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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - May 18, 2008

From: Cedar Rapids, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Will potted tulip rebloom next year
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We bought tulips that were in bloom in small pots in May, and planted them in the back yard. Now my friend tells me they will not come up and bloom next spring, that you must only plant tulips as bulbs.

ANSWER:

Buying flowering plants is often nicer for gifts or a get-well gesture than cut flowers, because the blooms last longer. Alas, once the bloom fades, the plant probably will, too. Most potted flowering plants are "forced" in large commercial greenhouses, perhaps in order to be sold for special days like Mother's Day or Valentine's. All of the plant's energy has been put into producing the flower, and nothing is left over for reproduction. There is usually very little, if any, root in the pot. In your case, with tulips, there is probably a bulb there, but whether it will reproduce next year is problematic. Many gardeners treat tulips as annuals anyway, putting in fresh bulbs every Fall for Spring bloom.

Since the tulip is a native of the Middle East (not Holland, as many think), it is a little out of our field. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care, protection and propagation of plants native to North America. However, we found this Yardener website on "Caring for Tulips" that will give you information on propagation. Just for an experiment, you could always follow their instructions to dig up the bulb after the leaves turn brown, separate any bulblets from the main bulb, let them rest until Fall, and then, with fertilizer, replant them. The smaller bulbs will probably not bloom for two to three years, but if there is a healthy large bulb, they might very well bloom again next year.

 

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