How to Care for Cut Tulips

It's tulip season—and we've got expert info on how to make them last in a vase

It’s tulip season—and we’ve got expert info on how to make them last in a vase


Q: My cut tulips don’t stand up straight in the vase. Why?
A: Tulips don’t know when to stop! That is their special charm. Other flowers stay put once cut. Not the tulip. Tulips keep growing in the vase—gaining an inch in height or more. And they bend. Gracefully, they twist and turn, leaning this way or that, toward sources of light. The seemingly whimsical bending of tulips is actually caused by the dual effects of continuing stem growth and the gentle pull of light and gravity on the flowerhead.

Q: How long do tulips last in the vase?
A: With proper care, tulips should open and last from three to seven days. For longest vase life, buy tulips with flowerheads just starting to open (the bud should be closed, but with the colour of the flower evident). Before arranging tulips, condition them by re-cutting the base of the stem with a clean sharp knife. This will open up the flower’s water-uptake channels. Don’t bother with cut-flower food—tulips don’t need it. Keep away from sources of heat (including direct sunlight, radiators, lamps and old television sets).

Q: Is it true that daffodils and tulips should not be combined?
A: Combining tulips with daffodils or any other members of the narcissus family is not recommended because narcissi exude a slimy sap that shortens the lifespan of other flowers by clogging their water-uptake channels.

Q: Should I keep my cut tulips away from bowls of fruit, or does this not matter?
A: Yes, keep them separate, preferably in different rooms. As fruit ripens, it produces ethylene gas, which can shorten the vase life of some flowers. Tulips and many other bulb flowers are particularly sensitive to this gas.