As our tulips start to fade over the next few weeks, here's some low maintenance tips for convincing them to rebloom in 2014.
1. Deadhead: A tulip's first choice for propagating itself is to produce seed. All the energy goes into the seed pod leaving the bulbs below with less food. The way to force the tulip to charge the bulbs is to deadhead. Once the petals drop off, simply cut off the seed pod and the tulip will switch to plan b, recharging the bulbs. The video link below demonstrates how to deadhead (it's easy to do, no gardening skills required!)
The video shows cutting the plant at the base, but don't worry too much about being that precise. The main thing is to get rid the seed pod. The stem doesn't matter that much.
2. Leave the Leaves: Tulips don't go dormant when the flower fades. The leaves will live on for a few weeks and will continue to suck up the sun to feed next years bulbs. If you let the foliage die back naturally, the tulip will be able to store more energy for next year. I know we've planted in the grass in many spots, but if you can stand some untidiness for a few weeks, avoid mowing until the leaves turn yellow. The tulips will be better off for it.
3. Don't water: Tulips are native to the Asian steepe and come from a climate with moderate spring moisture and dry summers. If you can avoid watering the area where they've been planted, all the better. A dry summer is good for them.
4. Fertilize: Even though we don't see them until the spring, tulips actually wake-up and begin sending out roots in the fall. The consensus is that fertilizing in the fall is the best time to feed the bulbs. We'll organize something for October/November. There is no consensus on whether spring fertilizing is worth it.