Q. Will tulips grow and bloom in North Florida?
A. Some of the northern bulbs are poor performers this far south. Tulips are in this category. Tulip bulbs need consistently cold weather while they are dormant during the winter. Our winters in North Florida are more like a rollercoaster ride of temperatures.
As a result, one week it dips to freezing for a short time, and the next week, it rises to spring-like temperatures. Following the sudden ride down to the lower temperatures, we may think winter is over. But we don’t see the next drop in temperatures that are coming as we are experiencing the ride upward in temperatures.
This up and down or back and forth of warm, cold, warm, cold temperatures is not at all conducive for tulips.
It’s not only the lack of sufficient cold weather to meet their requirements for blooming, but our early warm weather of late spring and early summer causes problems for these bulbs. Basically, the warm weather comes early, about May, 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 tulips like annuals. This is what I suggest if it’s worth it to you. Daffodils are a little more reliable. However, some types of daffodils do not consistently perform well this far south. Other types are more dependable.
You can simulate a consistently cold winter by placing the tulip bulbs in a refrigerator for about eight weeks before planting. This requires purchasing the bulbs to provide this chilling treatment and still having time to plant from late fall to mid-winter (late November to mid-January).
Some nurseries sell pre-chilled bulbs, but most don’t. The above treatment will meet the tulip bulb requirements for flowering but will do nothing to offset the fact that our springs become too warm too quickly, resulting in tulips being short-lived here in North Florida.
The few people who grow tulips in Florida either purchase pre-chilled bulbs or pre-chill them in the refrigerator, plant them in the fall, enjoy their blooms the following spring, and throw them away. They treat them like annuals.