Q. I recently purchased tulips already in a container and they bloomed for almost 10 days. The roots were sitting in water, and I had to add a little each time so their roots reached the water. How can I save the bulbs for later planting next year? Can I keep them cold all year until next year?
A. This is the beginning of February and you are not too late to plant now if you are able. Could you plant them in some containers and enjoy them that way rather than planting them in the ground?
When tulips bloom, they are exhausted. They consume a lot of energy stored in the bulb to push the leaves and flower out. They need many weeks or months after that to rebuild that corm to its original size or even larger.
So after bloom the leaves must remain attached to the plant while they rebuild the corm. Once the corm has rebuilt its size, everything green could be cut back and slipped back into the refrigerator for six weeks. They can be then be repotted again and forced to bloom.
You can repeat this cycle several times as long as they rebuild the corms each time and receive eight weeks of chilling in the refrigerator. You can do this to nearly any spring flowering bulb.
It would be very difficult to keep them for a year in a refrigerator or even specialized containers for that length of time because of storage diseases primarily. It should not stop you from trying it though. They will bloom again as long as they have about six weeks of cold temperatures. Give it a try!