Warm Weather And Tulips: How To Grow Tulips In Warm Climates



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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Tulips bulbs require at least 12 to 14 weeks of cold weather, which is a process that occurs naturally when temperatures drop below 55 degrees F. (13 C.) and remain that way for an extended time. This means that warm weather and tulips really aren’t compatible, as tulip bulbs don’t perform well in climates south of USDA plant hardiness zones 8. Unfortunately, tulips for hot climates don’t exist.

It’s possible to grow tulip bulbs in warm climates, but you have to implement a little strategy to “trick” the bulbs. However, growing tulips in warm weather is a one-shot deal. The bulbs won’t generally rebloom the following year. Read on to learn about growing tulips in warm weather.

Growing Tulip Bulbs in Warm Climates

If your climate doesn’t provide a long, chilly period, you can chill the bulbs in the refrigerator for several weeks, beginning in mid-September or later, but not after December 1. If you bought the bulbs early, they will be safe in the fridge for up to four months. Put the bulbs in an egg carton or use a mesh bag or a paper sack, but don’t store the bulbs in plastic because the bulbs require ventilation. Don’t store fruit at the same time either because fruit (especially apples), gives on ethylene gas that will kill the bulb.

When you’re ready to plant the bulbs at the end of the cooling period (during the coldest time of year in your climate), take them directly from the refrigerator to the soil and don’t allow them to warm up.

Plant the bulbs 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) deep in cool, well-drained soil. Although tulips usually need full sunlight, bulbs in warm climates benefit from full or partial shade. Cover the area with 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm.) of mulch to keep the soil cool and moist. The bulbs will rot in wet conditions, so water often enough to keep the soil moist but never soggy.

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A week-long heat wave and a recent question—concerning what green beans to grow in a hot climate—got me thinking. Which vegetables thrive in exceptionally hot weather? Keep these plants in mind.

Top Veggies for Hot Weather

Peas, spinach, and lettuce will certainly not make the list but some vegetables actually need the heat to grow well and develop the best flavor.

When looking for heat loving plants pay attention to the origin of the species. A plant that hails from a tropical or sub-tropical region will do better in the heat than one from a northern climate.

Yard-long beans—also called asparagus beans—are from southern Asia and unlike regular snap beans that drop their blossoms and sulk in extremely hot weather, they thrive in the heat. Related to cowpeas—another bean that stands up to sweltering temperatures and high humidity—yard-long beans are best grown on a trellis or fence. Don’t wait for them to get a 36 inches long before picking though. They are best eaten at about 12 to 15 inches long, before the beans fill out the pod.

Okra is a favorite in the deep South. Native to Ethiopia, it likes warm nights and soil temperatures in the 80’s. A member of the mallow family, it has beautiful hibiscus-like flowers that are self-pollinating so you don’t have to worry if it is too hot for the bees to do their job. Pick the pods while they are young and tender.

Melons originated in Africa and southern Asia. They need 2 to 3 months of hot weather to develop their luscious sweetness. Keep the plants evenly moist but don’t overwater especially when the fruits are ripening. Too much water will dilute the sugars, making the melons bland. Many heirloom varieties are deep rooted and able to stand up to heat and drought.

Sweet potatoes are another tropical plant popular in the South and they are becoming a favorite with northern gardeners too. The plants like the heat as long as they have even moisture. Harvest before the soil temperatures drop below 55 degrees.

Malabar spinach is an Asian green that grows best when soil temps are above 80 degrees and the air temperature is in the 90’s. It is a climber, so plant it near a trellis or fence. It is not related to spinach at all but makes a great substitute in summer whether eaten raw or cooked.

New Zealand spinach is another good summer green. Originally from Australia and New Zealand it is pretty much pest and disease free along with being heat and drought tolerant. When cooked it tastes just like spinach.

Eggplants love it when the soil warms up to 80 to 90 degrees and nights are above 70. They are native to southeast Asia and India where eggplant is the basis of many delicious recipes. Take advantage of hot weather to grow long season types like ‘Listada de Gandia’ or ‘Black Beauty’ or for shorter growing seasons choose an Asian variety such as ‘Ping Tung Long’ or ‘Thai Long Green’.

Corn hails from Mexico. The hotter it gets the faster it grows as long as there is adequate moisture in the soil. Corn really drinks up the water to form those crunchy kernels so keep an eye on it.

Tomatoes may be native to the tropics of South America but prolonged periods of time with days over 95 degrees and nights over 85 coupled with dryness can cause blossoms to drop and plant growth to stop. Look for hybrid varieties bred for the deep South. The University of Florida has introduced many for growers in hot climates. Cherry tomatoes ‘Sungold’ and ‘Jasper’ are recommended for long hot summers. Some heirlooms stand up to heat well also. Give ‘Arkansas Traveler’, ‘Brandywine’, and ‘San Marzano’ a try.

Peppers are another tropical from the western hemisphere, native to Central and South America. Hot peppers seem to hold up better during prolonged heat than the sweet bells. University of Florida recommends ‘Cal Wonder’, ‘Red Knight’, ‘Big Bertha’, ‘Sweet Banana’, and ‘Cubanelle’ for sweet peppers that can survive a heat wave as long as they are mulched well to keep soil moisture even. The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University has developed some awesome varieties of hot peppers that thrive in hot dry locations. Look for any variety that has NuMex in its name.

Have you ever noticed that people living in the hottest climates eat a lot of spicy hot foods? It not only tastes great but can help to cool you off on a hot day. The spicy food makes you sweat by increasing your blood circulation and as the sweat evaporates, it cools you down. Scientists call this gustatory facial sweating, since it is caused by food and the sweat breaks out on your face first. So if you are sweltering in the heat eat a spicy meal and cool down.

See the Almanac’s free Growing Growing Guides for tips on how to grow all of these veggies!


Caring for Tulips

If you get weekly rain in the fall after planting the bulbs, you don't need to water. Excess water is the tulip bulb's enemy. If you hit a dry spell, though, water the bulbs weekly till first frost.

Fertilize them with bulb food or bone meal in the spring when the leaves emerge. If you are growing your tulips as perennials, add compost after they bloom. This will give them the nutrients to come back next year.

Learn All About Tulips 01:57

Allow the leaves to stay on the plant for six weeks after they bloom. The tulips need the leaves to make nutrients for the bulb to store for next year's flowers. Strip those leaves off as soon the tulip is done blooming and you won't see another flower from that bulb.

Cold isn't a problem unless your garden doesn't get any. If that's the case, dig up the bulbs after the foliage dies down in the spring, store them in a dry, cool place all summer, refrigerate them for a couple of months (crisper, not freezer) and replant them in the fall.

We'll say it one more time: Lots of rain, irrigation systems, and wet soil are death for tulips. Don't water your bulb bed unless you're in a drought.

How to Keep Cut Tulips from Drooping

Get expert tips for keeping cut tulips straight and tall.


How to get Aussie Tulips to return each year

While you may have to get in early to purchase the bulbs that you want before they sell out, hold off on planting them until late April, early May. We do this because the soil temperature is cooler at this of year, anything below 14C is perfect. An easy way to remember this is to plant your Tulips around Mother’s Day!

Plant your Tulips a little deeper, because the soil will be cooler. The old saying is to plant your spring flowering bulbs twice as deep as the bulb is high. As the Australian climate is somewhat warmer than the European one, we recommend you plant your bulbs to a depth of three times the height of the bulb, this will help keep them cooler.

If you live in an area that receives cold winters you can leave your bulbs in the ground, provided it is shaded over summer. An easy way to do this is planting your Tulip bulbs in combination with summer perennials. When the Tulips are glorious, the perennials are small, and as the bulbs are dying down, the perennials are coming into their own, and will shade the ground through summer. You could also choose a spot beneath a deciduous tree, or add a thick mulch to aid insulation and keep the soil temperature cool.

If you can’t fulfil the requirements of the above point, then it is a good idea to lift your bulbs. You must first wait until the foliage has browned, then gently dig them up. Lay them out to dry, once the foliage has dried and become brittle it can be removed from the bulb and tossed onto the compost. You can then store your bulbs in an open paper bag, orange bag, old stocking, where they get a bit of air circulation, not a sealed container that may have condensation. Store them in a cool place (less than 20C), then bring them out to plant again in autumn.


Watch the video: How to Grow Tulips in Southern California


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