscanthus spp.) – Miscanthus grasses look attractive as they move and sway in the breeze. They are hardy in zone 4-9.
9. Sea Holly (Eryngium spp.) – Hardy in zones 4-9, sea holly not only adds interest to the garden but tolerates both windy and arid conditions.
10. Gazania (Gazania spp.) – Some varieties of gazania are hardy down to zone 4, but most are hardy in zones 8-11.
Enter to win one of two $50 Caribbean Garden Seed gift certificates in this weekend’s giveaway (July 13 – 15, 2018). Caribbean Garden Seed is a small family garden which produces vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruits from the Caribbean and around the world. Their top quality seeds are only harvested from the best plants and are hand harvested, counted and packaged in resealable plastic envelopes. These seeds are then sold at a small price so that their customers can enjoy the same gardening passion as the Caribbean Garden Seed family.
Please do the following anytime from Friday 7/13 through midnight Sunday 7/15:
Share the Caribbean Garden Seed giveaway Facebook post on your timeline.
The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified through Facebook. (See rules for more information.)
Connect with Caribbean Garden Seed: https://www.caribbeangardenseed.comUse discount code PVQS-W1VN-1Z2O at checkout to receive 20% discount off your entire order. ($10 minimum order required to receive discount. One per customer.)
Blackberries have been utilized in Europe for over 2,000 years for culinary and medicinal purposes as well as protective hedgerows. It’s no wonder that blackberry history dates so far back. They are part of a widely adapted group of more than 375 species native throughout the temperate northern hemisphere and into South America.
Origin of Blackberries
It is difficult to exactly trace the origin of blackberries, but they probably first originated in Asia, North or South America or in Europe. That doesn’t really narrow it down much, but this diverse species of the genus Rubus is difficult to label, as it is the most taxonomically complex of any fruit crop.
The original species that existed centuries ago naturally crossbred multiple times with the resulting fruit we see today and is so complex that its origins and lineage can’t be traced by genetically backtracking. Blackberries also have the most widespread geographic origin or any fruit crop.
History of Blackberries
Also known as bramble, brummel, and brambleberry, evidence of blackberry consumption can be found all the way back to the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago, so it is logical to assume that blackberry history dates back over thousands of years. The ancient Romans used blackberries medicinally and Native Americans used them as not only a food source, but medicinally and to dye animal skins. Native Americans also used the canes to make twine.
‘Brymbyl’ in old English and ‘brombeere’ in German, ancient Anglo-Saxons used the fruit in primitive pies to celebrate the first fruit feast of Lughnasadh at the end of the summer. Brambles were often planted around European villages to thwart marauders or large animals.
Blackberries were also thought to protect against incantations and curses when gathered at a certain phase of the moon. By passing beneath the brambles, children were said to be cured of hernias. Those suffering from boils were also encouraged to crawl through the brambles, although in this case, the “cure” was most likely that the thorns lanced the boils.
The ancient Greek physician Galen prescribed a decoction of blackberries for ailments and Palladius writes of a recipe for blackberry syrup made with two parts juice to one part honey. Ancient Greeks also used blackberries to treat symptoms of gout, leading it to be called “goutberry” well into the 18th century.
Additional Blackberry History Information
Until fairly recently, blackberries were considered wild and uncultivated. Then Judge Logan began to crossbreed the berry in 1880 and introduced loganberries, a relative of blackberries. Luther Burbank took a stab at developing a thornless variety in 1921, but the flavor was lacking. Today, the Triple Crown is an excellent flavored thornless berry.
Mexico is the leading producer of blackberries. In the United States, Oregon is the leading blackberry, or rather marionberry producer. In the mid-40’s, George F. Waldo developed the marionberry, a hybrid of two different varieties of blackberry, and released it commercially as ‘Marion’ in 1956.
While blackberries have been used as a food source and medicine for centuries, today it is primarily used to make sweets such as pies or preserves. It has also historically been used to make wine and cordials as documented by the 1696 London Pharmacopoeia.
Lastly, a 10th Arab physician identified the berries as being an aphrodisiac, and I must say I sure do love a plate of blackberry crumble!
Flat, horizontal gardening is so boring. Liven up your garden with vertical growth. The benefits of a vertical garden are plentiful, from greater visual interest to making use of otherwise unusable space. On the other hand, while vertical gardening can be spectacular when done correctly, it may also be a trendy gardening fad with more troubles than you expect. While there are many benefits, it’s important to consider the cons of vertical gardening too.
Vertical Gardening Pros
Mary Ellen’s viewpoint: Vertical gardening goes against the norm, the usual way of doing things. So why should you plant up? Advantages of vertical gardening abound. Here are a few reasons you will want to start making use of vertical space in your garden:
Vertical gardening looks cool. One really simple reason to try vertical gardening is that it adds such great visual interest to a space. Whether you’re creating a green wall or simply growing vines up a trellis, a vertical garden adds a new element to your patio, yard, or even indoor space.
Unleash your creativity. Sure, you can get creative arranging plants in beds, but add another layer of creativity as you figure out how to grow up. There are plenty of ideas online for vertical planters, wall planters, trellises, and other unique ways to grow vertically. Use these for inspiration and come up with your own solutions.
Grow more in a small space. The most practical of all the advantages of vertical gardening is that it allows you to grow more in a space that is limited. If you have a small yard or garden but want to grow more flowers, herbs, or even vegetables, utilize vertical space. Even the smallest spaces, like a balcony, can be maximized with vertical growing.
Everything is easier in a vertical garden. Your vertical garden, once you get it started, will be the easiest part of your garden to maintain. You will have minimal weeds, if any, to pull out, and you won’t have to bend or crouch to access your plants, to water them, or to harvest them.
Vertical gardens provide cover and privacy. If you use a trellis or fence, or even create a wall for your vertical garden, you can use it to hide something unsightly, like that big AC unit behind the house. You can also use vertical growing to fill in open spaces and create a privacy shield for your yard, patio, or balcony.
Grow healthier plants. Keeping plants up in the vertical space increases airflow and keeps them healthier. Being above the soil may also protect your plants from soil-borne pests and diseases, like fungal and bacterial infections.
Cons of Vertical Gardening
Mary’s viewpoint: It’s not that I’m entirely opposed to the concept of vertical gardening, but I feel it is always important to assess all aspects, both good and bad, of any particular garden method before jumping in head first. So with that in mind, here are some downsides to vertical gardening to consider:
Moisture and mold. Vertical gardens planted against a brick or masonry wall may drip and harbor moisture that can damage the structure. Similarly, a vertical garden planted above a deck can stain and discolor whatever lies beneath. Vertical gardening is best around concrete or other building materials that are impervious to moisture.
Bugs and germs. Vertical gardens can be home to water-borne pathogens that flow from the top of the plant to the lower foliage, then spreading to neighboring plants and soil. Remember that splashing water spreads germs and disease quickly. On the other hand, pathogens spread more slowly in soil, limited by how far moisture seeps or mud splashes.
Sun blockers. When it comes to vertical gardening disadvantages, keep in mind that vertical gardens are tall structures that may cast shadows over lower-growing plants. If you choose to grow a vertical garden, consider the needs of plants that may be prevented from receiving adequate sunlight. Consider shade plants, if necessary.
Increased maintenance. Vertical gardens generally require more maintenance than plants in the ground. Plants in a vertical garden generally need more water and may require more fertilizer since they are often exposed to the drying effects of wind and sun. Many plants will require regular pruning, and an indoor vertical garden will probably require hand pollination, a rewarding job that can be very labor intensive.
Lack of support. Vertical gardens may not be sturdy enough to support large plants such as wisteria vines, melons or tomatoes, although they may work well for sweet peas and other lighter plants. If you want to grow heavy plants, you may need to anchor the set-up to a more substantial supportive structure. This complication is one of the many downsides of vertical gardening.
Do Downsides to Vertical Gardening Outweigh the Pros?
Vertical gardening pros are not limited to those listed here. There are many more reasons to grow up and not just out. Find the reasons most important to you and then run with it and enjoy your new, multi-dimensional garden. Don’t jump into vertical gardening until you have a thorough understanding of maintenance requirements, potential problems, and other good reasons not to plant a vertical garden. If your garden lacking a vertical element, you could always consider columnar evergreen trees or tall, bold ornamental grasses.
Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. When it comes to growing bulbs, tulips are at the top of the list. The following article includes the 10 most commonly asked questions about tulip bulbs and their care in the garden.
In general, the best time to plant tulip bulbs is in the fall around the months of October to November in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in a mild winter area, you could even wait until December. Keep in mind that those residing on the opposite side of the globe (Southern Hemisphere), like Australia, will have different planting times – such as late April to May.
Lack of Nutrients: Tulips need phosphorus to form flower buds. Conduct a soil test to verify that your soil is phosphorus deficient. Consider fertilizing your tulip bulbs annually with a phosphorus rich fertilizer to provide a much needed boost.
Inadequate Growing Conditions: Were the tulips planted in a location that receives full sun? Is the soil well draining? Were the tulips planted at the right depth (tulips should be planted three times deeper than they are tall)?
Energy-Deprived Bulbs: Resist the urge to mow down the foliage after the tulip flowers are spent. Prematurely cutting down the foliage prevents the leaves from storing enough energy to form the flower bulb. Let the foliage die back naturally instead and snip off any spent tulip blossoms so that energy isn’t diverted to a tulip’s seed producing efforts.
Bad Bulbs: Sometimes the bulbs that we purchase are not healthy. Inspect your bulbs before buying and planting. Were the bulbs you acquired plump and firm? It is recommended when buying a load of bulbs to slice one open and take a peek to see if the flower bud in the center is brown and dried up.
Assuming you are talking about replanting bulbs that have been forced indoors over the winter, yes, you can – however, you may or may not get another bloom off them because tulips don’t rebound very well after being forced. But, to give yourself the best chance for tulip reblooming success, allow the foliage to die back naturally and store the container in a cool, dry location until spring. When planting, apply some bulb boosting fertilizer to the top of the soil where you planted your bulb.
If growing the potted tulips for indoor enjoyment, they will need to be forced (refer to question #8 “How can I force tulip bulbs?”) in order to receive the cold dormant period they require. The care of forced tulips is easy once the foliage emerges. Simply water the tulips when the soil is dry to the touch and keep the plant out of direct light and drafts.
Tulip bulbs planted in containers that are destined for placement outdoors are planted at the same depth as their in-ground outdoor counterparts. Consider layering your bulbs, with 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm.) of potting soil between each layer, to create visually dynamic arrangements based on tulip height and color. Those in zones 6 or below can store the pot in a cool sheltered area such as a garage or basement. Water the container about once a month and bring it back outside, with a dose of fertilizer, in early spring. Those in zones 7 on up will want to pre-chill their bulbs prior to planting.
When digging up tulip bulbs for storage, brush any excess dirt off of the bulbs. Obtain a cardboard box and newspaper. Layer the bulbs in the cardboard box with newspaper sandwiched in between each layer, taking care that the bulbs in each layer do not touch. Store the box in a cool, dry place such as a basement or garage. Inspect the bulbs periodically and toss any that become mushy.
Tulip bulbs can be ransacked from below ground by voles or above ground by squirrels, or even deer. While there are many methods proposed for combatting these pests, here are a few tips on protecting your bulbs from rodents:
Laying and staking down chicken wire over the planting area can be an effective deterrent for our squirrelly friends.
As for voles, you can try constructing and embedding a makeshift cage into the ground using mesh with half inch holes. Plant your bulbs inside these cages – the bulb’s roots will still have free reign to penetrate through the mesh.
You can also try lining your bulb holes with sharp textured gravel, which voles do not like burrowing through.
Buy spring tulip bulbs in the fall for the express purposing of forcing. Store them 12-16 weeks in a cool dark place that is 35-45 F. (2-7 C.). After this chilling period, procure a container with good drainage. Fill it with good quality potting soil 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm.) shy of the container’s top rim. When planting tulip bulbs in containers, the flat side of the bulb should face toward the outside of the pot with the pointy end of the bulb facing up. Bulbs should be spaced at least one inch apart. Fill the container with soil, leaving the very tip of the tulip protruding through the top of the soil. Place the pot in a cool, dark place and water lightly once a week. Once foliage emerges, place the pot in bright indirect light and you should be rewarded with blooms in 2-3 weeks. Tulips can also be forced in water.
Tulips and other bulbs in bloom are more sensitive to frosts and freezes than they are when their buds are in a closed state. And this is really more of a concern for periods of prolonged cold, lasting several days. However, to err on the side of caution, a bed sheet hovered over the plants, supported by stakes, is an ideal way to protect your plants.
Fertilize tulips once a year in the fall using a slow release tulip bulb fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 9-9-6. If you do not want to use or seek out pre-packaged fertilizer, you can concoct your own mix using equal parts blood meal, green sand and bone meal.