Parrot and Ruffled Tulips
Ruffled or Parrot Tulips are the most unusual—some might say the most bizarre—of all tulips. Not only are their very big flowers crammed with masses of large frilly petals, they have stripes, too, and green flames that fade over time.
In all, there are about 120 varieties, ranging from the nearly white Tulip Super Parrot to the nearly black Tulip Black Parrot.
Already popular with flower arrangers and artists, they are also soaring in popularity as garden plants. As such, they help to make up spring's grand finale, along with Lily-flowered Tulips, Double Late or Rose Tulips, and Viridiflora Tulips, which all flower around the same time.
Top Twenty Parrot Tulips
Parrot Tulips have never been so popular, and they are all to-die-for, but here are twenty of the best.
1. Tulip 'Blumex'
In red, orange, pink, purple, and yellow, it's reminiscent of Tulip Rococo, but the colors are slightly more muted with a faint blue hue. Height is 35cm (14"), and flowers arrive in May.
2. Tulip 'Rococo'
Another stunning colorful parrot type with frilly flowers of livid red, burnished gold, green, and purple. Height is 45cm (18"). Flowers in May.
3. Tulip 'Black Parrot'
Mauve-black feather-edged blooms to rival Tulip 'Queen of the Night' for gothic undertones in the spring border. Height is 55cm (22"). Flowers, which are excellent for cut flowers, appear in May.
Try them with May-flowering black day lilies and Aquilegia 'Black Barlow', all against a light background or cream tulips, black satiny Tulip Queen of the Night, and beautiful Silver Spear (Astelia chathamica), a stunning silver grass which will also help to hide the scruffy dying foliate after flowering.
Other striking but distinctive companions include Forget-Me-Nots (Brunnera macrophylia) and Tangerine Poppies (Papaver rupifragum), which should briefly mingle with the Black Parrot blooms in late spring.
4. Tulip 'Apricot Parrot'
A very distinctive variety, T. Apricot Parrot is a confection of apricot and bubble-gum pink swirls around a bright yellow center. One of the few parrot types to have won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. Height is 55cm (22"). It flowers in May.
5. Tulip 'Green Wave'
A frothed up version of Tulip Greenland, 'Green Wave' has predominantly green buds which open into green and pink flowers. This is perhaps the best parrot type for the vase, where its flowers will last for weeks. Height is 60cm (24"), and flowers appear in May.
6. Tulip 'Rai'
Stunning vivid violet with plum and golden green flames. Very regal looking and another excellent long-lasting cut flower. Height is 45cm (18").
7. Tulip 'Weber's Parrot'
Excellent for weddings, T 'Weber's Parrot' is ivory and pink with hints of spring green along its very ruffled edges. Height is 50cm (20"). It will also add texture and warmth to a white garden in May.
8. Tulip Silver Parrot
Add variegated foliage and fading yellow flames to Weber's Parrot (above), and you have Tulip Silver Parrot. Height is 55cm (22").
9. Tulip 'Estella Rijnveld'
These ruffled raspberry ripples are hard to beat for impact. Great in a pot or en masse in drifts. Height is 55cm (22").
10. Tulip 'Texas Flame'
Another show-stopper, 'Texas Flame' has striped crimson and yellow flowers. Plant it with 'Estella Rijnveld' (above) if you want to stop traffic, or calm it down with 'Black Parrot' (above). Height is 55cm (22").
11. Tulip 'Super Parrot'
These gorgeous green and white ruffled flowers are great for a white garden. It's also a popular cut flower.
12. Tulip Blue Parrot
More mauve-black than blue, 'Blue Parrot' has an unusual, slightly metallic-looking bloom. It'll bring out the blue tones of May flowering alliums, such as Alliums Globemaster and Gladiator.
13. Tulip Amethyst
Delicious strawberry-ice-cream-colored flowers with edges fading to silvery pink.
14. Tulip Destiny
Rare pink-red blooms with white centers and white tips.
15. Tulip Dillenburg's Parrot
A rare survivor from the early 20th century, Tulipa 'Dillenburg's Parrot' is a lovely combination of peach and rose.
16. Tulip 'Weber's Parrot'
A popular creamy white and strawberry pink ruffled bloom.
17. Tulip 'Fantasy'
Sugary pink Tulip 'Fantasy' has deep pink petals tinged with green.
18. Tulip Carmine
A real showstopper, this gorgeous deep red ruffled lower has centers of the deepest blue.
19. Tulip Erna Lindgreen
Deep red 'Erna Lindgreen' has petals bruised with black.
20. Tulip Red Parrot
Stunning ruffled cherry red flowers with unusual green and bronze foliage.
Quick Facts About Parrot Tulips
- Height: Between 40 cms (16 inches) and 60cm (24 inches).
- Position: Sun or shade.
- Hardy and reliable.
- Excellent cut flowers.
- Often scented.
- Easy to grow.
- Very large flowers open out until almost flat.
- Buds are tinged with green, which fades as they open.
- Most Parrot Tulips are bred from mutations of Late Flowering and Triumph Tulips.
- Parrots are so named because their petals look like a parrot's beak.
Red Parrot Tulips
Red Parrot Tulips will add early impact to a flowering meadow, contrasting well with green grass and extending the meadow's flowering season.
- Amiral de Constantinople. A rare beauty, this is one of only two parrot varieties to have survived from the 1600s. It was introduced in 1665, probably in Flanders. Flowers are a captivating combination of dark red, green, wine, and gold.
- Bastogne Parrot. Rich red flowers smudged with marroon.
- Bird of Paradise. Burnished red flowers with yellow bases and orange-tipped feathered petals.
- Fire Bird. Satiny red frayed petals with nearly black accents. Rare.
- 'Holland Happening'. Mostly crimson with yellow and green highlights and dark centers. Leaves have dark green low-lights.
- Rare Red Parrot Tulips. Rarer and harder to find types include Tulipa 'Topparrot', 'Destiny' (red and white), 'Doorman's Record', 'Giant Parrot', 'Karel Doorman', 'Red Cap', 'Red Champion', 'Red Devil', 'Red Sensation', and 'Cerise Parrot'.
- Tulipa Baritone. Dusty red fading to yellow at the edges.
Orange Parrot Tulips
- Bright Parrot. This well-named tulip has bright orange flowers with bright yellow edges.
- King Parrot. This is a rarely seen yellow and orange ruffled tulip, which once open is edged with scarlet. Very striking.
- Professor Rontgen. Strong-stemmed sumptuous parrot tulip with green, orange, and apricot flowers.
- 'Monarch Parrot' and 'Orangerie' are also orange.
Purple Parrot Tulips
Tulipa 'Air' (white and violet), 'Caland', 'Caprice', 'Diana Ross', and 'Muriel' are varying shades of purple, violet, and lilac.
White Parrot Tulips
- 'White Parrot'. Delicious apple-green streaked snow-white flowers.
- 'Witte Rebel'. Exquisite pure white flowers with green feathers in the center of each petal.
Yellow Parrot Tulips
- Texas Gold. Stunning yellow, red, and green. Golden flowers edged with red and streaked with green which fades with age.
- Blondine. Gorgeous pale yellow tinged with pink and green.
Care and Growing Tips
Although they look like the broken, virus-ridden tulips of 17th century tulipmania, they are in fact disease-free. Their chintzy, old world appearance is actually the result of careful breeding. That said, they can be a little more high maintenance than other tulips.
- Flower heads are densely packed with petals. Give their tall laden stems a helping hand by planting bulbs en masse, so they can support each other, and also out of high winds. Plant them 7.5cm (2-3 inches) apart.
- Although many can tolerate semi-shade, not all are fully hardy, so plant bulbs in the warmest part of the garden, usually near the house.
- Wait six weeks after flowering before removing dying foliage. You can hide those dying leaves by planting bulbs in long meadow grass or among fast-growing spring perennials or annuals.
- Cut flowers are best placed in a tall vase, so they don't droop. Remember that tulips continue to grow once cut, so give them space to do so.
- Lift bulbs after flowering and replant in the autumn, if they are sitting in waterlogged soil.
- Feed bulbs in situ in the autumn.
- Try planting the bulbs a little deeper than the recommended 4in (10cm). Colder temperatures at this depth should deter the bulb from producing baby bulbs or bulbils, which can sap the plant's energy, leaving none for producing new flowers. Deep planting will also give these top-heavy flowers extra, much-needed support. At this depth, remember to use plenty of sharp grit for drainage. This method isn't much good in very waterlogged soil though, as the bulbs will need to be lifted anyway.
Lifting Tulip Bulbs
If you live in a warm climate with frost-free winters, chill the bulbs in the fridge for about three months and then plant them in January instead.
If you can't be bothered with all that, try species tulips which don't need to be lifted, even in warm climates. They'll just keep coming back year after year.