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Striped Foliage Kaufmanniana and Greigii Tulips Light Up Spring

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Ilona has gardened actively for most of her life and has been a writer and webmaster online since 1998. Homeschooled all 10 of her children.

Variegated Tulips

The Kaufmanniana and Greigii types of tulips grow so well in the garden that they have numerous named varieties, most of which come back year after year. They produce showy flowers, and in the case of T. greigii, some of the largest blooms- which are mostly chalice shaped.

The "Waterlily" tulips also come in a number of named varieties, but are more delicate looking, though just as strong as their beefier brethren. Kaufmanniana types bloom quite early and their smaller profile is charming.

Maroon markings in stripes and stipples

Maroon markings in stripes and stipples

Small Tulips With Big Impact

They may be short in stature, but the Kaufmanianna and Greigii types of tulips have a large flower and beautiful foliage.

  • Are low growing
  • Quite hardy (zones 3-7)
  • Good for rock gardens and flower beds
  • Give a good show in the garden
More perennial than the big hybrid tulips, and with a charming delicate look.

More perennial than the big hybrid tulips, and with a charming delicate look.

Progenitors of Modern Breeds

"Many types of cultivated tulips are descended from either the Greig or Kaufman tulip species. People say almost seventy five percent of cultivated flowers come from these two."

— Yevgeny Belousov, biologist

Tulipa Class Divisions 12 and 14

Because these types of tulips have become so popular they have been hybridized and have many named varieties. What all these tulips and the species have in common is their tendency to be perennial, their low stature, and those with Greigii traits, especially, often have variegated foliage. I have planted many of these types into my gardens and love them all.

Division 12

This class comes from the Tulipa kaufmanniana species, native to Turkestan. The earliest flowering tulip in my garden, it shows up in early April.

The Kaufmanniana tulip is also known as the "Waterlily" tulip which tips off the gardener to the flat wide blooms that open on sunny days. They bloom quite early for me and are buzzing with happy visiting bees, delighted to break their winter fast from fresh nectar.

"Heart's Delight" is my particular favorite of the Waterlily type and is highly recommended.

Division 14

Developed from the Tulipa greigii species, also native to Turkestan, the Greigii flowers just after the Kaufmanniana group.

With their striking foliage, the plants flower in bright colors. This gives them outstanding visual power in the landscape.

T. greigii are persistent in the garden and often golden yellow and red with striped foliage that is very handsome (a great boon when the flowers are finished and the foliage must remain to recharge the bulb stores). I like "Cape Cod," "Calypso," "Fur Elise," and "Oratorio," among others.

The beautiful leaves are one reason many gardeners will choose this variety.

The beautiful leaves are one reason many gardeners will choose this variety.

Which Cultivars Have Striped Foliage?

Most Greigii, including:

  • Calypso
  • Red Riding Hood
  • Oratorio
  • Dreamboat
  • Plaisir
  • Oriental Beauty

These Kaufmanniana:

  • Heart’s Delight
  • Ancilla
  • Chopin

Kaufmanniana Tulips (Division 12):

Kaufmanniana Tulips (Division 12):

"The Kaufmanniana tulips . . . were described in 1877 by Regel, named after K. von Kaufmann, the governor of Tashkent. They grow wild in Tien Shan. This tulip is 6in (15cm) tall with a long flower which is white with a yellow tint on the inside and rose-tinged outside. Because the flowers open wide, the name "water lily" became attached to this tulip recalling a resemblance to water lilies. Kaufmanniana bloom in March, and are low to the ground with short stems, only 20cm tall."

— Tulip World

Greigii Tulips (Division 14):

"The Tulip Greigii was discovered in Turkestan in 1877 and described by Regel, named after S.A. Greig, a botanist from St. Petersburg. Hybrids have been produced from crosses with other species. Greigii Tulips have large blooms on short stems with purple marked or mottled foliage. Hybrid Greigii tulips reach heights from 8-16in (20-40cm). They bloom at the end of April and beginning of May."

— Tulip World

Top Named Cultivars to Try


Hearts Delight; white with rose

Pinocchio; red with white

Giuseppe Verdi; yellow with red

Cape Cod; yellow and red

Stresa; yellow with red

Dreamboat; pink and yellow

Johann Strauss; white with red

Oratorio; bright pink

Sweet Lady; peach pink

Turkish Delight; ivory and dark red-brown

Concerto; white

Red Riding Hood; red

Where and How to Plant Division 12

One of the best things about the Kaufmanniana group is that they flower so early. Use the ones with yellow near a forsythia, combine the white varieties with crocus for pretty early spring pictures.

Gardening Tips

The famous English gardener E. A. Bowles directed the bulbs to be planted 6 inches deep. The general rule for all bulbs is about 3X the height of the bulb, so this is just a bit shallower than the usual 8 inches.

While they will usually "find their depth" over time, it could help with naturalizing to start out with the correct depth so they will do best.

Their native habitat is high ground, which means good drainage is exceedingly important. This is one reason they do well in containers.

Use at least a cluster of ten bulbs at a time, twenty is better. When plants are as delicate and petite in form as these, the greater numbers help ensure a good show.

Showing an early garden plan with Tulipa Kaufmanniana paired with scillas and crocus near a Magnolia stellata.

Showing an early garden plan with Tulipa Kaufmanniana paired with scillas and crocus near a Magnolia stellata.

Good Practice for Division 14

This type is substantially larger in flower and impression, closer to the taller tulips in size of bloom and leaves. They are simply shorter. This makes Greigii tulips good for massed bedding.

The plantsman and arbiter of garden style, William Robinson praised the T. greigii in tandem with Erythroniums, and Fritillaria meleagris, all of which would sport similar maroon color in their parts and can bloom together.

Fertilizing in Spring and Fall

Feeding tulips is a good idea. Fertilize as growth begins; foliar feeding will encourage bloom. Continue until the foliage withers.

If your plants do very well and get crowded, lift and replant the smaller bulbs about every three years or so. If they are blooming fine, wait and don't disturb them.

Blooming with Anemone blanda, which naturalizes easily.

Blooming with Anemone blanda, which naturalizes easily.

In the Flower Bed

Although these varieties look wonderful massed in a bed on their own, it can be an outstanding flowering show to match them up with low-growing perennials. Those that bloom at the same time, like Pansies, Dutchman's Breeches, and Lenten Hellebores make good partners.

Kaufmanniana or Greigii for Your Garden?

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.


Ilona E (author) from Ohio on March 04, 2017:

These two classes of tulips should be better known, especially since they are more perennial in the garden!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 03, 2017:

The flowers and the striped foliage are very attractive. Thanks for increasing my knowledge about tulips!

Ilona E (author) from Ohio on March 03, 2017:

It almost looks, tropical, right?! Those of us in the North of the mainland have to get color when we can, and these tulips deliver it.

Viet Doan from Big Island, Hawaii on March 03, 2017:

Delightful learning! Thank you for writing about these 2 types of tulip. Who knew! I love the variety with striped leaves, just as beautiful as the flower itself. Happy spring!