Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

October, 2008

Bulbs: Tips on Tulips

by Dr. William C. Welch, Professor & Landscape Horticulturist
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Tulips at the home of Dr. Bill Welch

The association of the popular tulip with Holland has led many to believe that it is native to that country; however, the tulip was brought from Constantinople in the mid to late 1500s. The name "tulip" is derived from the Persian word "turban," which the inverted flower resembles. The tulip is a member of the lily family, and is represented by approximately 100 species, although few are found outside botanical gardens.

At one time, the tulip was considered completely unadaptable to Deep South gardens, but research has proven that with proper treatment and variety selection, tulips may be just as spectacular in Texas as they are in more northern areas. To achieve long, graceful stems and successful blooms, the colorful tulip demands a pre-chilling of the bulbs in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for 45 to 60 days prior to planting. Be certain that the bulbs remain dry to avoid mold or rot; wrap them in paper towels, and put them in paper bags or plastic to help assure dryness. Plant the bulbs immediately upon removal from cold storage in December or early January.

There are many tulip types which provide the gardener with a wide variety of types of bloom, times of bloom, sizes, and colors. The following are some recommended types and varieties for Texas gardens. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, as most varieties of tulips will perform if handled properly.

  • Darwin TulipsThe Darwin is an ideal all-purpose tulip, and is by far the best for general garden use and beauty. Darwins appear on long, graceful stems, and usually reach peak bloom in late March and early April. Some recommended Darwin varieties include 'Aristocrat' (soft rose), 'Paul Richter' (bright red), 'Golden Age' (golden yellow), 'Red Master' (deep crimson), 'The Bishop' (deep violet), and 'Zwanenburg' (pure white).

  • Darwin HybridsThese are improved, larger-flowering Darwin types. Darwin hybrids usually bloom several weeks earlier than the regular Darwin types. Outstanding varieties include 'General Eisenhower' (large, scarlet red), 'Apeldoorn' (warm orange-red), 'Roosevelt' (orange-red), and 'Diplomat' (vermilion red). 'Jewel of Spring' is yellow, marked with red, and 'Elizabeth Arden' is deep salmon-pink.

  • Cottage TulipsThis variety has many colors and flower forms, and blooms later than Darwin types. The blooms are usually large and egg-shaped. Outstanding varieties include 'Halcro' (carmine-red), 'John T. Scheepers' (soft yellow), 'Renown' (red), 'Smiling Queen' (light pink), and 'White City'.

  • Parrot Tulips Parrot tulips have fringed and scalloped edges. There are numerous varieties of parrot tulips; however, many have weak stems and do not flower properly. Because of their large, heavy blooms, wind and rain can damage parrot tulips. Some varieties include 'Red Parrot' (deep scarlet), 'Blue Parrot' (bluish with gray sheen), 'Texas Gold' (golden yellow), 'Orange Favorite' (bright orange), and 'Fantasy' (soft rose with apple-green stripes).

  • Peony or Double Tulips These tulips of many petals bloom late in the spring season. Good varieties include 'Eros' (rose-pink), 'May Wonder' (clear pink), and 'Orange Triumph' (soft orange).

  • Other Tulip Types These include lily-flowered tulips, Breeder tulips, Rembrandt or broken tulips, Fosteriana tulips, and Duc van Thol tulips.

Regardless of tulip choice, locate the planting in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil and on a raised bed. Planting the bulbs beneath a deciduous tree will provide adequate sun before foliage appears in spring.

Tulips make a more effective display when planted in masses of one variety and color. However, a number of varieties will assure a longer season of bloom and show of color. For vivid garden displays, mix tulips with other spring bulbs, perennials, spring-flowering shrubs, and annuals.

EarthKind uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape performance while preserving and protecting the environment. For more information on EarthKind Landscape Management Practices see our website: https://earthkind.tamu.edu