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Can tulips be grown in North Florida?

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NICEVILLE SOUTHCOAST ALLERGY

Q. I see advertising now for planting bulbs but I wonder if this is correct for here in North Florida? Are tulip bulbs a good choice here?

A. Some of the northern bulbs are poor performers this far south. Tulips are in this category. It’s not only the lack of sufficient cold weather to meet their requirements for blooming but the early hot weather of late spring and early summer causes problems for these bulbs. Basically, the warm weather comes in early and causes the leaves to burn down to the ground too early. This greatly weakens the bulb underground to the point where you only get one to possibly three years out of a tulip bulb. Realistically, you’ll only get one decent bloom (the first spring) from tulips this far south. Even in the Atlanta area, most growers will plant tulip bulbs in the fall, get one bloom the following spring, discard the bulbs and start over. They treat them like annuals. This is what I suggest if it’s worth it to you. Daffodils are a little more reliable. However, there are some types of daffodils that do not consistently perform well this far south. There are other types that are more dependable. The below UF/IFAS Extension web publication covers much more information. http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/bulbs-for-florida.html

Q. My oleander shrubs are in need of trimming. Please inform me as to the time to cut the bushes and if damage will occur if the tops are drastically cut back. They are about 7 to 8 feet tall.

A. The best time to prune oleanders is late winter just before new growth occurs (February – March). Oleanders flower on current season’s growth. So if you prune at the above time, you’ll still get flowers. However, if you severely prune the plants (taking out 1/3 of more of the above ground portion), they may not bloom very much for several years. Pruning severely causes a plant to put all of its energy into recovering the lost growth at the expense of producing flowers. This is particularly true if you severely prune and then fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer including fertilizing the grass that is in close proximity to the oleanders. But sometimes the need to severely reduce their size overrides the desire for flowers. When a plant becomes too large for its location, the problem really goes back to planting the wrong plant in the wrong place. Even though we may not know the mature size of a plant when we plant it, the plant is only doing what it is supposed to do. Oleanders get much taller over time than many people expect.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@co.okaloosa.fl.us.

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