I planted tulip bulbs in fall 2018. This spring I saw them start growing and have about 3″ of growth when rabbits or something chewed off all growth. The bulbs still grew about another 3″ and the rabbits chewed off the growth again. There has been no further growth. When should I dig up the bulbs – now or about 6 weeks from now when the growth would have browned? Is there hope that the bulbs might grow next year?
The bunnies grazed on the growing shoot, from which the stem, leaves and flowers develop.
Although the tulips did not flower, the bulbs should still be intact underground. Normally, after flowering, the tulips should be allowed to die back until the stems are dry and can be pulled out of the ground easily, several weeks after the tulips bloom. This ensures that the bulb stores energy for the next blooming season. Your tulips did not have the chance to use the energy from the bulbs this year, so although the rabbits munching on the shoots could affect the health of the bulbs over time, the bulbs still may produce flowers next year.
In any event, once tulips are planted, the bulbs are usually left in the ground year-round, unless you want to move them to another spot in your garden. Bulbs are typically moved after they bloom, once the leaves have totally died back and the bulbs have gone dormant. However, as your bulbs did not bloom at all, if you still wish to dig them up, you can do so any time – there is no need to wait several weeks.
Finally, to keep rabbits away next spring, sprinkle blood meal over the area the bulbs are planted. You may have to repeat this after a heavy rainfall. See Growing tulips: a Toronto Master Gardeners Guide for helpful information about these lovely plants.
All the best with next year’s crop of tulips. Please write back to tell us if your tulips returned to flower!