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Should You Cut the Leaves Off of Tulips?


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Tulips provide a display of color in early spring every year, but as soon as the blooms fade, you’re left with a mass of unsightly foliage. Although it’s tempting to tidy up the landscape and remove the foliage, the remaining tulip leaves serve an important function that keep your tulips blooming for another year,

Leave Foliage in Place

  • Although you can safely remove wilted tulip blooms and attached stems, leave the remaining foliage in place until the leaves die and turn yellow. As soon as the bloom is spent, the green foliage begins absorbing energy, continuing to benefit from the sunlight until the foliage dies down in mid to late summer. Without foliage, the tulip bulbs have no way of storing energy to create big, healthy tulip blooms the following spring. Don’t tie or braid the foliage, as this limits the amount of sunshine penetrating the leaves.

Removing Foliage

  • Tulip foliage can safely be removed as soon as the yellow foliage comes loose when you tug on the leaves. Pull the foliage from the ground or use garden pruners to cut the foliage just above ground level. Remove the foliage from your garden. Allowing the old foliage to remain in the garden creates a damp atmosphere conducive to disease and pests. Discard the wilted foliage or add it to your compost pile.

Camoflauging Wilted Foliage

  • Camouflage wilting foliage by planting tulip bulbs behind low-growing shrubs, such as Japanese barberry. Hosta is a good choice for hiding tulip foliage, as the tulips will be finished blooming and the foliage easily hidden by new hosta shoots emerging after winter dormancy. Alternatively, hide the tulip foliage with colorful annuals such as petunias or geraniums.

Maintaining Tulips

  • Tulips grow and bloom for several years. The bulbs multiply rapidly and benefit from division when the tulips become crowded. Use a garden fork to dig the bulbs after the yellow foliage is removed, and then store the bulbs in a well-ventilated place. Divide the dried bulbs and replant them in autumn.

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