“What Do I Do With Tulips After They’ve Flowered?”

by | Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Tulip cleanup tips: What to do with tulips after they're done blooming

The tulips in your spring garden have given you gorgeous color. But what do you do with tulips after they’ve flowered?

They’re done blooming, and now your tulip leaves are turning yellow and flopping on the ground. They don’t look so great.

(This is normal, BTW! You haven’t done anything wrong.)

  • Should you leave the tulip leaves?
  • Should you cut the tulip leaves off?
  • And if yes, when should you cut the tulip leaves?

These are the things we’re going to talk about in today’s tip!

Tulips go through an awkward period when they’re done blooming.

After tulips have flowered, their leaves turn yellow and flop on the ground.

Tulip leaves turn yellow and flop on the ground when they are done blooming - this is normal

But those fading leaves can make a BIG difference in how well your tulips bloom next year!

Here’s why:

Tulips grow from a bulb.

Think of the bulb like a battery and the leaves like solar panels.

When your tulips finish flowering, those leaves are gathering sunlight and turning it into food (and energy). Those solar panels are hard at work, even though they don’t look great.

Your tulips will use that food to get through next winter and next year’s bloom season.

The bulb is pulling all that food from the leaves back down into the bulb and storing it.

It’s recharging its battery.

If you cut the tulip leaves, you’re cutting off the solar panels.

The bulb won’t be able to recharge properly.

This means your tulips may not bloom as well next year.

It also means you may get smaller flowers or lackluster blooms.

When your tulip leaves are turning yellow and brown, you have several options.

#1: If you want pretty tulips next year, DO cut off the stem the flower was on, but DON’T cut off the leaves.

When you trim off the stems, you’re telling your tulips to focus their energy on making food for next season — recharging the battery!

DO trim the flower stems on tulips after they're done blooming

Where do you trim the tulip stems?

Make your cut where the stem meets the leaves. You can wait until the petals fall off. Or you can cut the stems when the petals start shriveling up.

Where to trim stems on spent tulip flowers

But fight the urge to cut off the leaves, even if they don’t look great.

You can put a flowerpot in front of your tulips to hide them. Or, you can grow other plants nearby to mask the leaves.

Don't cut off tulip leaves.

Don’t pull out those leaves until you can give them a gentle tug, and they come right out.

The leaves will likely be very yellow and limp.

If you give the leaves a gentle tug and they resist, they aren’t ready to come out yet.

They’re still helping the bulb recharge.

Another tip, don’t “wrap” the leaves.

You may see neighbors wrapping a rubber band around the leaves, tying them up into a little ball so they look tidier. Don’t do that. Remember, we want the leaves to act as solar panels. Tying up the leaves defeats this purpose. 🙂

#2: You can dig the tulip bulbs out.

Yep, you can dig the entire tulip out, including the bulbs in the ground.

The tradeoff is, you won’t have tulips next year unless you plant new bulbs in the fall.

But, if you really want your garden to look tidy and you don’t mind replanting your bulbs in the fall, it’s a great option.

Hey, do you know your flowerpot personality?

Take this fun, 2-minute quiz to find out! You’ll also get personalized ideas for flowers, so growing flowers is relaxing — not taxing.

Take this fun quiz >>

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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, dog mama and Midwesterner-turned-Colorado girl. I help budding gardeners in the intermountain west skip the “Why didn’t anyone tell me that phase?”, so they can get pretty results faster. More about Ann >>

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