I love tulips and enjoy giving tips on what kind should be grown in a garden.
When to Buy Tulips
One tulip or another is in flower from late February to late May, yet many of us only get a couple of weeks of flowers. That's because of the most commonly grown tulips, such as Darwin Hybrid and Single Late Tulips, all flower at about the same time.
For a longer display, choose bulbs from other tulip groups, such as Kaufmanniana Tulips, which flower very early, or Double Late Tulips, which flower very late.
The list of tulip groups below (with flowering times if relevant) should give you a bit of help in doing that. Additionally, if you've ever wondered which tulips make the best cut flowers, which are best at naturalizing, or which are the most wind-resistant, you'll find that out too.
Tulip Flowering Times and Characteristics
|Group||Flowering Time||Average Height||Naturalizing (Perennial Tulips)||Features|
Large brightly colored flowers
Simple airy flowers
Star-shaped flowers that flatten out
Depends on variety - some March
Dainty naturalistic flowers
Single Early (1)
late March - Early April
Single flowers on strong stems
Double Early (2)
Large double flowers
late April - Early May
Traditional flowers on strong stems
Darwin Hybrid (4)
late April - May
Large loose flowers and pyramid buds
Single Late (5)
late April - May
Single flowers in widest color range
Average - sensitive to wind and cold
Green-flamed ruffled-edged flowers
Hourglass buds; lily-shaped blooms
Double Late (11)
Large double flowers
Most flower in May
Usually 18–30" (46–75cm)
Green streaks; long flowering
Depends on variety
Depends on variety
Despite their delicate appearance, these are the toughest of all tulips and among the best for naturalizing. They're a welcome sight in the garden between mid-March and mid-April, when their pyramid-shaped buds open into large cocktail-glass shaped flowers with striking flared and pointed petals. Bright colors and patterned leaves add to the effect. Low growing, they will only reach a height of 8–12 inches (20-30cm), making them ideal for rock gardens, small containers and for growing in long grass.
A popular early flowering mid-height single tulip with neatly closed buds flattening into graceful wide-petaled flowers in vivid shades of pink, yellow-orange, white and red. Good for cut flowers, naturalizing and for borders. Leaves are green or greyish green and their height is from 8 inches (20cm) to 18 inches (45cm). Some are fragrant.
Early flowering and low growing, these tulips are ideal for unusual early spring displays and they can be left undisturbed to flower away year on year. Pointed petals form star-shaped flowers that flatten under the sun to resemble water lilies. Leaves are usually mottled or striped. Height is between 6 inches (15cm) and 10 inches (25cm) and flowering time is mid-March.
Species Tulips (Botanical Tulips)
Species Tulips include all wild tulips and their cultivated descendants no matter what their appearance or flowering time. As they grow naturally in the wild, most naturalize very well.
Single Early Tulips
Single Tulips are perhaps the most elegant and vibrant of all. Single Early Tulips grow to about 8 inches (20cm) and flower from late March to early April. Early enough to wake the garden up from winter alongside daffodils and hyacinths. For example, Tulipa Duc van Thol comes in red, purple, pink and yellow and dates back to the seventeenth century. They are very wind resistant.
Double Early Tulips
Double Early tulips grow to around 14 inches (35 cm) and flower from early to mid-April. If you are impatient to see their colorful blooms, they can be "forced" to flower indoors in pots. They don't like the cold.
Triumph Tulips are versatile plants. Silky, old-fashioned, cup-shaped blooms on strong flexible stems make them great for cut flowers, forcing and for windy flowerbeds. Colors include purple, apricot, white, red and yellow. Some are fragrant. They flower in late April and early May and they grow to about 20 inches (50cm).
Darwin Hybrid Tulips
Big bright and beautiful, Darwin Hybrid Tulips are giants among tulips, growing to 28 inches (70cm), with vivid closed bell-shaped buds that open into billowing bowl-shaped flowers. Indoors, they make handsome cut flowers. Outdoors, pots, borders and naturalizing all suit them, although their long stems may snap in strong winds. Americans buy more of this versatile Tulip than any other.
They flower from late April to May.
Single Late Tulips
Single Late Tulips are the tallest, most diverse and latest flowering of all tulips. Flowering in May, they grow to 30 inches (75 cm) and come in colors of white, apricot, yellow, orange, red, purple, pink, and deep purple.
Lily Flowered Tulips
These flowers look most like the original Turkish Tulips with their hourglass blooms and flared pointed petals. Strong bendable stems and a tough constitution make them ideal for outdoor planting. They grow up to 24 inches (60cm) and flower in May.
Green streaks characterize the flowers of these tulips. For example, Tulipa 'Spring Green' has a base color of soft yellow fading to ivory that blends seamlessly with a single pale green streak on each petal. It's a favorite of flower arrangers. These tulips also bloom for longer than just about any other. They flower in May and grow to between 14.5 inches (36 cm) and 24 inches (60 cm).
Much too over-the-top for some gardeners but loved by others, Parrot Tulips have extravagant crumpled petals bunched into big blousy blooms. Some are scented. They grow to between 16 inches (40cm) and 24 inches (60cm) and flower in May. Blooming late, they're good for extending the tail end of a tulip display and make for a luxurious display when densely planted en masse.
Double Late (Peony Flowered) Tulips
Another flashy tulip, but this time bearing huge, frilly, tightly packed petals, Double Late Tulips are sometimes called Peony or Rose Tulips.
With long-lasting flowers appearing from mid to late May, they will carry a tulip display into early summer. They grow to 18–24 inches (45–60cm) and have quite a delicate constitution.
Still rare but getting more popular every day, these eccentric tulips have frayed edges. The long-lasting blooms suit borders and vases equally. They grow to 20 inches (50 cm) and flower in May.
The original flamed tulips which sent men mad during the Tulipmania of the seventeenth century. They are now obsolete as garden plants.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.