Spring has sprung, and that means the tulip is showcasing her spectacular beauty. Tulips belong to the lily family, and are native to Eurasia and North Africa. Tulipa grow cultivated and in the wild, and are highly favored additions to gardens. Some of the more popular types of tulips include:
- Single tulips
- Double tulips
- Parrot tulips
- Darwin Hybrid tulips
- Triumph tulips
While a perennial, many gardeners grow tulips as annuals since it can be a challenge to get a repeat performance in the second and third year. Depending on the variety, their brightly colored flowers are single or double and shaped like a bell, cup, or lily.
Different types of tulips also have different bloom times, which are divided into early spring (typically mid-March to late April), mid-spring (early to mid-May), and late spring (mid- to late May). In their peak season, they make stunning arrangements that can range from simple and classic to exotic.
There are 3,000 registered tulip varieties with striking differences, so we’ve outlined the characteristics of the 14 groups, so you can choose the best variety for your garden. We also created a handy guide to help you visualize the characteristics of these different kinds of tulips.
14 Types of Tulips
Among the earliest to bloom, single early tulips open in cooler weather along with daffodils and tend to last longer. They are distinct for their unique cup shape and six-petal flower, and have an average height of 10 to 18 inches.
Paired with peonies and clematis, you can use standard tulips to create an all-white bridal bouquet for an utterly classic look.
The last tulip variety to bloom, this is the tallest variety averaging 18 to 30 inches. Also called a Cottage or Mayflowering tulip, their standard cup-shaped blooms come in the widest range of colors with contrasting edges. The French single-late tulip are strong perennials with distinct oblong-shaped flowers. They perform well in warmer climates and are great for cutting, due to their long stems and long-lasting blooms.
A cross between Fosteriana and late-blooming single tulips, this hybrid is best known for its sturdy, tall stems and large blooms. If you don’t cut the leaves off after blooming, this variety will give a beautiful repeat performance year after year.
Due to their long stems, pyramid shape, and spectacular colors (primarily in the reddish-orange to red range), these are often considered the best tulip variety for cut flowers.
Double early and Double late
Double tulips are also known as peony tulips because their multi-layered blooms resemble peonies and they grow in the same zones. Depending on the variety, these can either bloom in early or late spring (meaning you can plant both and have a double show). They have a typical bloom size of six inches and 10-16 inch stems, so you may need to stake the stems to support the heavy blooms. They are sensitive to rain, so a sheltered spot works best.
Big and bold, their lavish petals add gorgeous texture to any arrangement and mix well with other flowers.
Also known as “Crispa” tulips, this variety is known for its fine fringe and soft, frilly appearance. They can be found in pink, red, violet, yellow and white. In many varieties, the fringe color contrasts with the color of the bloom, giving these types of tulips an extra flair of exoticism.
To best showcase their striking fringe in an arrangement, pair them with slimmer flowers or let them stand alone.
An early bloomer, descend from wild tulips (Tulipa fosteriana) found in the mountains of Central Asia. This tulip boasts blooms that measure up to eight inches across, thus earning the moniker “Emperor” tulip. Short (topping out at 10 inches) sturdy stems, bowl-shaped flowers, and large leaves are the defining characteristics of this variety.
This tulip is best known for its big, colorful bowl-shaped flowers that reach six inches across and open wide in the sunshine. One of its most striking features are the leaves, which are streaked or spotted with maroon. They were developed from the Tulipa greigii species and are also known as “Turkestan” tulips, a reference to their geographic origin.
A mid-season bloomer, they typically flower in early to mid-April. While their stem heights range from nine to 20 inches, they tend toward short stems with an average of ten inches. This makes them a good addition to rock gardens or container plantings.
Tulipa kaufmanniana are native to Turkestan, and Kaufmanniana hybrids are usually among the first tulips to bloom each season (usually in late March or early April). These tulips resemble waterlilies due to pointed petals open flat in bright sunlight, earning them the alternate name of waterlily.
They have large blooms that can measure up to eight inches across, with contrasting colors. Generally low growing, they have an average height of six inches, and some varieties only reach four inches high.
A late spring bloomer, these elegant hybrid tulips have long pointed petals that arch outward at the tips, giving them the look of stars. Their uniquely shaped blooms, which can reach up to six inches wide, are reminiscent of old species tulips from Turkey. They come in a variety of colors with contrasting edges, such as the yellow edges of the gorgeous red Aladdin, and some even have fragrance. With stem heights of 14 to 24 inches on average, some varieties grow as high as 32 inches.
As you might imagine, parrot tulips are known for their vibrant colors and feathery or ruffled petals reminiscent of a tropical parrot. Their large, cup-shaped flowers can be found in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, purple, green, and white. Due to their long stems and large blooms, they are among the more delicate of tulip varieties.
Since they look so different from a standard tulip, they make a lush, exotic addition to any arrangement.
This long-blooming variety is also known as a green tulip, since they all feature a streak of green in dramatic contrast with the basic flower color. Their name is derived from two Latin words, viridis (green) and flos (flower). They have exceptionally long bloom times, cup-shaped flowers, and long, sturdy stems that reach an average height of 16 to 24 inches. Most bloom in late spring, as many are mutations from the single late division, but this can be variable.
Also known as wild or botanical tulips, species tulips are referred to as a “Jewel of the Garden” and are descendents of the very first tulips. They are native to the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus. Species are smaller in height (three to eight inches) and flower size, and the most perennial of the tulip varieties. If you’re looking for a tulip with a long life, species is the best choice for you. They are an excellent choice for natural settings like rock gardens and borders.
Able to withstand colder temperatures, this sturdy-stemmed variety is prized for its classic cup-shape. They are a cross between Single Early and Darwin tulips. It blooms midseason, and comes in every possible shade for tulips, including beautiful pastels like pink and apricot. If you’re looking for more variation in color, try a variety like the sunset-colored Prinses Irene tulip, which boasts brilliant orange blooms flushed with rich purple.
Triumph tulips have a long vase life, and therefore, are an excellent choice for cut flowers. As an added bonus, a few varieties even have a gentle sweet-smelling fragrance.
Named after the Dutch painter, Rembrandt tulips feature deep purple or reddish streaks or flames that were originally the result of a virus spread by aphids. They are also known as Broken tulips for this reason. Modern bulbs do not carry this virus, but are just as beautiful.
Interestingly, there is no known image of tulips ever painted by Rembrandt, although he did live in Holland during the height of tulip popularity. Rembrandt tulips have variable bloom times, flower shape, and stem heights. It all depends on the class of tulip from which they mutated.
Tulip bulbs should be planted in the fall, but you don’t have to wait until next spring to enjoy their brilliant colors. A traditional cut flower, indoor tulip arrangements and stunning bouquets exude happiness. Their beautiful blooms are a living testament to the fresh beauty and new life that springtime brings. In particular, red tulips symbolize a declaration of love, making them a perfect choice for a spring wedding.
We created a handy guide below listing each type’s most differentiating qualities, to help you choose the perfect tulip for your garden or to decorate your home. Simply click on the button to download the guide!
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