Some tips 
to keeping those used tulip bulbs

We received forced tulip bulbs for Christmas. How do I care for the bulbs after they are through blooming?

— Irene

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.

Adequate light is most important thing to provide to a bulb in the house. Put the plant in as bright a spot as you can. You might even supplement that light with some grow lights over the plant. It’s surprising to most folks 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, so be sure to have them available.

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 the excess water can drain away or suck the 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 be spring before you’re able to move it outside), the foliage will yellow and wither away. This is normal. Stop watering, cut the foliage off, and plant the bulb out in the garden where you can enjoy it for years to come.

I would like to take some branches off the bottom of our pine trees and wanted to know if this time of year would be all right.

— Jennifer

You can prune these branches off any time you would like. People are often afraid to prune a plant for fear that they’ll do it at the wrong time and hurt the tree.

I subscribe to the old adage that “you prune when the saw is sharp.” That is to say, prune whenever you’re ready.

The only exception I’ll make to that is that I don’t like to do any pruning in early to mid-fall.

A plant’s natural response to pruning is to shoot out new growth to compensate for the part that’s been cut off, and I don’t want to encourage new growth in the fall. That is the time I want the plant to be slowing down and entering into dormancy. Soft new growth in the fall can be prone to frost damage as things cool down.

Most folks will prune during the dormant season, and that’s a good time of the year to prune. In fact, it’s probably my favorite time but not because of any benefit to the tree. It’s just easier to make pruning decisions when the leaves are off and not blocking my view of the branching of the tree.

For what you’re doing, that is really not an issue. So go for it. Just be sure to prune those branches just outside of the swollen area at the base of the branch, not leaving a big stub.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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