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Caring For Tulips After Blooming

Once the tulips stop blooming in the garden caring for tulips after they bloom is rather simple. Aside from properly disposing of any tulips that may have diseases there's isn't much to do besides cleaning up the foliage and planning what to plant in their place for the summer.

Tulip Time Holland, Michigan
Tulip Farm. during Holland Michigan's 'Tulip Time' Festival. 

I had the good fortune to visit my first tulip festival this year. I can't believe that someone who likes tulips as much I do had never sought out a festival that centered around tulips. After seeing hundreds of thousands of tulips in one place I came away happy that I only have a few dozen spent blooms on tulips every year.

After blooming tulip care

When the petals on the tulip blooms begin to wilt and fall of the stem you can start the cleanup process. The blooms widen and one by one the petals begin to fall off until just the stem, topped off by the seed pod remain.

Tulip after care blooming is over

This is a good time to go in and cut off the stems right above the uppermost leave on the tulip. Do not cut off any of the leaves, and certainly do not cut off the entire stem. Over the next couple of weeks the tulip foliage will look ragged as the stem and leaves begin to turn brown and die down, but just deal with it. The tulip bulbs below ground need the green part above ground to feed and store energy for next year's bloom. You can continue to fertilize to feed the bulbs as long as there's foliage.

Like with everything else in the garden I've come up with shortcuts. Instead of cutting off the stems on the bulbs I just remove any seed heads on my tulips that were pollinated during the spring. Unless you're engaged in a tulip hybridizing program, and want to collect tulip seeds, there's no need for your tulips to produce a seed pod. In fact, your tulip bulbs will focus their energy on feeding the seed pod to produce viable seeds negatively affecting next year's bloom. Deadhead any tulip seed pods for healthier bulbs and more blooms next year.

You can also safely transplant bulbs now from one area of your garden into another. Before the foliage dies down and leaves you with big bare spots in your garden, plant some annuals or seed the area so that the annual seedlings can grow and mask the dying foliage into the summer. I personally like to plant zinnias on top of my tulips, but calendula foliage does a better job of filling in the empty spots left behind by dormant tulip bulbs during the summer.

Tulip Farm 'Tulip Time' Holland Michigan
'TulipTime' Holland, Michigan.
If you decide to trim the stems on your tulip bulbs instead of deadheading the stems make sure to clean your garden shears or clippers to prevent the spread of tulip viruses. Also, keep in mind that hybrid tulips like 'Queen of Night' and 'Black Parrot' are really nice but only last a few years before the bulbs begin to die. Aside from removing the stems, deadheading the seed pods, and making sure to don't cut off any leave there's not much to the caring for your tulips after blooming.

If you're growing tulips in your garden you may be interested in caring for daffodils after they bloom.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up about the Holland, Michigan, Tulip Time Festival. It wouldn't be out of the question to visit one day from here. They have a tulip festival in Ottawa, Ontario, too -- but I've only seen the tail end of it. The deadheading stage, you might say. I like tulips in all phases of growth; even when they've lost their petals, they look architectural. Unfortunately, I have a gang of dastardly squirrels who get to most of mine before I can enjoy them. I'm seriously thinking of removing all the tall ones, and sticking with the species varieties. Deadheading *after* they bloom, of course.

  2. Helen, To be honest I'm not sure it would be worth the trip from Canada. Basically the bulk of the tulips are located on this farm/garden center pictured above. Although, if you're a serious tulip grower maybe the trip would be worth it to order some bulbs? Now you have me curious about the tulip festival up by you since I was a little disappointed in this one. I like species tulips too, I should get over the gaudy hybrids I like and move over to the species which are just as nice.

  3. Glad to know to that you have finally visited a tulip festival :-D Yes I know you really love tulips. I always remember your gorgeous black tulips.

    I see so many bright colours of tulips from the pics here. Certainly a feast for the eyes. The last pic with a women wearing the yellow saree is cute... matches the tulip he he...

  4. I remember your black tulips too! They are so beautiful...I didn't see any of that type in the festival photo! One day I am going to do a black and white garden...and I wish those black tulips could be part of it. Glad you got to visit this pretty festival!!!

  5. A very informative post! I went to a tulip festival this year too but it didn't have a cool windmill though LOL.

  6. The only thing more discouraging than not being able to grow tulips in my climate is seeing them sold to unsuspecting shoppers by clueless nurserymen around here. Oh well... I suppose they make nice annuals after all.

  7. I have a question that I cannot seem to find the answer too. I planted some tulips last fall and they bloomed beautifully however, they are now dead yellowed and brown. I realize now after looking up info on tulips that they have definitely "seeded". So what do I do now ? are they no good ? or can I dig them ( the bulbs) up and put the bulbs in a cool dry place for winter and replant them or not ?

    1. Cut off the seed pods and any of the dead foliage and they should be fine for next year. You don't need to transplant or move them if you are happy where they are growing.

  8. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Can't believe anyone was unhappy with the Holland Michigan Tulip Festival. There are millions of tulips in special fields and lining the residential streets and parks. There is the tulip farm and lots of wonderful Dutch attractions and shops including a fun parade with Dutch costumes and wooden shoes. The town is on the west coast of Michigan and is adorable in its own right.

    If you like tulips and all that is Dutch and want to see them in the US this is THE place to go!

    I have been to the festival a couple of times (I live on the "other" side of Michigan)...and I have written an article about the festival. It has tulips, tradition and the wonderful Dutch people, food and location...!!!

    Can't be beat.

    Sandie Parrott
    Clarkston, MI

  9. Anonymous5:08 PM

    hi ya im doing this /growing tulips and i followed all the step AND I GOT IN 6TH PLACE OUT OF 78 KIDS YAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous5:25 PM

    I have received tulips in a vase w/bulbs for Easter. At what time of year do I plant these?

    1. Generally, bulbs that have been forced to bloom indoors during the winter are considered "burned out." Meaning, they're meant to be tossed or composted after they are done flowering. They have used all of their energy in flowering off schedule and unless you fertilized and gave them full sun until spring; chances are the bulbs are too weak to return next year. However, nature sometimes doesn't listen to the experts and the bulbs can return the next year if you plant them in the garden. The bulbs were free, so there is nothing to loose if you plant them in your garden in the spring.

  11. Anonymous7:58 AM

    Plant tulip bulbs in autumn, they will grow in early spring... or plant in early spring to bloom later. Also here in Ottawa, Ontario, there's a tulip festival every May for the tulip gift from the Netherlands, (Holland) Europe, this year, it's May 3 to 20, I am volunteering with it. Tulip bulbs, can be left in ground to 'die back as the foilage turns yellow, then brown; or they can be dug up when the foilage is half brown or more tthen dug up to dry, replanting in the autumn or very early spring anywhere. I leave my bulbs in the ground every year, dead heading in june.They still return each spring.
    T. McElrea

    1. Thanks for the tulip care tips, T. McElrea. I wish I could get a chance to visit all the tulip festivals in N. America. It's a beautiful sight and something we should all experience at least once, especially if they're held in charming small towns.

  12. Anonymous6:46 PM

    What do you do with the seed heads you remove from tulips. Do I just toss them?

    Montgomery Il.

    1. Montgomery, You can throw away the tulip seed heads away or you can compost them. Once you remove the seed head from the tulip stem it starts to dry and die.

  13. Anonymous4:25 AM

    Hi, I have my tulips in tubs and pots and now want to use these pots for summer plants.

    1. Can I pull the bulbs up and replant them in the autumn?
    2. Can I leave them in the tubs and pots and put bedding plants on top of them?

    Dave Smith

  14. Thank you from a complete beginner x

  15. Thank you for posting this! I had to take care of my mother's tulips while she was away and I had no clue what I was doing!
    Also, if anyone ever wants to make the trip, Mount Vernon, WA has a gorgeous tulip festival in the spring as well! Definitely worth checking out :)

  16. I am just a lucky gardener who never really did much but has decided to take an interest. I was surprised to see that Parrot Tulips don't last. I have had 4 Black Parrot Tulips in my front yard for 20 years. They don't multiply but they come back every year. I took a risk and moved them at the end of their bloom this year. I may never see them again. We will see! I live 50 miles from Holland MI and have never been to the festival there. I would love to go sometime.

  17. I have purple tulips, its 3 of them in a pot. When i got them, they had already blossomed. So i watered them every day and thought i was doing my best, but problem is they were not in the sun and i think they tried getting sunlight because they started growing sideways. So now the flower petals have fallen off, my tulips are sideways and one stem is broken and bended. I need help to revive them. I moved them into the house and j do not know if its a good idea or not.



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