(Botrytis tulipae) Tulip fire is a fungal disease that attacks tulips. Affected plants produce brown spots on the leaves. The leaves also look twisted and distorted and may wither away.
- Leaves have brown spots
- Leaves become twisted and distorted
- Leaves may wither away prematurely
- A fuzzy grey mould may appear on affected plants
- Spots may appear on the flowers
What is tulip fire?
Tulip fire is a fungal disease that only attacks tulips. Affected plants produce brown spots on their leaves. The leaves also look twisted and distorted and may wither away. Affected plants look like they’ve been scorched by fire – hence the common name.
The leaves and plants may not flower properly and wither away prematurely. You may also see a fuzzy grey mould on affected plants, and spots on the flowers that lead to rotting in wet weather.
You can see symptoms on the leaves any time from when they emerge above the ground until they die down in summer, or earlier when badly affected.
The disease can be more prominent in very damp autumns.
What does it affect?
What is tulip fire caused by?
Botrytis tulipae is a fungus that only attacks tulips.
It produces small, black resting structures (sclerotia), which are produced in dead tissue, including the outer bulb scales. These can remain dormant in the soil for several years and keep the disease going from year to year even when tulip plants aren’t unavailable.
Botrytis tulipae also produces airborne spores from the fuzzy, grey mould, spreading the disease from plant to plant.
Tulip fire is closely related to grey mould, Botrytis cinerea.
How to control tulip fire
It is very difficult to control tulip fire once it is established, so aim not to introduce diseased tulips into the garden in the first place.
There is no proof that planting tulip bulbs in November will stop or reduce tulip fire, so plant them along with all your other spring-flowering bulbs in September or October.
Removed affected bulbs and destroy them as soon as symptoms are seen to help prevent the spread to other tulips.
Don’t grow tulips in the same soil for at least three years.
Unfortunately, there are no fungicides available for home gardeners to use to treat tulip fire.
Check bulbs carefully, both when buying new bulbs and replanting old ones, for signs of the small black sclerotia in the outer scales. Also check for any signs of decay. Dispose of any bulbs showing these symptoms.