Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Every spring, the Oakbrook mall gives away their tulips. You read that right. To get ready for summer planting, thousands of tulips are dug up and given away. Grassroots Garden Group members were among the eager pickers at this year's event (held Wednesday, May 15th), and they have quite the haul to show for it.
Read more about this event in Annie Tandy's Kidlist article.
As Annie Tandy's article mentions, some amount of effort must go towards the proper storage of tulip bulbs. It is ideal to let the tulips remain planted until the foliage starts to die back naturally. This allows the bulb to store energy and nutrients for next year's bloom. Alas, our tulips have been dug up and deposited in a parking lot, so we will simply knock off the excess dirt and lay/hang them out to dry until the leaves and stems wither. Make sure that the drying step is done in an area free of squirrels and mice.
When the leaves turn yellow and wither, remove them. The bulbs should then be stored in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in plastic bags or totes, as any moisture that may remain will not be permitted to escape, causing your bulbs to rot. Again, as Annie Tandy recommends, paper bags or cardboard boxes are ideal for storage. Ensure that the storage container is clean and dry. If you use wood chips/shavings to store your bulbs in, make sure that it is also dry.
Store your bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place until ready to plant. Planting should take place when the weather turns cold, but before the ground begins to freeze. Cold temperatures ensure that the bulb remains dormant.
Some people recommend moving your stored bulbs to a refrigerator about 6 weeks before you anticipate planting them. If you do this, make sure that you do not store them near fruit (tomatoes are a fruit). Certain fruits release ethylene, a gaseous plant hormone, which causes things to ripen.
Want some bulb planting tips? Check out this "Ask This Old House" clip.
What about next year, after your newly planted tulips have bloomed and the foliage has died back? In warmer climates, people tend to dig them up and store them until the fall to ensure that the bulbs remain dormant until the spring. In cooler climates, you may leave the bulbs in your garden. It is recommended that if you leave them planted, you should try to avoid regular or excessive watering of that area over the summer. Too much water can cause the bulbs to rot. Take a look at this article to learn more.
Tulips are lovely precursors to summer blooms, and come in so many colors, shapes, and sizes. Have fun with them! I personally look forward to planting Peptalk tulip bulbs this fall, because, well, look at them!