Tulip Fire Disease (TFD)
The name “tulip” comes from the Latin word for flower, which means “flower of the sun”. TCD is a fungal infection caused by a fungus called Phytophthora cactorum.
It causes small white spots or lesions on leaves and stems of the plant. These lesions are not visible until they have spread throughout the whole plant. They usually appear first on young plants, but may occur at any time during the life cycle of the plant.
Phytophthora cactorum is a soilborne pathogen that is often found growing in damp places such as under stones and stumps, or even in old tires and other debris. It is one of the most common pathogens of ornamental plants.
When it infects a plant, it produces spores that germinate when moistened and release enzymes that break down tissue. The bacteria produce toxins that cause symptoms similar to those seen with leaf spot disease, but much more severe. Symptoms include wilting and death within several days after the initial appearance of the lesion.
Since this disease spreads through the soil rather than from plant to plant, it is important that you discard any infected plants. This fungal disease spreads when it gets into the soil and can survive in the soil for years without a host, so make sure you get ALL of the infected soil.
Dispose of all the infected plants, their clippings, and even the soil they are growing in. You can dispose of these materials either by burning them or placing them into your trash.
There are no chemical controls available to treat this disease. The best way to control it is to maintain good cultural practices such as avoiding wetting the foliage when watering, allowing for good air circulation, and removing all infected plant parts.
Tulip Virus X
Tulip virus X (TVX) is a type of virus that causes mosaic patterns on the leaves of plants. It is spread by aphids, which carry the virus from plant to plant.
There is no cure for TVX and it cannot be treated, but fortunately the disease doesn’t seem to kill the plants. The mosaic pattern that appears on the leaf will not affect the blooming ability of the plant or its aesthetics.
Tulip breaking virus causes areas on the bulbs to appear cracked or lined with small fissures. This condition does not affect the health or life span of the bulb.
It is a cosmetic blemish only. The plant itself will continue to grow and bloom normally. There are no methods of control or treatment available for this condition. It is a condition that only affects bulbs and can be passed from one generation to another.
It is not uncommon for the leaves, stems and flowers to suddenly wilt without any warning. They will still bloom into beautiful flowers even though they have wilted.
In some cases the plant will continue to produce new roots while in the process of wilting. Again, there is no known treatment or control for this condition. It is a genetic condition that is inherited and some varieties are more prone to it than others.
There are many other conditions that can affect your tulips. Fungal infections, viruses, nutrient deficiencies, mites, nematodes and other debilitating conditions can all affect your plants.
Unfortunately, most of these conditions can only be properly identified by a trained professional. If you have any reason to believe your plants are displaying symptoms that don’t fit within the descriptions listed here, please seek the advice of a local gardening expert.
The key to ensuring your bulbs have the best chance at living a long and happy life is to practice good cultural techniques. This means preparing the soil with the appropriate amendments, ensuring the container has adequate drainage, and consistently feeding your plants with the proper nutrients.
Appropriate Soil and Container Conditions for Growing Tulips
The type of soil or growing medium that you use will have a direct impact on how your plants grow and thrive. The ideal soil will be rich in nutrients, lightweight, and have the perfect water retention capabilities.
Soil that is too heavy will cause the plant to sink, which will interfere with the roots ability to take up nutrients and water. Soil that is too sandy won’t hold enough moisture to sustain the plant. The best soil is loosely packed, slightly acidic, and porous in nature.
Most garden centers carry a wide variety of potting soil mixes that will work for growing flowers. However, it is important to ask the staff which mix is best for growing tulips.
Many garden centers carry a general purpose mix that will work well. Also, you may want to inquire if they have a mix that is specifically formulated for growing bulbs. Bulb specific mixes contain more nutrients that help promote larger and healthier bulbs.
If you prefer to make your own soil mix you can include the following: one part compost, or humus (leaf mold is best), one part peat moss, one part sand, and two parts coarse ground gravel. The ground gravel is not an absolute necessity, but it will help with water drainage.
Large woody debris should not be used because it will not break down in the soil.
It is important that your containers have proper drainage. It is equally as important to ensure that there are no holes in the bottom of the container because this could cause the roots to rot.
If you are planting your bulbs in an unconventional container such as a clay pot, you will need to take extra steps to ensure proper drainage. Place a few inches of small gravel at the bottom of the pot, and place your soil mix on top of it. This will help to ensure that excess water can drain through the pot and prevent the roots from rotting.
Tulips need consistent moisture in order to grow and thrive. If bulbs are allowed to dry out they will stop growing and could eventually die.
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate your bulbs. When you place a bulb in the ground you want the very top of it, the place where the leaves emerge from, to be slightly above the surface of the soil. Tulips produce better when planted slightly deeper than when planted at the surface. This will prevent the bulbs from drying out as quickly.
After planting your bulbs, firm the soil around them to prevent any water from washing away the soil. After that, water them well, ensuring that all of the soil is thoroughly hydrated.
Fertilizing your Tulips
It is important to feed your bulbs every two weeks during the growing season. Any fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, such as 10-30-10, will work well for this purpose.
Spread a thin layer of fertilizer over the top inch of soil and water it in well. This will provide your bulbs with all the nutrients that they need until the next feeding.
Tulips require more nitrogen than they do phosphorous or potassium. This is why it is a good idea to buy a synthetic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.
Consulting the label on the bag will tell you exactly what nutrients are contained within the fertilizer. If you prefer you can also gather your own manure from local stables or other farms. Chicken, cow, and horse manure all work well. Shredded bark is another common fertilizer.
As long as you keep your bulbs well hydrated and feed them a balanced diet of nutrients, they should grow large and beautiful for you.
How to Deal With Tulip Diseases and Pests
There are very few diseases that will attack your tulips. The most common disease is called tulip fire, which causes black spots on the petals.
This can be treated by dipping your tulip bulbs in sulphur water every few weeks. To do this, simply immerse your bulbs in a bucket of water with a tablespoon of sulphur added per gallon of water. Soak the bulbs overnight and then allow them to dry out before planting.
There are several pests that attack your tulips, primarily worms and slugs. You can eliminate these pests using one of two methods.
If you want to use a chemical approach, you can spread some Pounce Herbicide (5 percent acenaphthene and 1 percent diphenylether) around the base of your plants. Be very careful with this approach as it is very toxic to people and animals.
A better method is to employ the use of a pet. Slugs and other pests are susceptible to being eaten, and a dog or cat can help you to control this problem easily.
Your Beautiful Tulips!
Tulips bloom at different times in different climates. Some of the earliest blooming varieties include; Admiral Hood, Fancelus, Semper Augustus, and Triumph.
Some of the latest blooming varieties include; Abdi Pasha, Emperor Karl, John Scheepers, and Perfect Treasure. No matter what varieties you choose to grow, you should enjoy a beautiful spring full of brilliant blossoms!
Tulips are just one of many flowers that you can grow from bulbs in your garden. Other bulbs that you may want to look into include; Amaryllis, Daffodils, and Snowdrops.
Also, if you don’t have room in your yard for a garden, you might want to consider growing flowers in large pots indoors.
Sources & references used in this article:
Bacterial leaf and peduncle soft rot caused byPectobacterium carotovorum on tulips in Konya, Turkey by N Boyraz, KK Bastas, S Maden, A Yasar – Phytoparasitica, 2006 – Springer
A necrotic disease of forced tulips caused by tobacco necrosis viruses by B Kassanis – Annals of Applied Biology, 1949 – Wiley Online Library
Bud necrosis, a storage disease of tulips. III. The influence of ethylene and mites by WJ De Munk – Netherlands Journal of Plant Pathology, 1972 – Springer
Tulip fire by A Beaumont, WARD Weston… – Annals of applied …, 1936 – Wiley Online Library