Dear Lee — Caring for Tulips


Dear Lee,

I was surprised to discover in one of your previous columns that one could do so much to take care of peonies! I look forward to applying your advice. I have recently grown very fond of tulips. I'd be grateful if you could share some tips on how to treat these flowers.

Thank you!




Thank you so much for taking the time to write in!  Tulips, like peonies, are another favorite flower of mine, and like peonies, there are many ways you can care for them to get the most time with them.  I'm answering this question a bit late as I wanted to grab some tulips, and write down my tips as I cared for my very own.  It's been a week, and they're still going strong.  I hope this helps!


Buy tulips fully closed, if you can.  You'll get at least, a full week with them, if you treat them well; and if you're really lovely to them, you'll get over a week, from fully closed to fully open and dropping petals.

Bring your tulips straight home, you don't want them to spend too much time in any heat whatsoever.  That's a quick way to kill them.  Find an appropriate vase, like a tulip vase (is this obvious?), to give them some room to breathe.  I don't arrange them when I first bring them home, mainly because I want them watered straight away.  Fresh filtered cold water is your friend here.

It's up to you if you want to add flower food, or sugar, or even a penny (an American one).

I trim the length of the stems as little as possible.  Fresh cut tulips are photosensitive and as such they will continue to grow so you'll want more length starting out.  Trim the stems at an angle (45 degrees), and change the water (and add food, if using), every single day.  It's the best way to keep them fresh.

Be sure that the angle in which you cut the stems allows for water intake.  I've often had to rearrange to stems because the trimmed stem lines up perfectly with the side of the vase, which cuts off the flow of water. So, don't do that.

Remove any debris from the ends, or any leaves that will be submerged. Bits of debris floating in the water will hasten decay, again this is why it's important to change your water every day.

Due to the photosensitivity of tulips, you'll want to keep them out of direct sunlight.  Unless, of course, you need them to open in time for a dinner party.  In which case, place them in the sun and they should extend and open toward the light.

I keep my flower arrangements very very basic, meaning, I don't mix flowers.  I just don't have an eye for it, and am envious of those who do.  If you make beautiful arrangements (Lucky you! Tell me your secrets!), know that flowers in the Narcissus and Daffodil family don't mix well with tulips, as they wilt them.

I hope this has been helpful to my fellow tulip lovers out there!