Tulips (Tulipa)

(c) Garden Stems

Tulips are probably the most popular spring bulb grown and sold in the U.S. They are stunning in mass plantings and come in all kinds of shapes, colors, and sizes.


Tulips were originally found in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and China and were cultivated by the Turks around 1000 A.D. Tulips got their English name from a corruption of the Turkish word for turban. The Turks sent the first tulip bulb to Vienna in 1554 and soon the bulbs were distributed from Vienna to the Netherlands. The flower was so different from every other flower known to Europe at the time with intense petal color. In the 1600’s, because bulbs were so rare, tulips were for the mere pleasure of the wealthy and became a status symbol.  In 1624, a tulip-mania broke out and people paid outrageous amounts of money to have these rare and beautiful bulbs. At its peak in the mid-1630’s, a single bulb was fetching ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. Many invested their life savings or sold everything to have them. Many going bankrupt. Then the tulip market crashed (similar to the stock market crash). After people lost such huge fortunes during this frenzy, they found out through necessity that the bulbs were edible. The Dutch government instituted trade restrictions to prevent a recurrence of the craze.

Now these beautiful bulbs are no longer an aristocratic pleasure, but a pleasure for all and often fetch $6 for a bag of bulbs. Thank goodness!

Common Name: Tulip
Genus: Tulipa L. (TOO-li-pa)
Family: Liliaceae (lil-ee-AY-see-ee)
Species: Over 100 species
Category: Perennial
Height: 6-24″ (depending on variety)
Spacing: 3-6″ apart
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4a to 11 (depending on variety)
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Bloom Color: In every color except true blue
Soil: Well-drained soil.
Soil pH requirements: 5.6 to 7.5
Propagation Method: Divide rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets). If left in the ground, divide every two to three years.
Seed Collecting: Not applicable. Flowers do not re-seed
Pests and Diseases: Squirrels, bulb rot

The Tulip festival at Thanksgiving Point Gardens in Lehi, Utah (a suburb of Salt Lake City) is one of the nations greatest springtime celebrations beginning Mid-April until end of April. It’s definitely worth seeing with tulips spread out over 55 acres of show-stopping landscape.

Tulips need a temperate climate and winter chilling. Plant bulbs, pointy end up, about 8″ below the soil surface in the fall when the ground is cool and temperatures average 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit (4-10 degrees celsius). Cold weather is necessary for proper dormancy and hot weather can split the bulbs. They need at least 3 weeks before frost to establish their roots.

Plant the bulbs in groupings for maximum showing. If you leave the bulbs in the ground year round, then apply fertilizer after the blooms are spent.

Tulips make great cuttings! In a vase, tulips will continue to grow and stretch, sometimes even up to an inch! They naturally bend toward sources of light and therefore may look as if they are drooping. This is natural and nothing you did wrong. To control, just re-cut the stems.

Tulip Types (from early spring to late spring flowering times)

  • Greigii
  • Kaufmanniana
  • Fosteriana
  • Single Early
  • Double Late
  • Lily-flowered
  • Fringed
  • Parrot
  • Viridiflora
  • Rembrandt

About Jen

Jen is owner, author, and creative mind behind Bakerette. Jen eats a vegan diet and recently converted Bakerette to a plant-based website that offers a smattering of healthful recipes! Jen is author of the cookbook Festive Feasts: Meals and Memories from Halloween to Christmas, which can be purchased online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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