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Planting tulip bulbs begins by choosing them

Tulips are the world’s most favourite flower bulbs. But with so many of these garden jewels to choose from (hundreds, in fact), it’s a hard decision to make. No problem: help is at hand!

Kinds of tulips

People often ask about the various ‘kinds of tulips’. Actually, however, there is only one, and that’s the tulip. Even so, tulips can be classified into various groups. This was done over the centuries as Dutch tulip breeders introduced tulips with many different characteristics. To get a good picture of all of them, they have been divided into 15 groups. The properties determining the group to which a each tulip belongs are the shape of its flower, its parentage and its flowering period. To acquaint you better with ‘the world of tulips’, here is a description of each of these 15 groups.

1 Single Early Tulips

The name of this group tells a lot about them: they are single-flowering tulips that bloom early in the season (April). Typically, they produce fairly large, rounded flowers. The height of single earlies is around 40 cm, which is fairly short as compared to other groups. This makes them perfect for use in pots. Cultivars in this group include ‘Apricot Beauty’, ‘Christmas Dream' and ‘Princess Irene’.

2 Double Early Tulips

Double earlies produce large double flowers early in the season, beginning in April. On sunny days, when the flowers in this group of tulips are wide open, they can reach a diameter of 10 cm. Their height is a bit shorter than that of the single earlies. Examples of double earlies are ‘Peach Blossom’, ‘Abba’ and ‘Monte Carlo’.

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3 Triumph Tulips

Triumph tulips were bred by crossing single early and single late tulips. Their sturdy flower stems are a striking feature. This is the largest group of tulips; strangely enough, they often look as if they don’t belong to the same group. Some have small rounded flowers while others have long pointed petals. Triumph tulips reach a height of about 40-50 cm and start blooming in mid-April. Tulips in this group include ‘Shirley’, ‘Garden Party’ and ‘Negrita’.

4 Darwin Hybrid Tulips

Are you looking for a tulip with a historic look? Darwin hybrids produce large flowers with that classic tulip shape. Before the flower opens, it has the shape of an egg; once it opens, it becomes an impressive, rounded, wide-open flower. Their height of 60 cm makes them a perfect choice for borders. Darwin hybrids start blooming in mid-April and include such cultivars as ‘Pink ‘Impression’, ‘Apeldoorn’ and ‘Spring Song’.

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5 Single Late Tulips

Like the triumph tulips, this is a large group. Single late tulips produce sizable, fairly elongated flowers on tall sturdy stems. They reach a height of around 60 cm and bloom in May. The most famous member of this group is ‘Queen of Night’, but another two are ‘Maureen’ and ‘Renown’.

6 Lily-flowered Tulips

Characteristic of all the lily-flowered tulips are their slender elegant flowers with pointed petals. Tulips in this group bloom in May and are around 50-60 cm tall. The lily-flowered group is small. Its most familiar members are ‘Ballade’, ‘Ballerina’ and ‘White Triumphator’.

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7 Fringed Tulips (Orchid Tulips)

Fringed tulips are often referred to as orchid tulips. What makes tulips in this group exceptional are their serrated petals. They are 40 to 60 cm tall and bloom from the end of April until far into May. ‘Curley Sue’, ‘Lambada’ and ‘Bell Song’ are some of the well-known cultivars in this group.

8 Viridiflora Tulips

‘Virida’ is derived from Viridis, which is Latin for ‘green’. The outer petals of a viridiflora tulip are still entirely green when they begin to open. The longer they remain in flower, the more their second colour is revealed. Viridiflora tulips start blooming in May and keep blooming for a surprisingly long time. They are 20 to 50 cm tall. The most familiar in this group are ‘China Town’, ‘Artist’ and ‘Spring Green’.

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9 Rembrandt Tulips

Once again, the name given to this group tells something about these tulips: they were all the rage in Rembrandt’s time. Back then, they were often included in paintings and were also called ‘broken tulips’. In those days, the unique feathered patterns on their petals were caused by a virus. The descendants of these ‘virus-bearing’ Rembrandt tulips are found mainly in historic collections and are not commercially available. But for those who love the look of these Rembrandt tulips, tulip breeders have found a solution: tulips with the same feathered patterns on their petals but without the virus. Good examples are ‘Rems Favourite’, ‘Zurel’, and ‘Sorbet’.

10 Parrot Tulips

Parrot tulips are single-flowering tulips. They are famous for their fascinating flowers with deeply incised petals that can also be curled or twisted. Exposed to hours of sunshine, the petals of these large flowers open all the way to look like saucers. They have a height of 40 to 60 cm and bloom in May. Cultivars included in this group are ‘Apricot Parrot’ and ‘Rococo’.

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11 Double Late Tulips (Peony-flowered Tulips)

Double late tulips really do resemble peonies (thus their name). They produce double flowers with rounded petals and are simply huge! They can easily become 10 cm across. Double late tulips flower in May and include ‘Angélique’, ‘Wirosa’ and ‘Orange Princess’.

12 Kaufmanniana Tulips (Waterlily Tulips)

When the flowers of Kaufmanniana tulips are wide open in the sun, they very much resemble water lilies. This is why they are often referred to by this other name. They start blooming very early in the season – starting in March – and are only 10 to 25 cm tall. The most well-known are ‘Johan Strauss’, ‘Showwinner’ and ‘Concerto’.

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13 Fosteriana Tulips

The ancestor of our Fosteriana tulips is a species found growing in the mountainous regions of central Asia. These tulips can be recognised by their slender flowers and grey-green leaves. They start to bloom at the end of March and range in height from 25 to 40 cm. ‘Orange Breeze’, ‘Flaming Purissima’ and ‘Orange Emperor’ are popular Fosteriana tulips.

14 Greigii Tulips

Greigii tulips closely resemble the group of tulips known as species tulips. Greigii tulips are usually red, yellow or white and have striped or speckled leaves. Their flowers are fairly small and their stems are short. Greigii tulips start blooming in April; the most familiar cultivars are ‘Captein’s Favourite’, ‘Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Toronto’.

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15 Species Tulips (Dwarf Tulips)

Species tulips are also known as dwarf tulips since they are smaller than other tulips. Their height ranges from only 12 to 20 cm. In addition to their short stature, species tulips produce typically star-shaped flowers. They are the real front-runners among the tulips since they bloom earlier than any others. There are around 65 species tulips, each with its own shape, colour and fragrance. The most familiar are Tulipa turkestanica, T. sylvetris and T. tarda.

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Watch this video to find out how to plant tulip bulbs.

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