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When to deadhead and cut back tulips: Wait for clue from leaves to remove flower and stem

Life & StyleWhen to deadhead and cut back tulips: Wait for clue from leaves to remove flower and stem


Polly Wilkinson, a British gardener designer, described everything Britons need to know about growing and looking after tulips. Polly owns a multi-award-winning garden design studio specialising in “elegant, liveable gardens”. Britons can follow the RHS Chelsea 2022 gardener at @pollyanna_wilkinson. Polly discussed “everything you need to know about tulips”, with a mini-guide to take care of the popular plants. This included an insight into what to do with tulips after they have flowered.

She said: “After flowering: Leave the bulbs in the ground. If you want them to return and be strong flowers next year, let the leaves yellow and die back.”

Bulbs left in the ground will soak up more energy for the next year, when they will bloom again.

Polly said: “Think of the bulb as a battery and the leaves as a solar panel – gathering energy from the sun to feed the bulb for next year.”

However, you will at some point want to remove the tulip’s leaves, and there is an opportune time to do this.

“Only remove the leaves when they come away from the plant with no resistance (usually four to six weeks after flowering),” Polly said.

READ MORE: ‘Perfect time to plant tulips’: Clever bulb trick to stop slugs in Mark Lane’s column

“Do not cut back the stem or any of the foliage as this will all contribute to the growing bulbs as they slowly dieback.”

What other expert tips did Polly have for tulip growers? She said:

“Plant them in November or December. Don’t plant before this as the bulbs are vulnerable to Tulip Fire – a fungal disease.”

She advised planting them in “sunny spots with well-drained soil.”

Polly added: “Be sure the bulbs get plenty of water four weeks before flowering. Not enough water = short stubby tulips.”

She described her method, but explained she is a “rule-breaker”. 

Sophie said: “So I pull out the whole bulb and tulip and store them in a bucket in the garage (which is dry)!

“What you are meant to do is leave them where they are for about six weeks after flowering so that everything goes yellow, dies down and the energy all goes back into the bulb.

One follower wrote: “I do this too with the pots and it works, except I use a bag and cut the flower heads off so it stops trying to form seed heads!”



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