Treat tulips like annuals in North Florida
s: Will tulips grow and thrive in North Florida?
a: Some northern bulbs perform poorly this far south. Tulips belong to this category. Tulip bulbs need consistently cool weather while they are dormant during the winter. North Florida winters are a lot like a journey of fluctuating temperatures.
As a result, the temperature drops below freezing for a short period during one week, and the next week rises to spring-like temperatures. After a sudden drop in temperatures, we may think that winter is over, but we don’t see the next drop in temperatures because we are experiencing an upward journey in temperatures. This up and down or back and forth between warm and cold and warm and cold temperatures is not at all conducive to growing tulips.
Not only is there not enough cool weather to meet their requirements for flowering, but our early warm weather in late spring and early summer is causing problems for these bulbs. Basically, warm weather comes early, around May, and causes the leaves to burn to the ground very early. This weakens the underground bulb so much that you only get one to three years out of a tulip bulb. Realistically, you’ll only get one good (first spring) tulip this far south. Even in the Atlanta area, most growers plant tulip bulbs in the fall, bloom one the following spring, throw away the bulbs and start over. They treat tulips like annuals. Here’s what I suggest if it’s worth it to you. Daffodils are a little more reliable. However, there are some daffodil species that do not perform consistently well this far south. There are other types that are more reliable.
You can simulate a consistently cold winter by placing tulip bulbs in the refrigerator for about eight weeks before planting. This requires purchasing bulbs in advance to provide this refreshing treatment and still have time to plant during late fall to mid-winter (late November to mid-January). Some nurseries sell pre-chilled bulbs; Most of them don’t. The above treatment will meet the tulip bulbs’ requirements for flowering, but will do nothing to make up for the fact that our springs get too warm too quickly, resulting in short-lived tulips here in North Florida.
A few people who grow tulips in Florida either buy pre-chilled bulbs or pre-chill them in the refrigerator, plant them in the fall, enjoy their blooms the following spring and then throw them away. They treat them like annuals.