These Are the Defining Characteristics of the Most Popular Types of Tulips
There are a number of different tulips that show their sunny faces every spring, and while this flower variety is among the most widely-recognizable (and beloved) seasonal blooms, fewer people know what makes each of the specific varieties unique. Ahead, discover 10 of the most common and popular types of tulips—most of which grow in USDA hardiness zones three through eight—according to Peggy Anne Montgomery, a horticulturist with the garden media group representing FlowerBulbs.com.
Darwin Hybrid Tulips
These hybrids have strong stems that stand up to windy spring squalls that often wreak havoc on early bloomers. "Large flowers provide a long-lasting color display. This group is among the best perennial tulips, re-blooming for several years," Montgomery explains, noting that they bloom in early to mid-spring. "They also make excellent cut flowers."
Double or Peony Tulip
As their name suggests, these lush, multi-petaled tulips resemble peonies. "They come in a wide array of colors, and many are bi-colored. Plant them in large groups for the best effect," shares Montgomery. If you plan to grow tulips for arrangements, this early-spring variety is a must.
Fringed or 'Crispa' Tulips
If you have ever noticed tulips with delicate blossoms that come in single and double forms, with "fringe" in a contrasting color, then you're likely familiar with the Crispa group. "They make a unique bedding plant and attractive cut flowers," Montgomery says, adding that this variety is known to burst into color in the middle or at the end of the season.
Sometimes called emperor tulips thanks to their massive flowers, Fosterianas are some of the biggest iterations on our list. "This group of tulips is more prevalent in Europe than in the United States, but deserves more attention here as they are among the best tulips for perennializing and naturalizing," notes Montgomery of these early- to mid-spring bloomers.
Montgomery says Greigii tulips are reliable perennials that break open into two-tone shades with interesting, purple-mottled, or striped foliage, greatly extending the season of interest. "They are an excellent addition to borders and rock gardens," she says. These beauties bloom early to mid-season.
Also known as waterlily tulips, these early bloomers have short stems and large flowers in various colors; most boast contrasting centers. "These are compact growers and are excellent for rock garden edges, window boxes, and pots if they are protected from freezing temperatures in areas colder than zone seven," she says.
These graceful, elegant florals are easily recognized by their petals, which "reflex" near the top, giving them a distinct lily shape. Their tall stems require some season-long protection from heavy winds (they show their centers at the end of spring), but they make an excellent choice for annual bedding and cut flower gardens.
A mutation gives parrot tulips their incredible form and color. "You may have seen them depicted in old Dutch paintings—each flower is a unique work of art," Montgomery shares. "Plant them where you will see them clearly or cut them for an up-close view."
Species tulips, which Montgomery says are also referred to as "botanic," are the very best for naturalizing. "They are the closest relatives of the first tulips collected and ultimately hybridized into the large ones we grow today," she says. "Plant these small, brightly-hued florals in large quantities for a big spring show." Pretty in front-facing borders and effective for forcing, "most are suitable for heirloom and Stinzen [or vintage bulb] gardens," she says, adding that they bloom in early spring in zones three through seven.
Triumph florals are the largest group or classification of tulips, and they come in the widest variety of colors, notes Montgomery of these mid-season show-stoppers. "These cold-hardy blooms are great annual bedding plants and can be grown in containers if protected from freezing temperatures," she says.