Your favorite spring bulb has a long history. Check out these things you may not have known about tulips.

By Jenny Krane
April 15, 2019
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Tulips are some of the first flowers you see at the grocery store and are often seen as a sign of spring. It's no mystery why people love the colorful, cup-shape blooms and plant them in their gardens to come back year after year. Although you may know some basic gardening information like how to plant and care for tulips, there are probably a few fun facts you didn't know about your favorite bulb.

1. There Are Thousands of Varieties of Tulips

There are more than 3,000 varieties of tulips worldwide (this includes naturally occurring and genetically cultivated varieties). Of those 3,000 varieties, tulips can be divided into approximately 150 species.

2. Tulips Have an Expensive History

Tulips caused quite the pandemonium in the 1600s. During this time in the Netherlands, tulips were highly valuable and are considered by some historians to be the cause of the economic crash of 1637. During this time, tulips were as expensive as homes.

3. The Flowers Are Edible

Tulips are actually a part of the lily family, which also includes onions, garlic, and asparagus. The petals are edible and have been used as an onion substitute and to make wine. Tulips were commonly used in food during the Dutch famine over the course of World War II.

4. Each Tulip Color Has a Different Meaning

Tulips are said to have different meanings based on flower color. Red tulips represent true love (no wonder tulips are the second most popular Valentine’s Day flower). White ones are a symbol of apology and forgiveness. Purple tulips are a symbol of royalty.

5. There Is a Near-Black Variety

Although there are no true black flowers that occur in nature, many hybrids and cultivars have been created to get close. ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips are one of the most popular varieties because of their deep purple petals that almost look black.

6. Tulips Did Not Originate in Holland

Many people think that tulips are native to Holland because of the immense amounts of tulips that are grown and shipped out of the Netherlands (nearly 3 billion bulbs exported each year!). They actually originated in central Asia and were first brought to Turkey. They were then sent from Turkey to Holland around 1560.

7. Blooms Only Last 7 to 10 Days

There are tulip festivals all over the United States and throughout the world. Although they are meant to celebrate the beautiful bulb, they also acknowledge the short amount of time that the blooms last. Tulip blooms only last a week or two, so festivals encourage people to come out and see them before they are gone.

There's a lot to love about tulips, but knowing more about your favorite flower makes it seem even more special. The history behind this spring bulb shows that there is more to tulips than the physical flower.

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