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I planted three bulbs in a small vase, around 20 cm diameter, without a drainage hole. I planted them in November, outside under a roof, facing East, and watered them when the soil was dry. I'm in Amsterdam and the weather was cold, but not as cold as it usually is. Blooming was on time in the fields.

Since the season was particularly rainy this didn't happen often (even though the vase was under a roof). I got the tulip plants to grow up to 15 cm, with three green sprouts that seemed to be in perfect health, as the blooming period approached. Then, in just 10 days, some yellowing appeared on the borders and the tips, and it spread to the whole plants. This is the final, sad result that puts my efforts to grow something in the dust. Poor things.

Picture of wilted tulips

What did I do wrong? It is the first time I tried to grow something. Also, do you think these bulbs can still be reused next year?

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Next time, you would like to record the whole process of its dying to give a better diagnosis, instead of only giving the photo of the dead plant. Don't give up. Using a pot with a hole, and with soil of better drainage. –  lamwaiman1988 Jun 18 '11 at 11:01
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The first thing to do is dig out your tulip bulbs and have a look at them. If they appear slimy, feel soft, or smell bad, they rotted in the pot. This would most likely be a result of poor drainage due to the soil you used and/or no drainage hole in the pot. If the bulbs feel firm, they are probably okay and I would guess there wasn't enough soil or nutrients or moisture in the soil which may have caused them to weaken and go dormant.

If your bulbs seem to be fine, store them in a cool, dry, dark place until next autumn and try again (or buy new bulbs to avoid disappointment). Buy a slightly larger pot with drainage holes, and put a layer of gravel or broken clay pot at the bottom to keep the drainage holes from becoming blocked with soil. Make sure the soil you use is free-draining. Plant the bulbs growing tip up, and 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulbs are tall, spacing them about two bulb-widths apart. Make sure the soil stays moist, but not water-logged (water only when the top of the soil is dry). Protect the pot from frost in the winter.

Don't give up!

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Stefano you did not mention where you are from or what the climate was. Remember tulips don't last too long, they come out usually in April-May and sometimes in early June. But once they bloom they only last about 2 weeks (it is very unfortunate but generally this is the case).

You may be able to reuse the bulbs for next year, they contain a lot of nutrients which could be used next year to regrow. I would say plant them early and expect them to take root and grow during April / May. In most cases you can leave the bulbs in that same pot, just get rid of the dead leaves and you will have to wait till next year to try this again.

You will definitely want to get a pot that has a hole at the bottom of it, it will allow for good drainage which tulips need. In most cases tulips do not need a lot of watering and although they are perennials, they are somewhat sensitive perennials. So sometimes they will not come back forcing you to purchase new bulbs. Plant the bulbs in the Fall that way they are ready come Spring time.

As to why they died I don't have an exact answer, but it could very well be that you did not have any drainage for them or that you over watered them. Remember tulips do not need a lot of water, and in most cases nature waters them enough, even when the soil looks dry. To avoid this do as stated above and purchase a pot that has drainage.

Good luck next year!

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Although the bloom only lasts a couple of weeks, the leaves should remain for many weeks past that point, and it's during that time that the bulb does its charging up for the next year. (unfortunately, my neightbor decided to mow my lawn, knowing I was out of town and wouldn't get to it ... and mowed over the whole bed, as I didn't have anything down to set it off from the lawn) –  Joe Sep 18 '11 at 15:33
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