It’s early spring here in Massachusetts which means we are in full tulips season and I’m not complaining! These beautiful bulb plants produce the most beautiful colorful flowers. There are numerous varieties (approximately 3,000) including stunning parrot tulips, fringed tulips, lily-flowered tulips, french tulips, and even peony tulips (often called double tulips) which have fluffy petals mimicking their flower arrangement counterpart that we all know and love! In this post, Cut Tulip Care (tips from a florist), I will share my proven tips from years of being a floral designer to help you get the best out of your cut tulips.
What to do When you Bring Cut Tulips Home (the shortlist to prep)
I’m excited to share about my floral designing career and subsequent knowledge and experience with working with tulips but I know, right now you are looking for the shortlist… the to-do list for when you get home with a bundle of tulips. Here’s the step-by-step to get those blooms prepped:
- First, unwrap your tulips from the protective sleeve they came in and lay them on your counter or table. With scissors remove the rubber band or twine the bundle is wrapped with.
- Fill a vase, bucket, or pitcher of cold water and if your tulips came with flower food, add that to the water. The flower food packet will guide you on the food-to-water ratio.
- Handling one stem at a time, begin by stripping ( peeling ) the bottom leaves only leaving the leaves you want for your design. I recommend leaving at least the top leaves since these pretty green spear-like leaves look beautiful in an arrangement.
- Once the leaves are stripped, take a design knife or a pair of scissors and cut the flower stem at a 45-degree angle, and place it immediately in the water.
- Move to the next stem and repeat until all the tulips are in water.
- If this is their final destination, meaning if your arrangement is done place them in a spot where you can enjoy them. Keep in mind tulips will stretch toward sunlight so if placing them near a window you may need to rotate the vase. Otherwise, place them in a spot with indirect sunlight.
- If you’re prepping them and plan to design with them later it is best to keep them in a cool dark space until you are ready to make your flower arrangement. This will help extend their vase life.
My Floral Design Background
Now that they are prepped let’s get into my floral design background and best practices for caring for cut tulips. For 14 years I worked in the floral industry, I first worked as a designer for two different busy florists before taking a job in floral wholesale. I then opened my own floral design business focusing on just weddings and parties using only fresh flowers – and let’s just say I’ve worked with lots of tulips over the years! My husband and my Dad worked with me each weekend while my kids were little and we averaged over 75 weddings per year. I also taught floral design classes which were so fun and now I share my love for flowers on Instagram in my Floral Fridays series. I also share it here on my blog’s Floral design page. Having my own floral design business was a wonderful experience and I loved that time in my life. Eventually, when our third child was born right around the same time our son Shane was diagnosed with Autism we decided to close up shop so I could focus on our family’s needs.
About Fresh Cut Tulips
The genus name for tulips is “Tulipa.” It is a Latin derivation of the Persian word “dulband,” which translates to “turban.” Tulip’s name refers to the overlapping petals resembling a turban or the fact that Turkish men customarily wore tulips tucked in the folds of their turbans.
Relative to other fresh cut flowers, tulips are generally hardy flowers. They have thick stems and wholesome greens with a relatively compact strong head. Cut tulips can be a little quirky in that they stretch and grow towards light even after they have been cut which in turn can be a bit of a challenge for a designer. However, with a few tips and perhaps some understanding of why they do what they do, you can be prepared to meet their needs and enjoy them for the longest time possible. Here are my top 7 tips:
Selecting the Best Blooms
Head to any floral department in your grocery store or your local florist and you are sure to find the most glorious bundles of tulips for sale. Tulips come in so many colors and it’s hard to know how to choose the best blooms. Here are a few buying tips. Regardless of the variety or color of the flower, it is wise to buy tulips that are closed or have tight buds. Tulips will mature fast ( a couple of days) once you prep them so starting with tight buds is always a good idea. Make sure the petals aren’t transparent and that the greens are a healthy bright spring green color. Older blooms will have open blooms that have transparent or curled edges and the tulip leaves will be a dull green.
Removing the Leaves
Wrapped tulips come with several layers of leaves. It is important to remove the leaves that will be below the water line. The foliage of tulips tends to get mushy underwater turning the water somewhat murky. Tulips love fresh clean water which is easier to achieve and maintain by removing the lower level of greens.
Cutting the Stems at an Angle
You probably hear this tip a lot but do you know why this is recommended? It is simply to make sure the flower stems do not sit flat on the vase resulting in the tulip not being able to pull up water. Simply grab a sharp knife or scissors and cut the bottom of the stems at an angle. Be sure to re-cut tulip stems every 1-2 days and replace the water.
Meeting the Cut Tulip’s Water Needs
Tulips love fresh water and lots of it. They are thirsty flowers so keeping the water level high and the water clean is important for their vase life. If your tulips came with floral preservative add that to the water. If you are trying to open tulips faster consider placing them in warmer water.
Tips to Keep Tulips from Drooping
Tulips are both phototropic (they will grow and move toward a light source) and geotropic (they bend away from the earth due to the force of gravity). What this means is they have a proclivity to seek out the light source and head in that direction or be stiff and stand up straight! This is until the cut tulip stems soften and the heavy heads pull them down. They seem to go from one extreme to the other.
Unlike most flowers, fresh-cut tulips continue to grow in the vase even gaining an inch or more in height. This is highly unusual in the cut flower world! Not only do they grow they also reach for the light. As the days pass the fresh-cut tulip stems can no longer support the heavy blooms and that stiff stem that is reaching for the light is now taking a nosedive.
To minimize this from happening consider placing them in a space that gets light from all angles. A tall vase will support the stems and help to keep them from flopping. Perhaps the best way to reduce the stretch, grow, droop cycle is to place a small slit on the stem of the tulip right under the bloom. To do so take a sharp knife and simply pierce the stem. Do not put the knife through the entire stem just a small knick should do the trick. I recommend doing this as you first place the tulips in water.
Where to Place your Cut Tulip Arrangement
If placed in direct sunlight you can expect limited vase life. It is best to place them in a space where they are not subject to too much sun. Tulips love cool temps so when a vase of tulips is situated in a cool place it will last longer.
Tips for Designing with Tulips
Let’s chat about tulips in floral arrangements! You can design tulips in both a clean vase of water or in fresh flower floral foam. Tulips do well in both as long as you keep the vessel filled with water or the foam remains saturated. As mentioned above tulips are very thirsty flowers and for the longest vase life make sure they are well watered!
Depending on your personal style or the special occasion you are designing for tulips can be displayed in a vase of all tulips or mix them with other spring flowers. Tulips are a popular choice for wedding bouquets and could be the perfect flower for your next dinner party!
A Very Special Thank you
A very special thank you to Daniel at Petal Pickers for providing me with these beautiful tulips shown in this post. Petal Pickers is a fresh flower farm located in South Carolina. Petal Pickers Flower co. was founded in 2017 and is a small farm operation specializing in growing fresh and fragrant, often heirloom, varieties of specialty cut flowers. Petal Pickers supplies fresh seasonal cut flowers, distinctive bouquets, and botanicals to retail establishments and floral studios in the greater Greenville, SC area. More recently they have branched out their retail business and now provide stunning farm-to-table flowers to flower lovers across the United States. Visit Petal Pickers to order your flowers today!
I hope you enjoyed this Cut Tulip Care (Tips from a florist) post and found it helpful! With proper care, you can extend the life of your tulips and enjoy both their beauty and their quirkiness!
For more floral ideas visit my floral design page where I cover fresh flower design, faux floral design as well as indoor plant design and care! Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter to receive my free Cut hydrangea guide!
Keep creating friends!