In the spotlight: Tulips (tulipa)

Tulips are some of the most popular spring flowers of all time, and the third most popular worldwide, after the rose and chrysanthemum. Tulips come in a whole variety of colours, height and flower shapes with even some tulips being fragrant.

Tulips - the facts

The tulip is a perennial, bulbous plant with showy flowers in the genus Tulipa, of which up to 109 species have been described and that belong to the family Liliaceae. 

Tulips are spring-blooming perennials that grow from bulbs. There are various species and tulip plants can grow as short as 10 cm (4 inches) or as high as 71 cm (28 inches). The tulip's large flowers usually bloom on scapes or subscapose stems that lack bracts.  Most tulips produce one flower per stem, but a there are a few species that bear multiple flowers on their scapes (e.g. Tulipa turkestanica).  The showy, generally cup or star-shaped tulip flower has three petals and three sepals, which are often termed tepals because they are nearly identical.  These six tepals are often marked on the interior surface near the bases with darker colorings. Tulip flowers come in a huge variety of colors, this is with exception of pure blue (several tulips with "blue" in the name have a faint violet hue).

The genus's native range extends from as far west as Southern Europe, Anatolia (Turkey), Israel, Palestine, North Africa, and Iran to the Northwest of China.

Did you know?

  • Tulips are very popular to an extent that during the 17th century, most of Europe particularly Holland, was gripped in a craze for Tulips that as a result, many had to even sell off their fortunes. It was popularly known as the Tulipomania.
  • There are about 3,000 various known varieties of cultivated tulips.
  • The majority of tulips are grown and exported from Holland.
  • Some varieties of tulip provide a lovely fruitful scent, these include “Apricot Beauty” which boasts a salmon pink flower with orange margins.  Another favourite is “Silverstream”, this is an unusual tulip with soft creamy yellow flowers, sometimes streaked with red and white providing a very pleasant fragrance.


Growing tulips

Tulips are easy to grow and choosing a variety of bulbs provides a colourful mix of tulip blooms.

  1. Select your location for planting.
  2. Ensure you work the soil well by removing stones, weeds etc.
  3. Mix in plenty of fertilizer.
  4. Try to ensure good drainage of the soil.
  5. When planting allow 6-8” apart at a depth twice the diameter of the bulb.
  6. Once the tulips have bloomed, let the plant continue to grow until it dies off. 
  7. Tulips require a period of cold while they are dormant and resting between shows.


It’s always a good idea to extend your bloom season by including bulbs that will bloom before, during and after your tulips are finished.  Take care to plant different heights of flowers ie lower growing ones in front of the taller varieties.

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