HG: Homegrown Column January 31, 2009
We received forced tulip bulbs for Christmas. How do I care for the bulbs after they are through blooming?
To be honest, most people end up throwing them away once they’re done blooming.
You don’t have to do that, of course, but if you want to keep them, there are several things
you will need to do.
Once the flowers are done, the foliage that remains is feeding the plant, forming the flower bud and building up the bulb for next year. It’s important that the plant receive great care during this time or the bulb will be small and spindly with small, if any flowers next year.
The most important thing to provide for the bulb in the house is adequate light. Put the plant in as bright a spot as you can. You might even supplement the light with some grow lights over the plant.
It’s surprising how much darker a brightly lit room indoors is compared to even shady spots outside.
Be sure to fertilize the bulb regularly. Use a houseplant type fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro or Osmocote. The plant needs good amounts of nutrients now so be sure to have them there.
Water the plant deeply but infrequently. Don’t keep the soil too wet or the bulb will rot.
There should be water running out of the drainage hole when you do water. Don’t let that extra water just sit in the saucer. Either water the plant in the sink so it can drain away or suck the excess water out of the saucer with a turkey baster.
Once the weather has warmed up a bit, you can move the pot outdoors.
Soon after that (it may even be before you’re able to move it outside), the foliage will yellow and wither away. This is normal. Cut the foliage off and plant the bulb out in the garden where you can enjoy them for years to come.
I want to have a lavender bed in our yard. The spot I am thinking about is in front of a deck on the south side of our house. Will the lavender tolerate the direct sun and heat in the summer? The spot gets great protection from the cold during the winter months.
Lavender should do great where you’re thinking of putting it. It thrives in hot, sunny locations.
In fact, I see lots more problems with lavender where it gets too much shade. It tends to get thin and leggy and just doesn’t thrive.
The most important thing to remember is that all lavenders like well-drained soil, so do a great job amending your soil before you plant. Most plant loss here in the Grand Valley isn’t due to cold but to waterlogged soil that causes rot in the plant.
There are quite a few varieties of lavender you could consider.
The standard around here for years has been a compact variety called Munstead. This variety grows 12 to 18 inches tall in a neat, compact form that doesn’t need support. It has attractive gray foliage with striking spikes of dark violet, purple flowers in early summer. It’s hardy to minus 15 degrees.
Another popular variety is Provence lavender. This variety grows a bit taller, getting up to 30 inches tall. This is one of the varieties grown in France for its oil and flowers. It has light purple flowers that are very fragrant. This variety is more moisture tolerant than other varieties and is hardy to minus 5 degrees.
Hidcote is similar to Munstead but gets just a bit bigger. Growing to 24 inches with a uniform compact habit, it bears deeply colored violet-blue flowers and is hardy to minus 15 degrees.
Goodwin Creek Grey is not as cold hardy as other varieties, but its wider, toothed powder gray foliage provides a striking accent to any garden. It grows to 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall and has soft lavender-blue flower spikes. It’s hardy to about 0 degrees.
There are lots of other lavender besides these, but that will get you started.