The tulip is one of the most popular garden flowers. Tulips are hardy and require little care. Some types of tulips bloom for years, once established.
Tulips generally are divided into 15 different classes, which vary in appearance and season of bloom. The early bloomers include single early, double early, kaufmanniana, and fosterana tulips. Mid-season bloomers include Mendel, triumph, greigii, and Darwin hybrid tulips. Late or May-flowering types include Darwin, lily-flowered, cottage, Rembrandt, parrot, and double late tulips. Tulips grow in zones 3-8.
Learn more about other beautiful bulbs, including:
Single early tulips: In most parts of the country, the single early tulips start to bloom the first two weeks of April. The flowers are available in a host of colors and bicolors, and many are pleasantly scented. Single early tulips are hardy and bloom on sturdy 10- to 12-inch stems. Plant bulbs 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Popular varieties include snow-white 'Diana,' the cardinal-red 'Couleur Cardinal,' and the spectacular orange-and-red 'Prinses Irene.'
Double early tulips: The large, peonylike blossoms of the double early tulips open from early to mid-April. They are available in a variety of colors and bicolors and bloom on 8- to 10-inch stalks. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. The rose-hued 'Peach Blossom' is a popular variety, or try a colorful mix.
Mendel and triumph tulips: Both Mendel and triumph tulips are important to the garden because they link the bloom seasons of the early-flowering tulips with the late-flowering tulips. Blossoms usually appear in late April and early May. Mendel and triumph tulips come in a wide range of colors and bicolors and grow 18 to 24 inches tall. Bloom stalks are sturdy. Triumph tulips are hybrids of single early and late-flowering tulips. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 5 inches apart.
Darwin hybrid tulips: For jumbo flowers and tall, sturdy stems, you can't beat the Darwin hybrids. The plants grow to 28 inches tall and produce larger flowers than any other tulip class. Darwin hybrids come in an assortment of brilliant colors and bicolors. Most bloom from late April to early May. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Popular varieties include 'Pink Impression,' 'Golden Apeldoorn,' and scarlet 'Oxford.' This class of tulip is considered the most reliable of the hybrid tulips for returning year after year.
Lily-flowered tulips: These graceful tulips add a touch of elegance to any garden with their unusual, pointed, slender blooms. The plants bloom in early May on 25-inch stems and are available in white, yellow, rose, red, and bicolored varieties. Plant 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Popular varieties include fiery 'Red Shine' and pristine 'White Triumphator.'
Cottage tulips: The cottage tulips, so named because of the role they played in the small cottage gardens of Great Britain, often are the last tulips to bloom in the spring. The egg-shaped flowers are produced on 25- to 30-inch stems and come in many different colors and bicolors. Cottage tulips are particularly showy planted in mass. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart.
Rembrandt tulips: The finely etched, bicolored petals of Rembrandt tulips have made them longtime favorites with gardeners and artists alike. Color combinations include red and yellow, red and cream, violet and yellow, and yellow and apricot. Rembrandt tulips make long-lasting and attractive cut flowers. The plants grow about 24 inches tall. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart.
Parrot tulips: Brightly colored, ruffled petals give parrot tulips the exotic birdlike appearance that accounts for their name. They grow about 20 inches tall and sport a variety of vibrant colors and bicolors. The flower stalks are sturdy and withstand high winds. Parrot tulips are late bloomers that will grow in light shade. They also make flamboyant cut flowers. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Popular varieties include pinwheel red-and-white 'Estella Rijnveld' and apricot-pink 'Apricot Parrot.'
Double late tulips: The only real difference between the double late tulips and the double early tulips is the season of bloom. Double lates usually bloom in mid- to late May. They also grow a few inches taller than their early-blooming cousins. Popular colors include rose, yellow, white, apricot, lavender, and bicolors. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Try the peonylike pink blooms of 'Angelique.'
Kaufmanniana tulips: Kaufmanniana tulips often are the first tulips to bloom in the spring. Most varieties are bicolored with attractively mottled or striped foliage. The plants grow 6 inches tall and are a good choice for rock gardens. Kaufmanniana tulips look best when planted in mass. When fully open, kaufmanniana flowers resemble water lilies. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Try the red-and-yellow 'Stresa' in your garden.
Fosterana tulips: The brightly colored, early-flowering fosterana tulips have changed little since they were discovered growing wild on Turkish slopes 400 years ago. Most varieties grow 15 inches tall and bloom the same time as the kaufmanniana tulips. Use fosterana tulips alone or in conjunction with other bulbs in midborder locations. Colors include white, salmon, yellow, and red, and many have variegated foliage. Fosterana tulips are extra-hardy and long-lived. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart.
Greigii tulips: Beautifully marked foliage, large showy flowers, and sturdy, weather-resistant bloom stalks all make the greigii tulips an important addition to beds, borders, and rock gardens. The plants grow 10 inches tall and bloom from mid-April to early May. Flowers are gold, crimson, yellow, salmon, red-and-white, yellow-and-red, or rose-and-white. The gray-green foliage often is striped with red, brown, or purple, making the greigii tulips attractive even after the flowers have faded. Plant bulbs 8 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Popular varieties include the reliable 'Red Riding Hood.
Other species tulips: This class simply is a catchall for the many less-commonly grown species tulips. All are wild tulips or hybrids. These tulips are hardy, colorful, and especially attractive in rock gardens. Bloom time varies from species to species. Early species such as Tulipa humilis may bloom in February; other species such as Tulipa acuminata wait until May. Some of the most popular tulips in this category include Tulipa tarda, T. chrysantha, T. turkestanica, T. whittallii, and T. eichleri.
Location: Full sun or part shade When to plant: Fall General Instructions: Before you plant tulips, be sure the soil in your planting bed is in good condition. Add a sprinkle of bonemeal to the bottom of each hole. Tulips grow well in almost any type of soil, so long as it is well-drained. Standing water will rot the bulbs. Planting depths vary with each class of tulip. Tulips need cold weather to return year after year. In northern gardens, plant tulips in the fall before the ground freezes. In warmer climates, tulips are treated as annuals. Southern gardeners can buy prechilled bulbs and set them out in the spring, or buy bulbs 8 to 10 weeks before planting time and chill them in a refrigerator. To chase away the winter blues, bring some of your bulbs indoors for forced blooming.