Nothing heralds the arrival of spring, and the Easter season, like a tulip bloom.
It's a beautiful bulb that has a history of intrigue, thievery and heartbreak, plus a Tulipomania economic bubble and bust 1636-'37, according to bulb history experts.
The tulip's elegance and royal following has made it desirable for centuries, especially in Europe and eventually 18th-century Colonial Williamsburg where it's still used in gardens throughout the historic area.
In southeastern Virginia, tulips are typically planted in November and December when the soil is cold. If pesky squirrels haven't stolen your precious bulbs, your tulips should soon bloom.
If you don't have tulips, you can still enjoy their presence indoors and outdoors if you take a shortcut on Mother Nature and go the potted route, according to the experts at iBulb.org.
Now throughMother's Day, May 13, you can purchase potted tulips at garden centers, florists and home-improvement and grocery stores.
Place them close to the house, so you can enjoy their beauty from inside while the weather is still chilly: on the front or back steps, atop a garden table or on the balcony. As the weather warms, use them for filling in gaps in the garden. No one has to know that you really didn't plant them there.
Potted tulip care
Buy potted tulips with the buds closed to enjoy a longer flowering cycle. Also, keep them cool to prolong flowering.
If the plant is still blooming and the leaves turn brown, it usually means the plant is over watered. Check to make sure there is no water in the bottom of the planter.
Keep the plant in sunlight.
Once the flowers are spent, you can plant the bulb in the ground 6-9 inches deep in spring or fall; you will get a poor show the first year but the bulb should perform better the following season. Or, you can compost the pot and plant.
Replant in fall
With a little extra work you can save your potted tulips to plant next fall, according to iBulb.org experts.
When the flowers are dead, cut them off with a sharp pair of pruners and leave the foliage intact.
Continue watering the plant and keep it in a sunny area.
When the leaves turn yellow, reduce watering to about half.
Once the leaves wither entirely, stop watering and let the soil dry.
Then, remove the bulbs from the soil and cut off dead foliage near the base of the bulb.
Wipe the bulbs clean with a dry cloth. Store the dry bulbs in a cool, dry and dark place such as a paper or mesh bag. There must be ample air circulation and the bulbs must remain dry or they may rot.
In the fall plant the bulbs outside (about 6 inches deep) in your garden.
See a picture gallery of pre-blooming, potted tulips tucked into decorative containers at http://www.roomandyard.com/diggin.
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