Damaged tulip bulbs

(Question)

HI! I was planting some bulbs over the weekend and I disturbed a few tulip ones that were there from the previous year. They had a growing shoot but I broke a few of them off with the spade – do you think they are done or will they keep growing underground? Thanks!!

 

(Answer)

Most of us have sliced into forgotten tulip bulbs when planting new bulbs!  If the entire shoot has been broken or damaged, a bulb may not produce flowers.  As well, the bulbs will be more susceptible to pests and infection. However, the bulbs may well survive and thrive – I suggest that you treat them as if they are viable and see what happens in the spring!

The growing shoot you describe is the tip of the developing flower and leaf buds that are located in the centre of the tulip bulb.  The flower, stem and foliage will develop from the shoot. See the University of Illinois Extension’s Bulb basics.

It is not possible to predict what will happen with your bulbs. With some of the bulbs, you may have broken off just a small part of the shoot destined to become one or more leaves, as the flower bud (the most tender part of the bulb) is located deep in the centre of the bulb.  So you could lose a few leaves and the flower may emerge.   On the other hand, the energy stored in the fleshy scales that surround the bud and shoot may remain in the bulb or roots, so that leaves and flowers will not develop at all.  Finally, the bulb could produce lots of leaves, but no flower.