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Why Don’t Tulips Return Each Year?

By Paul James

Unlike daffodils, crocuses, alliums, and other popular spring-flowering bulbs commonly grown around here that dependably rebloom year after year — often for decades — tulips rarely do so. And yet, technically tulips are perennials. So what gives? Well, what gives is where we live.

Tulips are native to the foothills of the Himalayas, and the steppes of eastern Turkey, Armenia, and northern Iran, areas where winters are extremely cold and summers are extremely hot and dry, much more so than our own. It’s as simple as that. The culprit is our climate.

So how then do tulips thrive in Holland, where the climate is akin to ours? They get the “Dutch Touch.” Bulbs are subjected to an ingenious (and crazy expensive) series of heat and humidity treatments prior to planting that fools them into thinking they’ve been through a summer drought in Nepal. They then undergo the cold Dutch winter in the ground. The technique allows growers to perfectly replicate the tulip’s native habitat.

You may have heard that Darwin hybrid tulips will come back, but in all my years of gardening, I’ve only had that happen once. It was following the intense heat and drought of 2010, and although they did rebloom, the plants lacked the vigor and beauty they displayed the first year.

Given their beauty, it’s too bad tulips don’t behave as true perennials here. But given their beauty, it’s worth planting them every year. Wouldn’t you agree?

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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10 responses to “Why Don’t Tulips Return Each Year?”

  1. Myrl. Reynolds says:

    Should I leave my Prostrate Rosemary out or bring it in for winter. This my first summers planting and it is doing well and I love the smell so want to take good care but have been told different ways for care thanks

    • Paul James says:

      Rosemary is hardy, so you can (and should) leave it outside. It’ll die in the house. Consider piling mulch around the pot to insulate the roots in case we have a severe winter.

  2. Carm says:

    WOW… that’s a good “I didn’t know that” article! I’ve never grown tulips but always admired how beautiful they are….I always assumed they come up right along with the daffodils each spring. Thanks Paul for the educational info as always

  3. Lisa Shannon says:

    With that said Paul, do I dig them up after bloom, store them in my hot garage during the Summer, then replant in the Fall? Or, do I have to buy new Tulip bulbs Each year?

  4. Kenneth Brooks says:

    We blundered into a great tulip bloom last spring. We are in Topeka and the first year we were here my wife dug up a bunch of tulip bulbs from an old bed and just threw them in a pile on another bed. They endured a very cold winter that first year and then baked through the following summer. While preparing another bed that fall the tulips got covered with some dirt we didn’t need. They sat through last winter and came up gangbusters last spring. Go figure!

  5. Kay says:

    We moved to our present house 8 years ago and tulips have come up every Spring! They seem to increase every year. They are outside our fence in the greenbelt but along our fence! We love them & maybe I should add some this fall.

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