The tulip is among the world's most popular flowers. Native to Turkey, these bulbs have been cultivated for thousands of years. The flowers reached their height of popularity in Holland in the 1630s, when enthusiasm for new varieties triggered a speculative frenzy known as tulipomania. Although they aren't considered a form of currency today, they remain irresistible to many gardeners. These favorite plants also make excellent cut flowers and are often forced to bloom indoors in the winter.
Growing Tulip Bulbs
One of the easiet bulbs to grow. They grow from bulbs that are planted in the fall. Most bloom well for one or two years, so you will probably want to dig up the bulbs and plant new ones after two years. But some perennialize and do well for several years. Most types are pest and disease resistant.
The plant is hardy in zones 3 to 7. Since they need a period of winter cold to bloom, they thrive in cold climates. In warmer areas, you may need to choose specific varieties or plant pre-chilled bulbs and treat them as annuals.
Scientific name - Tulipa
Kingdom - Plantae
Height -4 to 30 inches
Light Requirement -Full sun
Choose high-quality bulbs from a reputable source. The larger the bulb, the bigger and better the flower you'll get. Tulips come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. Different varieties bloom at different times. By mixing varieties, you can have flowers blooming in your garden for many weeks.
The tulip thrives in full sun. They last longest if bulbs are properly planted in the first place. Cultivate the soil to a depth of one foot and work in some compost, if necessary. Good drainage is essential. Set the bulbs pointed-end-up about 4 to 6 inches deep. After planting, water to stimulate root growth. In cold-winter areas, the planting area can be mulched, once the soil is frozen, for extra protection.
Remove flower heads but let the plant die back before removing any leaves. This allows the plant to make food to produce next year's flower. After the first season, fertilize each fall with bulb fertilizer.
Tulips look best planted just a few inches apart, in informal groups of at least five. Choose a single variety or plant varieties in contrasting or complementary colors next to each other. Choose varieties with different flowering times to extend the bloom season. Add contast to your plantings with other spring-flowering bulbs such as muscari, scilla, and fritillaria.
As the foliage dies back in late spring or early summer, it can be quite unattractive. You can hide the dying foliage or bare spots in the garden by interplanting with other perennials. Some good companions include Lady's Mantle, Cranesbill, Daylily, Catmint, Coneflowers, Spiderwort, and ornamental grasses.
There are hundreds of tulip varieties. Which ones you choose will depend on where you live, where you're planting, and the desired effect. Two common ways to group them is by bloom time and flower height. By taking both of these variables into account, you can create an interesting display with a long bloom season. Some examples of the types are listed below.
- Kaufmanniana: These are dependable perennials that grow just 4-12 inches tall. The blooms have a starry, waterlily-like shape when open. Kaufmanniana cultivars often have striped or mottled leaves.
- Fosteriana: Also called the Emperor tulip, Fosteriana have large, majestic blooms on 10- to 20-inch stems. Well-known cultivars include the boldly colored 'Golden Emperor', 'Red Emperor', and 'Orange Emperor'.
- Single Early: This is the oldest group in cultivation. Varieties feature single, cup-shaped blooms on 10- to 18-inch-tall plants. Many Single Early tulips are fragrant and good for forcing. Popular cultivars include 'Beauty Queen', with fragrant flowers in a blend of pink, salmon, and apricot; 'Purple Prince', and 'Christmas Marvel'.
- Species Tulip: There are many different varieties of these early bloomers. Most are 4 to 10 inches high and ideal for rock gardens or other small gardens.
- Triumph: These varieties have traditional-shaped flowers and grow up to 26 inches tall. Many have been developed for cutting and forcing. Triumph are not long-lived and are often treated as annuals. 'Apricot Beauty' has fragrant, apricot blooms; 'Atila', violet-purple; and 'Calgary' is a beautiful white flower.
- Darwin Hybrids: This large, classic flower is the tallest and among the best for perennializing. They are outstanding cut flowers and excellent for forcing. Cultivars include the popular, red-flowering 'Apledoorn'; 'Queen of the Night', which has nearly black blooms; and the stunning 'Burning Heart', which has creamy flowers flamed in red and yellow.
- Fringed: These mid- to late-blooming cultivars bear cup-shaped flowers with fringed edges. Heights vary. Cultivars include 'Blue Heron', with violet blooms; 'Hamilton', with golden flowers; and 'Burgundy Lace', which performs well as a perennial.
- Double Late: Often called Peony tulip, because they have so many petals. The flowers bloom late and are very long-lasting. Most Double Late are about 16 inches tall. 'Angelique' has pale pink blooms blushed with darker pink; 'Carnaval de Nice' features a striking contrast of white and crimson; 'Lilac Perfection' resembles a lavender rose.
- Lily-Flowered: These blooms have a unique, reflexed shape resembling a lily. Most grow 14 to 24 inches tall. Cultivars include 'West Point', a brilliant yellow; 'Aladdin', red with yellow edges; and 'White Triumphator'.
- Parrot: Ruffled, curly petals in striking color combinations give Parrots a dramatic look. Heights range from 12 to 28 inches, and bloom times vary from mid- to late-spring. Striking varieties include 'Black Parrot', with purple-black petals; 'Orange Favorite'; and 'Texas Flame', which blooms yellow and red.
Other Bulbs to Grow
Tulipa acuminata - Curious, but its petals are too long and thin to create a display.
Tulipa Alberti - Rather low-growing, with undulated leaves of a glaucous green color trailing on the ground; the flowers red, somewhat resembling those of T. Greigi in shape, but the petals are marked at the base with a blotch of yellow margined with black. Turkestan.
Tulipa Australis - Variable in color, but always pleasing, allied to T. Sylvestris but less robust, whilst the flower is more funnel-shaped and flushed on the outside with red. Syn., T. Celsiana.
Tulipa Batalini - A small kind seldom exceeding 4 inches in height, with trailing leaves and rather large flowers (nearly 3 inches in length) of a pale yellow color.
Tulipa Biflora - A species known long ago, and not very striking with its small pale yellow flowers, which, however, are borne in a cluster of three or four at the top of the flower-stem instead of being solitary, as in most other Tulips. Caucasus.
Tulipa Clusiana - The dainty Lady Tulip came from the Mediterranean region as long ago as 1636, has small flowers and is not more than 1 foot or so in height. The flowers are white, with a flush of rose on the outer surface, and purplish-black at the base. T. stellata is a nearally. It requires a deep vegetable soil and warm sheltered position.
Tulipa Concinna - A dainty late-flowering species from Cilicia, with rich red flowers 2 inches across, marked with bold black spots outlined in yellow, at the base of each segment.
Tulipa Dasytemon - A fine new species, very distinct in habit and flower. In height it grows about 6 inches, with from four to seven flowers on a stem; in color these are yellow edged white.
Tulipa Didieri - May flowering kind from the Alps, grows tall, and has large bright red flowers with black blotches inside at the base. A yellow variety named Billetiana is equally handsome.
Tulipa Eichleri - Is another fine species with large leaves and broad flowers of an intense scarlet-red color, the petals roundish in shape, having at the base a black blotch margined with yellow, Georgia.
Tulipa Elegans - Graceful bright-colored kind, opens late in April, the flowers bright red with yellow eye, the petals long, tapering to a point.
Tulipa Flava - With bright yellow petals, rather spoiled by a bar of green down the centre; its flowers, however, continue quite a fortnight after those of all other Tulips are past.
Tulipa Galatica - A dwarf Tulip, rarely reaching 9 inches high, and quite unlike other kinds in its very broad leaves and large cone-shaped flowers of pale yellow, flaked with green at the base on the inside, and touched with olive-green on the outside of each petal.
Tulipa Gesneriana - This is the noblest of all Tulips, the parent of the large late-flowering race, and should be in every garden, planted in bold groups or broad masses. In Sussex I have seen charming effects secured by planting in quantity. In another instance the bulbs had been planted in a solid, but irregular line, on a dry, warm hedge-bank of turfy loam, and just through and above the great crimson blooms the common Quince had thrust its soft leafy branches, thickly set with small white or delicate rose-flushed flowers. It has an immense bright-red flower borne on a tall stem, sweetly scented, with a black zone inside at the base. The flowers last admirably when cut, and by artificial light they open as widely as by day. The finest form is that called spathulata. E. Europe and Asia. The so-called "Darwin" Tulips are self-colored forms of this species.
Tulipa Greigi - Introduced about the year 1871, it has not yet received all the attention it deserves. It is low-growing, the flower-stem seldom exceeding 8 inches in height, the leaves marked with purplish blotches and the large-sized flowers from over 3 to nearly 4 inches in length, of a dazzling vermilion-red color faintly marked at the base with a dark spot. It is hardy, comes into flower about the middle of April, and few things can equal it for brilliant display.
Tulipa Hageri - Bears glowing flowers in dark red, yellow, and black. In a good new form, nitens, they are orange-scarlet shaded with bronze on the outside, and opening in May. This is a neat grower of about a foot in height, very free and of vivid color if given a warm place.
Tulipa Kaufmanniana - One of the finest kinds, hardy, flowering in April. It grows from 8 to 12 inches high, with broad, flat leaves, flowers very large (nearly 4 inches in length), generally white, or pale creamy-yellow tinged with pink on the outside, the petals marked with a broad orange blotch. A fine early-flowering form of this, aurea, bears flowers that are pure yellow or orange. Yellow inside, and shaded with red on the outside. Turkestan.
Tulipa Kolpakowskyana - A brilliant species, not exceeding 1 foot in height; the large flowers (3 inches or more in length) are a lively red, sometimes yellow with minute blotches or spots at the base. The variety splendens differs from this in its deep yellow flowers, suffused with scarlet on the outside. Turkestan.
Tulipa Leichtlini - Grows 1 1/2 feet high, with a flower always erect, the three outer petals bright purple, with a broad white margin, the inner ones yellowish-white, much shorter than the outer, and with rounded tips. Kashmer.
Tulipa linifolia - Has glaucous leaves deeply undulated and flowers of a dazzling red color, with small black spots at the base. T. Dammanniana, from Syria, comes near this, but is more sensitive to cold.
Tulipa Lownei - Bears delicate Crocus-shaped flowers, opening in April to a star shape, on stems of about 6 inches. Their color is a tender rose or rosy-lilac, with a yellow base.
Tulipa Macrospeila - Closely allied to Gesneriana, flowers late in May; it has large bright crimson flowers, with a distinct black yellow-bordered blotch at the base of each petal, and stamens, also black, about one-third the length of the flower.
Tulipa Maculata - A well-marked form with a hairy stem and bright red flowers, having a black blotch at the base, flowering towards the latter end of May.
Tulipa Micheliana - Allied to T. Greigi, and like it in its variegated leaves, only that here the brown color is in streaks instead of in spots. It grows somewhat taller, and the flowers are a darker crimson shaded with purple. Turkestan.
Tulipa Montana - Distributed over a considerable area in Armenia, Persia, and Afghanistan. A species seldom exceeding 6 inches in height, with flowers resembling those of T. Oculus-solis of the south of France, usually red, but sometimes yellow.
Tulipa Nitida - A slender kind from C. Asia, the home of so many Tulips. It comes near T. Gesneriana, and is a dwarf plant with narrow grey leaves and bright scarlet flowers spotted with black at the base on the inside, the outer petals being a paler orange-red color. It flowers towards the end of April.
Tulipa Oculus-solis - Very distinct, its flowers brilliant scarlet, with an eye-like blotch at the base of each petal, of a shining black color, bordered with yellow. T. praecox is apparently an early form of this, but more robust in growth.
Tulipa Orphanidea - A fine species, is closely allied to T. Sylvestris, and has large yellow flowers, tinged with red on the outside. Greece.
Tulipa Ostrowskyana - One of the newer species from Turkestan, is allied to T. Oculus-solis, and has bright red flowers with black blotches at the base.
Tulipa Persica - A charming dwarf kind, best for edgins, narrow borders, or use in the rock garden, where its fragrant flowers unfold in twos or threes during May. They are a bright yellow, shaded with bronze on the outside.
Tulipa Praestans - A very distinct plant, in which there are sometimes only one and sometimes as many as three, six, or even ten flowers on a single stem. The orange-red buds appear early, opening to a pretty pale scarlet, and the finest flowers measuring 6 inches across. The plant varies in height from a few inches to 18 or more, with stems and leaves thickly covered in soft white hairs.
Tulipa Primulina - Another fragrant species, coming near Sylvestris and blooming in April and May. The creamy-white flowers are edged and occasionally flushed with pink on the outside, and pale yellow within. N. Africa.
Tulipa Pulchella - From the alpine regions of the Taurus. It has purplish-red flowers with black and yellow markings.
Tulipa Retroflexa - Probably a cross between acuminata and Gesneriana, is a truly beautiful kind, growing 2 feet in height, with recurved flowers of a pure soft yellow, striking, distinct, and one of the easiest to grow.
Tulipa Saxatilis - A fine species, growing from 12 to 16 inches high, with flowers a peculiar mauve tint, passing to yellow at the base. Crete.
Tulipa Sprengeri - The last of the Tulips to open, this fine new species bears large scarlet flowers 5 inches across, which last well and are excellent in every way for cutting.
Tulipa Sylvestris - A British species everybody ought to grow. It is pale yellow, with casual edgings of red, and frequently the scapes carry two flowers, but the most valuable property of all is its fragrance. There is a large flowered garden form distinguished as major.
Tulipa Triphylla - A rare and choice kind from Asia, with tapering flowers in varying shades of grey, pale yellow, and orange. It blooms in April, and besides having a warm place, the bulbs must be lifted if they are to ripen completely.
Tulipa Tubergeniana - One of the largest in size of bulb, leaf, and flower, with tall hairy stems, very glaucous hairy leaves, and immense cup-shaped flowers in which the petals are much reflexed. Their color is intense orange-scarlet, with a bold dark blotch at the base. Mountains of Bokhara. T. ingens, from the same region, comes near it, but is of dwarfer growth, and bears deeper-colored flowers, and is less satisfactory in cultivation.
Tulipa Undulatifolia - Native of Asia Minor, 10 inches in height, has glaucous leaves deeply undulated at the margin, and flowers of a brilliant crimson-red, with black blotches margined with yellow at the base. Flowers in May, and is closely allied to T. ciliatula.
Tulipa Violacea - A recent introduction; is also one of the first kinds to flower. It is a deep self-red color and welcome for its earliness.
Tulipa Vitellina - Has large finely-shaped flowers of lovely delicate yellow, and opens with the earliest of the Gesneriana section. It is a splendid Tulip, its dwarf sturdy habit fitting it to withstand heavy rains and winds.
Tulipa Wilsoniana - Ailied to T. Batalini and T. linifolia, with the same narrow leaves and distinct bulb-coating. Flower of medium size, finely rounded, and of a peculiarly brilliant red. Turkestan.