Dr. Leonard Perry

Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont

Although the outdoor landscape may be
bleak right now, the greenhouse industry has found a
way to bring spring into our homes. And that’s by fooling
tulips and other spring flowers into blooming early

The 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 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

When properly cared for, cut tulips will
stay fresh in a vase of water for seven to ten days.
For long-lasting tulips, recut the stems when you first
get them home. Lay the bouquet on its wrapping paper
or newspaper, and cut the stems diagonally, removing
about one-half inch of stem.

Rewrap the bouquet in paper (making a
cone shape) so that the tulips are standing straight.
The tops of the tulips should not extend above the top
of the paper although wrap the bunch so a few inches
of stems stick out. Place the wrapped bouquet in water
for an hour or two, with the paper above the water line.

Recut the stems to the desired length
before rearranging, again making a diagonal cut. Fill
the vase with water, adding floral preservative–a powdery
mix of plant food and bacteria inhibitors available
at all floral shops. Although 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.

The 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 can be arranged in
a fan shape in a low, wide bowl. For the latter you
will need to anchor the florist frog or block of florist
foam to the bottom of the vase to support the arrangement.

The interesting thing about tulips is
that they actually continue to grow after being cut,
up to an inch or more. They also conform to the shape
of the container, straight up if in a tall container,
twisting to fit into a flat or irregular shaped vase.

Place the bouquet out of direct sun, and
away from heating vents or drafts. Top off the water
level daily to keep arrangement fresh.

Finally, here’s an interesting bit of
trivia. The American Floral Marketing Council conducted
a survey half dozen years ago on preference of tulip
color by men and women. In order of preference, men
purchased red, yellow, pale pink, hot pink, white, and
purple tulips. Women liked pale pink, pale purple, hot
pink, peach, red, and yellow. It’s just something to
consider when buying a bouquet of tulips for a member
of the opposite sex although bouquets of mixed colors
or bicolor tulips are sure to please everyone.



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