Gardeners give up on tulips for good reasons. They’re prime deer food, coming at a time at the end of winter when I suppose the creatures are extra hungry. The hybrids don’t reliably perennialize, generally faltering and disappearing after two or three years. The foliage is unattractive as it ages, and you have to have other plants emerging to take over when the tulips are gone in late spring. Finally, a big part of the US doesn’t have the cold winters needed for the dormancy period of these and many other bulbs.
When I started gardening seriously about sixteen years ago, however, tulips were a prime objective, and that hasn’t changed. Luckily, deer have not yet ventured into the part of urban Buffalo where I live, and I’ve found ways to get around the other issues with tulips.
The small, wildflower-like species tulips tend to return each year and, in most cases, their foliage is minimal. I also like the gregii varieties, which have big, variegated leaves, which are nearly as interesting as the flowers.
I plant hybrids in big pots in fall and bring them out of the garage in April. These don’t take up space in the beds and make a better impact. I don’t have to worry about their longevity because I treat them as
Tulips (and other spring flowers) are the first and last chance I have to have a pop of color in my front garden, which is shaded by huge maples all summer. It gets limited after that. When the cherry tree sheds its flowers and the tulips subside, that’s pretty much it. But it’s worth it.