Monty Don describes essential task for tulips in May as it ensures their energy goes 'into forming new bulbs'

Monty Don describes essential task for tulips in May as it ensures their energy goes 'into forming new bulbs'

Royal Horticultural Society

Solen Le Net

By Solen Le Net

Published: 14/05/2024

- 18:33

The British horticulturalist says deadheading the flowers will ensure they reappear next year

Tulips promise to brighten any floral display - and with the right care, the blooms will continue producing swathes of colour in years to come.

Although the flowers come into their own during the early stages of Spring, their vigour quickly declines if they’re not deadheaded.

Fortunately, Monty Don has described a crucial task this month if gardeners want their blooms to reappear. He claims that May is the best time to deadhead the flower.

The gardener wrote on his blog: “If you have tulips growing in borders, deadhead them once they are past their best.

Deadheading tulips encourages the development of new bulbs


“This will stop the development of seeds so that all the energy goes into forming new bulbs for next year’s flowers.

“The best way to deadhead them is simply to snap off the spent flowers with the growing seed pod using your fingers.

“Do not cut back the stem or any of the foliage as this will all contribute to the growing bulbs as they slowly die back.”

The Royal Horticultural Society claims that, in general, tulips “do not need pruning or training”.

“Simply remove the withered stems and foliage in summer once they have turned straw-coloured,” it recommends.

“[They] usually come away easily without needing to cut them.”

In a previous blog entry, Monty pointed out that the term deadheading is used interchangeably with pruning.

“When you deadhead you are effectively pruning and thus stimulating fresh side shoots which will bear new flower buds and therefore extend the flowering season,” he explained.

“Deadheading also stops the plant developing seed and increases the chances of repeat flowering as seeds always take precedence from the plant’s supplies of nutrients and water.”

Simply pulling off the spent flower heads will help, but according to Monty, the best approach is using a pair of secateurs to cut back the first leaf below the spent flower.



May is the best time to deadhead spent tulips


“A new shoot will then grow from this point,” the gardener explained.

It is widely believed that tulips can survive on little water, but even when it’s bound to rain, Monty recommends giving the flowers extra water to boost their longevity.

He notes that because they have been so passive for months and because April is traditionally so showery, it is easy to overlook the fact that tulips need water once they are growing strongly.

Watering weekly will prevent drying out the plant, particularly as temperatures climb in the coming weeks.

You may like