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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