Last Updated On: May 8th, 2020
Learn all about Tulip flowers in this gardener's guide with a plant profile.
Tulips are one of the most popular flowers and help signal the start of the spring season with their colorful blooms and variety of sizes. See our bulb planting tool kit here!
With an estimated 3 billion bulbs exported each year, depending on your color or size preference there is sure to be a tulip flower for you.
In our tulip plant profile below, you'll learn what sets tulips (14 different kinds!) apart from other spring-blooming bulbs as well as basic plant care and where to buy them for yourself.
Read our Tulip plant post below to learn:
- How to grow and care for tulips in your yard
- Tulip plant profile table and free printable guide
- Where to buy tulips now
- History of tulips in Holland, and so much more!
Tulips: Why We're Featuring This Plant For You
First, tulips announce the coming of spring.
With their bluish-green leaves and tall, graceful form, what better way to wake up the garden than with brightly-colored tulips?
In addition, tulips come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
Did you know there are 14 different types of tulips to choose from?
Plus, tulips are very low maintenance. So low maintenance, you might almost forget about them until they begin to burst out of the ground in early spring.
Finally, we're featuring the tulip because of it's unique history, especially in Holland, where it was once used as a currency.
|Botanical/Scientific Name||Tulipa sp.|
|Cultivars||Numerous. Tulip is broken into 14 different types: Darwin Hybrids, Single Early, Single Late, Triumph, Double Early and Late, Fringed, Fosteriana, Greigii, Kaufmanianna, Lily Flowered, Parrot, French, Viridiflora, and Botanical or Species|
|Zones||USDA - hardy to zones 4 to 10; Sunset - grows in zones 1 to 24.|
|General Information||In the Liliaceae Family. Considered a "True bulb." Planting time will either be late summer or early fall depending on your zone. The more mild your location, the greater chance your tulip bulbs will need a cold treatment to begin their growth for that late winter or early spring.|
|Native Environment||Native to Central Asia and Turkey.|
|Plant Type||Perennial Bulbs.|
|Water Needs||Regular watering is needed during growth and blooming. Once blooming has finished, not further watering is needed as bulbs go dormant over summer, fall, and winter months.|
|Mature Height/Width||Varies; can be from 6-inches up to 24+ inches in height.|
|Bloom Time||March to May.|
|Flower Colors||Flowers come in most colors and in different color combinations due to a mosaic virus (not harmful to plants) that gives different color patterns in flower petals.|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun up to and during blooming. Part shade in hotter climates after blooming.|
|Growth Habit||Upright; single stem with leaves radiating oppositely and having one flower per stem.|
|Soil Needs||A rich, sandy soil is best, but most tulips will grow in any well-draining soil. If planting new tulip bulbs where older ones have been or were growing, then either plant new bulbs in different location or replace old soil in that old location.|
|Fertilize||Fertilize plants before blooming with Nitrogen formulation.|
|Plant Spacing||Depends on bulb size. Need to plant each bulb twice as deep as the bulb is wide. Bulb spacing can be type-dependent, but a good rule of them is at least 4-6 inches for miniatures and smaller types, and up to 8-12 inches for larger plants types.|
|Suggested Companion Plants||Larger tulips are best grouped in colonies or masses with low growing, spring-flowering plants. Smaller or shorter types of tulips work best in up-close plantings on edges of pathways or in group-plantings in pots, and landscape ground or raised beds. All tulips look great in pots of same or multiple colors and types, with a progression of similar blooming times. Daffodils, Vinca, Alliums, Candytuft, Pansies, and Primroses|
|Maintenance Level||Low to minimal maintenance. Only after planting will there be any need for some maintenance when done flowering, the leaves and stems will wither to the ground where they will then need removal. Maybe some digging and spreading of bulbs in later years.|
|Pest Susceptibility||Susceptible to soil digging pests such as Gophers or Moles, Squirrels, and Voles. Also susceptible to Aphids.|
|Poisonous to Pets?||According to the ASPCA, Tulips are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. The bulb itself contains specific chemicals that make animals sick, so don't let your pets or animals eat any part of the bulb.|
|Edible for Humans?||Tulips aren't poisonous to most humans, but some sensitive individuals need to not touch or ingest any part of the plant or bulb which can cause skin irritation or indigestion or worse.|
|Fun (or historical) Facts||- At one point in history, tulips were the most expensive flower and led to economic instability.
- Different colors of tulips symbolize different things.
- About 3 billion tulips are exported from the Netherlands annually.
- "Tulip Mania" happened in the 1600s in the Netherlands and tulips were used as currency. A financial bubble occurred and eventually what many consider the first economic crash.
- The name "tulip" originated from the Persian word "delband," meaning turban.
- In the 1980s, striped tulips were outlawed by the Dutch government because they were thought to weaken other bulbs.
(By the way, this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click on any of the links we are promoting, we might get a small commission at no cost to you which helps us run our website and podcast).
Tulip Flowers: History and Varieties
Tulips are in the family Liliaceae and the genus Lilipa. This family group, also known as the Lily family, includes herbaceous and woody flowering plants ranging between garden favorites and wildflowers.
With over 700 species, many members of this family are valued for their ornamental plants and highly commercialized through the flower farming industry, or floriculture, for their cut flowers and dry bulbs.
Other members of the Liliaceae family include lilies, onions, garlic, and asparagus.
Throughout the years, tulips have led to economic instability, huge commercial industries, and a "mania" all due to their perceived importance.
Tulips have been cultivated since at least the tenth century. Wow!
They have a long cultural tradition, particularly in the Islamic world, where they are highly symbolic and used for decoration among other things.
Originating anywhere from Southern Europe to Central Asia, mainly Persia to Turkey, they were important to the art and culture of the Persian people and later the Ottoman Empire.
By the 16th century, tulips reached Europe and were first seen in the Netherlands in 1625 but also continued to grow in importance to the Ottomans.
Eventually, they became a national symbol of the Ottoman Empire and as the empire spread, so did tulip culture.
This period of history came to be known as the "Tulip Era."
In the Netherlands, tulips became highly sought after and trading became really intense. This trading craze caused a financial bubble which eventually collapsed, a period known as "Tulip Mania."
Tulips actually became so expensive and economically important, they were used as a form of currency!
As they continued their rapid spread across Europe, they made their way across the pond to America.
Today, the Netherlands is the world's largest producer of tulips with an estimated 3 billion bulbs (that's billion) exported annually.
Most tulips are loved and enjoyed around the world as spring garden staples and ornamental cut flowers.
Did you know there are 14 different types of tulips to choose from?
They differ by flower form, size, bloom time, and stem length.
And of course, there are many different colors to choose from.
- Darwin Hybrids
- Single Early
- Single Late
- Double Early and Late
- Lily Flowered
- Botanical or Species
Print Your FREE Tulip Plant Profile!
Subscribe to our Spoken Garden community and receive your FREE Tulip Plant Profile!
Included in the plant profile: Tulip general plant info, maintenance tips, companion plants, and a planning guide!
How To Grow Tulips
First of all, bulbs should be planted in the fall before the threat of the first frost. The month may vary depending on where you live.
Next, when you select your tulips, consider their flowering times, their suitability for borders, or containers.
Finally, select your bulbs carefully and only plant healthy bulbs. Inspect bulbs for moldy areas or other signs of damage before planting them in the ground.
Tulip Planting Steps:
- Plant bulbs at least twice the bulb’s width apart (about 4-6 inches)
- Plant at a depth of two or three times the bulb's height (about 6-8 inches)
- Place the bulbs with the pointy end facing up
- For the soil, make sure you place them in sandy, well-drained soil
- Make sure they will have good sun exposure as they prefer full sun
- Water them thoroughly after planting, for live growing plants in the spring. If planting in the fall, no need to water them until late winter or early spring. Especially if it's a dry.
After they have flowered, wait until the tulip flower, stem, and leaves have fully withered and turned brown before cutting the flower off. This will make sure the bulbs get all the nutrients from these plant tissues they need for next season's growth. Click here for our favorite hand pruners to care for your tulips and other plants.
Also, you can cover the bulb area with 2-3 inches of mulch to keep it protected, healthy, and warm during the off-season.
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
One of the greatest displays of tulips in the world takes place each April in the Skagit Valley.
Known as the Tulip Festival, tulips of various shapes, sizes, and colors grace the landscape and dazzle each spring.
Check out this quick video to see for yourself!
Tulip Bulbs vs. Store-Bought Tulips
Should you buy your tulips as bulbs or already grown and potted from the store?
Well, do you prefer to wait a bit or do you want instant gratification?
There are benefits to either, so it really just depends on your preference.
Benefits of Tulip Bulbs
- Better selection and variety available to you
- Can be cheaper in cost
- Satisfying to nurture and watch grow
- Easy to maintain
- Can order online and have shipped to your house
Benefits of Store-bought Tulips
- Instant gratification
- Can re-plant in beds or containers and have instant color
- Easy to maintain
- Can hand-pick and choose your flower colors
- Can order online and have plants shipped to your house
Tulips For Sale
Now it's time to pick out your own tulip bulbs to plant next fall or live tulips to place in your home now!
The best part is there are so many beautiful colors, shapes, and sizes available.
The gorgeous selection of bulbs come from Eden Brothers which we recommend. The bulbs are on pre-sale now and will ship in Fall 2019.
Our beautiful selection of live tulips come from Amazon and are all prime shipping so you can receive them quickly!
Tulip Plant Conclusion
Tulips are one of the most popular flowers and help signal the start of Spring season with their colorful blooms and variety of sizes.
Depending on your color or size preference, there is sure to be a tulip variety for you. A wonderful addition to any garden, tulips are low maintenance and offer spring color each season.
Now it is time to hear from you!
What color tulip do you want to plant in your own garden? Which variety are you interested in?
Leave a quick comment below and let us know!
Well, that's all for now.
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed our tulip plant profile.
Want to learn about other plants in your garden? Check out some of our previous plant profiles:
- Primroses: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- The Gardener's Guide to Dianthus
- The Gardener's Guide to Chrysanthemums
- Roses: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- Daffodils: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
See you in the garden!
~ Sean and Allison
Tulip Plant References:
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All about spring tulips in this gardener's guide and profile of this beautiful plant.