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Wilting tulips

My potted tulip is dying and I am unsure of why and what to do. It is yellow and wilting and flowers have dropped off. Please help, what should I do?


The yellowing and wilting of leaves is part of the natural process that bulbs, like tulips, go through. Leaves emerge through the soil in spring, flowers appear, then the leaves start to wilt and yellow as food stored in the leaves is absorbed back down into the bulb. You can now knock the tulip out of its pot and replant it into fresh potting mix.

But to flower successfully tulips require winter chilling. If you do not live in a naturally cold region that has frosts in winter, before repotting you will need to artifically chill your tulip bulb in the refridgerator for 12 weeks.

When chilling tulips there are a few things to watch. Store in a paper bag that will "breathe", not plastic. Keep bulbs away from the back of the fridge where they risk icing up. Avoid storing ripening fruit in the fridge at the same time as it releases ethylene gas which inhibits flower development.

It may be easier to plant the tulip out into the garden and buy a new bulb for growing in a pot. If you purchase a new bulb from a garden centre, it will have been through the chilling process and is ready to plant.

One point worth noting, if your tulip has been "forced" to flower out of season, it is unlikely the bulb will be viable. Most forced bulbs will only flower once.

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: June 27, 2005