Tulipa (Tulips)


Traditional cottage garden plants, first cultivated by the Ottoman Empire in the 13th century. These colourful spring-flowering bulbs are popular in both borders and containers, and also as cut flowers. Very easy to grow and available in a wide range of bright colours and flower forms.

Family: Liliaceae (Lily family)
Botanical Name: Tulipa
Common Names: tulip

Foliage: Deciduous, mid green broad leaves.

Flowers: Distinctive large cup-shaped or goblet-shaped flowers, on either tall or short stems. Wide range of bright colours. Single, double and multitone forms are available.

Flowering Period: Late March to May, depending on variety.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH.

: Full sun. Grow in a south, east or west facing aspect in a sheltered location.

Habit: Upright.

Type: Bulbous perennial.

Origin: Europe and Asia

Hardiness: Fully hardy in most regions of the UK.

Toxicity: Harmful if eaten.

Planting and Growing Tulips

Tulips provide a dramatic impact when planted en masse in beds and borders, along with other spring flowers. Popular as bedding plants or for naturalisation in borders and containers, where they can be left in the ground over winter.

Planting dormant bulbs outside from October to November, in a well-drained, deeply-dug, rich loam. Plant in full sun, in a sheltered position away from cold winds. Planting depth from 4 to 6in (10 to 15cm), depending on bulb size; at 8 to 10in (20 to 25cm) apart.

Avoid waterlogged soils and protect bulbs from winter wet.

Tall stemmed varieties make excellent cut flowers. However, once the flower is removed the plant won't flower again until next season. So if you are growing tulips for cut flowers, you may want to grow them in a separate area of the garden.

Tulips need very cold winters and long hot dry summers to naturalise well in the garden. Subsequently, they may not perform well in our mild, wet climate. In addition, modern showy hybrids tend to be bred as one-shot annuals, so they may not flower as well in subsequent seasons. Therefore, if you want true perennials it is best to plant species bulbs or ones that have been specifically bred for the border.

Taking Care of Tulips

Bulbs can be left in situ to flower again next spring or they can be lifted once the foliage fully dies back. Store lifted bulbs in a cool dry, frost free, place until replanting time.

Pruning Tulipa

No pruning necessary. Remove the flower heads as soon as the petals fade and begin to fall. Do not remove the leaves or stem but allow them to fade away naturally.

Pests and Diseases

Can be affected by aphids, slugs and bulb eelworm.

Susceptible to viral and fungal diseases such as tulip fire and bulb rot.

Propagating Tulips

Increase by lifting the bulbs when dormant (in the summer) and removing any offsets.

Can also be grown from seed but they can take several years before reaching flowering size.

Popular Varieties of Tulip

There are several classes/types of Tulip, each with their own particular characteristics. They have been extensively hybridised to produce wide variations in flower colour and form. Varying in height from 3in to 3ft.

Single Early Tulips: have a deep cup of rounded petals that sometimes open out flat. Blooms are often smaller than later flowering varieties. Flowers early April. Height 6-15in (15-38cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Apricot Beauty', apricot-pink
Tulipa 'Beauty Queen', salmon-pink
Tulipa 'Bellona', golden-yellow
Tulipa 'Brilliant Star', scarlet
Tulipa 'Fire Queen' orange with a flame red centre
Tulipa 'Keizerskroon', yellow and red
Tulipa 'Pink Beauty', carmine
Tulipa 'White Prince', white

Double Early Tulips: have large double, long lasting flowers. Petals are sometimes frilled. Flowers early April. Height 10-14in (25-35cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Baby Doll', buttercup-yellow
Tulipa 'Carlton', deep-red
Tulipa 'Electra', cherry-red
Tulipa 'Marechal Niel', oranqe-yetlow
Tulipa 'Orange Nassau, orange
Tulipa 'Peach Blossom', rose-pink
Tulipa 'Schoonoord', white

Triumph Tulips: are mid season tulips with large, single angular flowers, which stand-up well to wind and rain. Flowers April. Height 18-20in (45-50cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Apricot Beauty', salmon-pink
Tulipa 'Bing Crosby', scarlet
Tulipa 'Blue Ribbon', lilac-purple
Tulipa 'Dreaming Maid', violet, edged white
Tulipa 'First Lady', deep violet
Tulipa 'Garden Party', pink, edged white
Tulipa 'Keef Nellis', pink and yellow
Tulipa 'Sulphur Glory', yellow
Tulipa 'Pax', white

Darwin Hybrids: are one of the most popular and largest flowering types, providing an impressive strong show of colour. Flowers April-May. Height 20-28in (50-70cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Apeldoorn', orange-scarlet
Tulipa 'ClaraButt', pink
Tulipa 'Elizabeth Arden', rose-pink
Tulipa 'Golden Oxford', rich yellow
Tulipa 'Gudoshnik' yellow and pink with red streaks/spots.
Tulipa 'Hollands Glory', carmine-red
Tulipa 'La Tulipe Noire', blackish purple
Tulipa 'London', pink
Tulipa 'Olympic Flame', yellow and red

Lily-flowered Tulips: have long single flowers with pointed-tipped petals, often re-flexed at the tips. Flowers April. Height 18-24in (45-60cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Aladdin', crimson and yellow
Tulipa 'Captain Fryatt', red wine
Tulipa 'China Pink', satin pink
Tulipa 'Dyanito', red
Tulipa 'Maytime', mauve-lilac with white edges
Tulipa 'Queen of She ba', orange and red
Tulipa 'Red Shine', deep red
Tulipa 'West Point', deep yellow
Tulipa 'White Triumphator', white

Cottage or Single Late: Old-fashioned tulips with squared-off ovoid or egg shaped blooms. Flowers late April-May. Height 14-26in (35-65cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Arctic Gold', deep yellow
Tulipa 'GoldenHarvest', yellow
Tulipa 'Greenland', pink, cream and green
Tulipa 'King's Blood', cherry red
Tulipa 'Marshal Haig', red and yellow
Tulipa 'Rosy Wings', pink and white
Tulipa 'Smiling Queen', pink

Rembrandt Tulips: (or Bizarre Tulips) with a colour-breaking virus, splashed and irregularly striped with contrasting colours or shades. Flowers May. Height 22-30in (55-75cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Absalon', yellow and red
Tulipa 'Cordell Hull', white and red
Tulipa 'Gloire de Holland', violet and white
Tulipa 'May Blossom', purple and cream
Tulipa 'Victory', yellow and brown
Tulipa 'Zornerschoon', pink and cream

Parrot Tulips: are unusual forms with fringed, waved and twisted petals. Bi-colours are common. Can be weak-stemmed, so some support may be needed. Flowers April-May. Height 16-24in (40-60cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Black Parrot', maroon or blackish purple
Tulipa 'Fantasy' rose-pink with a green stripe
Tulipa 'Firebird', vermilion and white
Tulipa 'Texas Gold, yellow, with red edges

Double-late Tulips: (or Peony Tulips) have very large fully double flowers. Support may be needed to protect from wind and rain. Flowers May. Height 16-24in (40-60cm). Popular hybrids include:

Tulipa 'Eros', rosy pink, scented
Tulipa 'Gold Medal', deep yellow
Tulipa 'Moonglow', yellow
Tulipa 'Mount Tacoma', white
Tulipa 'Nizza', yellow and red
Tulipa 'Symphonia', cherry-red

Dwarf Tulips: short types, ideal for the rockery or containers. Height 6in (15cm).

Tulipa tarda (late tulip) is an attractive dwarf form with white flowers with a yellow centre.