Q&A: tulips

Horticultural advice from the experts at the RHS
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Question: Can you tell me what has happened to my tulips? I planted several pots with tulip bulbs and hoped for a wonderful display, but most of them have failed. The foliage looks straw coloured and the flowers are papery and haven’t formed properly. I'm so disappointed. I left them over winter under a garden bench and wonder if they didn't get enough water?

Answer: I feel that you have perhaps answered your own question here. After planting tulip bulbs anytime between September and November, make sure that the compost is kept moist, but not waterlogged.

The bulbs put down roots in autumn and although there is no sign of life above soil level, it’s all happening down below.

Keep containers of bulbs in the garden where they can catch any rainfall that we do have and where you won’t forget to supplement water supplies from time to time during dry spells in winter.

Have a look at the bulbs – they are likely to be on the small side with few roots. Tulips will flower on good sturdy stems if planted up to 15cm (6 inches) deep - this can even help deter squirrels. Most of all, don’t forget about your tulip bulbs over the duller months!

Send your questions for the RHS to: gardenproblems@standard.co.uk.

Only a few questions per month can be answered. For further advice on handling problems in your garden, visit www.rhs.org.uk/advice/index.asp.

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