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Most tulips have a reputation for fizzling out after a couple of years. But if you select the right varieties and give them proper care, you can ensure a brilliant display every spring.
Some tulip varieties come back better than others. To help your bulbs be longer-lived perennials, grow them in well-drained soil. It also helps to plant them 8-10 inches below the soil surface -- deeper than usual. To discover which tulips are good bets for long life, read on.
'Olympic Flame' tulip is a Darwin hybrid tulip, one of the most reliable groups of tulips for perennial performance in the landscape. Its dazzling golden petals erupt with streaks of red, similar to a flickering flame. It grows up to 2 feet tall and blooms in mid- to late spring.
'Peppermint Stick' is a variety of species tulip (Tulipa clusiana) that features alternating red and white petals, reminiscent of the stripes on a peppermint candy. This sweet little bulb grows only 10 inches tall and blooms in early to midspring.
Is it a crocus or is it a tulip? 'Violacea' tulip may have you wondering. It's a dwarf species displaying cup-shape magenta blooms with a black base inside. Rather than standing upright like crocus leaves, these red-edged leaves hug the ground. It grows 4-6 inches tall.
'Negrita' is a Triumph tulip that blooms in shades of purple and blue. It's one of the most reliable varieties in this group of hybrid tulips. Its cheery flowers are borne on 18-inch-tall stems in midspring.
Make your neighbors green with envy by growing the perennial Viridiflora tulip 'Spring Green'. A band of green runs through the center of each petal, transitioning to creamy white edges. This late-season bloomer grows about 16 inches tall.
'Taco' is a variety of species tulip (Tulipa clusiana) with elongated red and yellow petals and bluish green foliage. It blooms in midspring with flower stalks up to 10 inches tall.
Your search for a perfect perennial tulip may be over once you find Tulipa batalinii 'Red Hunter'. This 10-inch-tall species tulip explodes with brilliant red blooms nestled in blue-green leaves.
'Lilliput' is an early-blooming variety of Tulipa humilis species tulip. Although small (it grows 4-6 inches tall), this selection packs a punch of color, often producing three or four blooms per stem. You'll notice the fire-engine red blooms from a distance, especially when they open fully to reveal their purplish black base ringed with brilliant yellow.
Prim and proper, the 'Lady Jane' species tulip shows off elongated red-and-white flowers borne on elegant 8-inch-long stems. It is a midspring bloomer and increases in number every year.
Named for the famous explorer, 'Henry Hudson' has a tongue-twisting Latin name: Tulipa vvedenskyi. This relatively new variety is bound to make history with its large orange-red blooms borne on stems just 6-10 inches tall. Its blue-green leaves add wonderful texture to the garden with their wavy edges.
Late-season 'White Triumphator' is a graceful lily-flowered tulip that comes back year after year. It has large, long-lasting ivory white blooms with pointed petals that arch outward and stems that grow 2 feet tall.
'Ballade' tulip finishes out the tulip season with its graceful two-toned petals of purple edged with lavender. When fully open, its yellow-centered blooms resemble those of a lily. It grows 16 inches tall.
Coral pink 'Toronto' tulips bloom in midspring on sturdy 14-inch-tall branched stems that bear up to five flowers each. The blooms of this Greigii species tulip are a contrasting red-orange on the inside. Leaves with maroon splotches complete the colorful combo.
The 'Orange Emperor' tulip blooms in early spring with regal-size cup-shape orange flowers. Each petal has a flaming yellow base. The stocky plants grow just 14 inches tall.
The 'Apeldoorn's Elite' tulip glows with its red- and gold-striped petals in midspring. This bicolor Darwin hybrid tulip, in true character of the class, is a prolific perennial. It can reach 2 feet tall.
Fragrant 'Ad Rem' tulips bear scarlet red blooms blushed with orange and yellow margins. It's a mid- to late-season bloomer that grows 20-22 inches tall.
'Persian Pearl' species tulip is a petite early- to midspring bloomer, growing only 4-6 inches tall. Soft pink on the outside, but deep rosy red-violet on the inside with a brazen gold center, this selection shines in a border.
In areas of the Mideast, you can still find the white star-shape blooms of Tulipa turkestanica in the wild. The slender 12-inch-tall stems appear above narrow blue-green leaves in early- to midspring.
The Tulipa kolpakowskiana species tulip bears cup-shape blooms on stems up to 8 inches tall. Each bloom stalk produces two or more golden yellow blooms streaked with red.
Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is a delightful species tulip with lilac pink flower petals and a deep yellow base. This midspring bloomer grows 6-8 inches tall.
Tulipa tarda flowers in midspring despite its botanical name, which suggests that it would be a late bloomer. Clusters of white-tipped golden blooms hover just above the blue-green foliage that reaches 4-6 inches tall.
'Unicum' is a bouquet tulip that outdoes the bold 'Fusilier' tulip by adding variegated foliage to its colorful display. Like 'Fusilier', this species tulip bears clusters of red-orange blooms in early spring. However, it grows slightly taller (to 12 inches), and its leaves are edged in creamy white.