To Cover or Not to Cover
Tulips in Freezing Temperatures? The tulip question we all have is always a hard one to determine the action to take in order to prevent losing tulip blooms in cold temperatures. It all depends on the type of weather we get this weekend. If it is only a dipping temperature with a light to moderate frost that accumulates, no action is necessary. High quality tulip bulbs withstand a great deal of temperature changes and should be fine left uncovered. Hard freezes and snowfall that remains on the ground for more than 24 hours will affect the blooms and flower buds if they have already started setting.
Covering the bulbs can help with the frost damage, however I would recommend using a sheet or light blanket instead of a tarp. Tarps usually do not allow air flow and attract the sunlight, making it one big sauna. A sheet should do the trick, you are just looking for an obstacle for the frost to land on. However, you will need to create a support system for the blanket, if it is of a heavier material or if it becomes snow packed, the weight of the sheet can crush the tulips and snap of any onset blooms. This support system is very important if we end up getting an inch of more of snow sitting on top of the blanket. The frustrating part of it all is taking the gamble on covering or not for these reasons.
Unfortunately even covering might not help with the amount of snow we "could be seeing" or extended days of below freezing temperatures. On the bright side, this odd cold snap will not kill your bulbs, they will be fine next year, this will only affect foliage and blooms. Tulips are used to colder weather and can withstand a lot. If you see the foliage turn dark colors and wilt after the event, do not cut them or pull them out. They are known to store the energy in the bulb in times of stress and can even come back from colder temps.