University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
CARING FOR CUT TULIPS
Dr. Leonard Perry,
University of Vermont
the outdoor landscape may be bleak right now, the greenhouse industry
a way to bring spring into our homes. And that's by fooling
other spring flowers into blooming early indoors.
cared for, cut tulips will stay fresh in a
vase of water for seven to ten days.
cut tulips you find at your florist shop, local greenhouse, and supermarket
this time of year are "forced" tulips that were grown in greenhouses
in the United States or as far away as the Netherlands. Growers have used
special temperature treatments to confuse the biological clocks of the flowers
and force them to bloom on a different schedule than they would if grown
outdoors. It allows them to produce flowers of uniform height and quality
for sale during winter months. This is similar to the method you can use at
home with potted tulips, placing them at around 40 degrees (F) in fall for at
least 10 to 12 weeks before bringing back into warmth.
long-lasting tulips, buy ones very “tight” or unopened, with buds still green
and just showing some color. Recut the stems when you first get them
home. Lay the bouquet on its wrapping paper or newspaper, or over a sink,
and cut the stems diagonally using a sharp knife or scissors, removing about
one-half inch of stem.
the stems directly in the vase, or if holding for a while just in water, recut
the stems before placing in the final vase.
Many recommend cutting stems under water or under running water, so no
air enters the stems to block the water vessels there. Make sure the vase is
clean before using.
the vase with lukewarm water, not ice cold, which is taken up better by the
Use a floral preservative— a powdery mix of plant food
and bacteria inhibitors-- available at all floral shops, and often coming with
the bouquet you buy in stores.
many people believe that adding a dash of carbonated lemon-lime soft drink, a
teaspoon of sugar, a penny, or even a bit of bleach to the water will help
extend the life of the flowers, none of these folk remedies are as effective as
commercial cut flower food. While some say that a preservative is not needed
for cut tulips, a study published in 2012 (Kumar and others, Journal of Applied
Horticulture) showed that any of 10 different preservatives kept flowers longer
than if just in water.
general rule of thumb for arranging flowers is that the bouquet should be about
one and one-half times the height of the vase. Tulips work well in tall,
straight vases, although they can be arranged in a fan shape in a low, wide
bowl. For the latter you will need to keep the flowers in place, anchoring
with a florist “frog” or block of florist foam, these held to the bottom of the
vase to support the arrangement. Don’t mix tulips with cut daffodils, as the
latter exude a sap that clogs the water uptake of other flowers.
sure and check the water level daily, as tulips use much water, and for longest
life you don’t want the vase to dry out.
Place the bouquet out of direct sun, and away from heating vents or
drafts. Top off the water level daily to keep the arrangement fresh, and
replace every 3 to 4 days or when it becomes cloudy.
interesting fact about tulips is that they continue to grow after being cut, up
to an inch or more. They are “phototropic”, bending towards the light, so
rotate containers daily to keep stems more upright.
Want to buy some cut tulips for
Valentine’s Day, but not sure about the color?
Then consider these facts from a research study published in 2010 on
color preferences (by Yue and Behe in the HortScience journal). Both men and women chose a red or bronze color
followed by a peach or pink color. This
makes sense, since red is considered a color to express love. Yellow was the least chosen color then, as
well as overall through the year.
buyers of cut flowers through the year, 70 percent were women and 30 percent
men. Women bought 44 percent of cut
flowers for themselves, 56 percent for gifts with only 6 percent bought on
Valentine’s Day. Only 6 percent of
purchases by men of cut flowers through the year were for themselves, 96
percent bought for gifts, with 23 percent of their yearly purchases on
cut tulips are a lower cost flower gift for Valentine’s Day giving, and make
great gifts through the winter and into spring too, you may find tulips planted
in pots. If buying these, similar to the
cut tulips, buy with buds still unopened, and keep in cooler temperatures for
longest life. Since most tulips are not
perennial, they likely won’t rebloom in future years if planted outdoors in