(Species: Tulipa spp - Family: Liliaceae)


Tulip and its origins

Often associated with Holland, Tulips were in fact cultivated more than 1000 years ago in the Ottoman Empire.  They arrived in Europe in the 16th century, where the species, at that time, was quite different to the modern day tulip varieties.  This is in part thanks to the flower’s ability to transform itself.


There are more than 100 species of Tulips available, featuring large, showy flowers that are loved as much for their vibrant colours, as they are for their unique shape. 

In the language of flowers, the tulip is seen as a declaration of love.  It is believed that its name originates from the Turkish word for turban. 


Many years ago, a disease blighted a number of tulip species, causing their formation to change.  This resulted in the extinction of a number of species but created new species in their place.  


Seasonality: Tulip in flower

Tulip species are classified in a number of ways, one of the key classifications is by its flowering period:

  • Early flowering tulips
  • Mid-season flowering tulips
  • Late flowering tulips


The flowering period for each of the varieties can last for more than a month and a half. By planting different classifications of tulip, you can achieve a tulip bloom for many months.  The general flowering time runs from March to May. 


Tulips are available in a wide ranging selection of colours – whites, purples, black, violet blue, pinks, yellow, apricot and crimson.  The petals can also be streaked, speckled and varied.  In fact, one of the only colours not available is blue.


Different tulip species can vary dramatically in height from 15cm - 75cm and when planting should be given a minimum of 15cm spacing.  


How to Plant  Tulips

Plant tulips in the autumn in order to have a spring bloom; this should be completed in September to November in warmer regions.  A tulip thrives in a loamy soil that is fertile and well-drained.  All species dislike water-logged soil.  Prepare the soil well in advance, adding fertiliser if necessary.  Avoid using a manure to fertilise the soil as this can cause the Tulip bulb to rot. 


Plant the bulbs 10-15cm below the surface, the depth depending on the size of the bulb.  Tulips need a time of cool dormancy and planting at this level will protect the bulb from extreme temperature variations.  Plant in an area that receives direct sunlight and protect the growing flowers from exposure to wind.


Think about the overall effect you would like to achieve with the tulip and space the bulbs accordingly, at least 10-25cm apart. Packing lots of bulbs in an expanse of the garden can have a very strong mass-flower effect.


 Propagation of Tulip (how you can multiply it – cuttings, dividing the bulb, seeding)

Although Tulips are perennials, the poor quality of the bulbs in year 2 encourages many gardeners to plant them as annuals.  Propagation is by division.  Offsets are removed from the main bulb once the blooming period has come to an end and planted immediately.  The new bulbs may take up to 2 years to flower.