Bulbs are the most welcomed sight in spring, but quickly become unattractive as their foliage dies back. Though the yellowing foliage may be unsightly, don’t be too hasty to tidy things up. The bulbs underground are capturing valuable nutrients from the foliage as it dies back, storing that energy to support next season’s blooms. Wait until the foliage dies back naturally before removing the dead material.
It is hard to resist mowing the foliage off of bulbs that have become naturalized in lawn areas, but the foliage is important to feed next year’s flowers. After blooming, the plant will continue to photosynthesize for a few weeks, storing the energy produced in the foliage in underground bulbs. Cutting back or mowing the fading foliage too soon will reduce nutrient reserves for next year, resulting in small, weak bulbs which will gradually decline and die out.
Draw attention away from bulbs by planting them behind late-to-emerge perennials like hosta or daylilies. You can also plant bulbs behind low-growing shrubs, or interplant the bulbs with colorful summer annuals.
Many gardeners (especially those working in clay soils) have trouble getting tulips to return each season. Many newer species are simply bred for a big show and will not typically perpetuate. If you are looking for an incredibly showy tulip, plan on replanting each fall. If you want tulips to return season after season, try planting species tulips including Tulipa fosteriana, T. clusiana, T. greigii, T. praecox and T. kaufmanniana. Species tulips and their hybrids spread rapidly by seed, stolons, and bulblets. Though they are considered less elegant than the showy Dutch hybrids, they certainly add color and charm to the spring garden. Plant them in autumn and try to keep them dry in summer to encourage establishment.