What They Dont Tell You
It is approaching that time of year when, if you are going to, your tulips will be ready for lifting. In Holland this is normally done at the beginning of July which allows sufficient time for the old plant to die back and the new bulbs to finish growing to their maximum size. In recent years we could normally do this from mid-June, this year the tulips in my garden are far from ready.
What is often not understood by many gardeners is that it is after the tulip bulbs are lifted that the new flower develops inside the bulb. This happens in three stages starting with the petals, then the stamens and finally the pistil. Once completed the entire flower embryo exists in the bulb, known in the trade as Stage G.
What conditions do the bulbs need to reach this stage? Remember that in their native habitat tulips enjoy long hot dry summers. The closer we can replicate this the better our tulips will perform. Growers store the bulbs at temperatures of 19-24C (65-70F) which allows for the cell division within the bulb. After about three weeks the initial formation of the flower begins and is normally completed by late August.
If this stage is not completed, plants are very short when flowering and usually have misshapen flower parts or petal tips that are dried out and not fully formed. It is for this reason that if bulbs are left in the border, they will perform far better if planted in a sunny position.
I hope this information helps you get the most from your tulips.