December 6, 2010

Ask ISU Extension Garden Experts About: Tulips & Mums

By Richard Jauron
Iowa State University Extension Scott County

I still haven’t gotten my tulip bulbs planted. Should I plant them now or wait until spring?

The tulip bulbs should be planted as soon as possible. Tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs can be planted as late as December if the soil is not frozen. After planting, cover the area with several inches of straw, pine needles or leaves. Mulching will give the bulbs additional time to root before the ground freezes.

Tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs can be stored for several weeks. However, long term storage of spring-flowering bulbs is difficult. By early spring, the tulip bulbs are likely to have rotted or shriveled and died.

I recently received a flowering mum plant from a florist. Can I plant it outdoors?

Florist or greenhouse mums are sold throughout the year at floral shops, supermarkets and other retailers. Unfortunately, florist mums do not perform well when planted outdoors. Most florist mums will not survive the winter when planted outdoors in Iowa. Those florist mums that manage to survive the winter typically don’t bloom outdoors. Florist mums bloom rather late in fall. Often freezing temperatures destroy the flower buds before they are able to fully develop and open. It’s usually best to toss a florist mum in the compost pile after blooming. If you would like to plant mums in your garden, purchase garden or hardy mums at a local garden center in spring. Garden mums are much hardier than florist mums. They also bloom earlier than florist mums.

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