How to Keep Tulips From Drooping

How to Keep Tulips From Drooping
Photo: tomertu, Shutterstock

Tulip season is upon us. And if you enjoy bedecking your home with fresh, seasonal flowers, you may be wondering how you can keep your next tulip purchase standing upright. Because while these colourful bulbs are known for brightening up any room, they’re also known for their tendency to droop. While some droop is unavoidable — the blooms are heavy and the forces of gravity are strong — here are some tips to keep them looking alert and fresh a little longer.

Select young tulips

You many want to enjoy fully-opened blooms right away, but if you want them to last longer, your best bet is to purchase closed, firm buds, some of which are still on the green side, that show no signs of browning.

Cut (and re-trim) the stems at an angle

Did you know tulips continue to grow for days after they’ve been cut? That’s why it’s important to cut the stems at an angle, so they’re better able to absorb water. Re-trim the stems another 1/2 inch every two to three days to ensure peak water absorption. At the same time, refill their vase with fresh, cold water, and remove any excess leaves at the base of the stem below the water level as they may rot and grow bacteria, hastening the demise of the tulip itself.

Keep them out of direct sunlight

Tulips are light-seekers, and due to a process called photropism, they will bend themselves to the source of sunlight. Keep them in areas of diffused light, or rotate the vase periodically so they are not habituated to leaning in one direction to absorb light. (They should not be subjected to heat, either.)

Use a narrow vase

Tulip stems are soft and pliable. They will naturally stand more upright if they’re not able to spread out in a wide-mouthed vessel. Support the stems by placing them in a tall, narrow vase for best results.

Put a pin in the stem

To help them stand up taller, poke a hole with a pin or safety pin in each stem, just at the base of the flower. This helps, according to gardener Daisy Payne, because tulips have hollow stems. Usually when they hit the water, air bubbles rise up the stem, blocking water from reaching the flower head. Payne says, “The hole next to the flower head acts as exit for the air bubble, thereby keeping the hollow stem block free.”

Vodka, pennies, and fizzy drinks

While we couldn’t find expert scientific explanation to support this, old wives’ tales say that a spritz of vodka, the copper from an old penny, and the acidity and sugar from lemon-lime soda like Sprite or 7Up can also add new life to those bending petals. Save these anecdotal methods as a last resort.

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