What Are Rembrandt Tulips?

Updated on January 17, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Bulb catalogs are filled with colorful photos of spring flowers, including tulips, in myriad sizes and colors. Among the most colorful are the tulips referred to as Rembrandt tulips.

Why are They Called Rembrandt Tulips?

Many Old Dutch Masters paintings were still-lifes of flowers including bi-color tulips which were very popular at that time. The bi-color tulips had a base color of red, purple, pink and even brown. Secondary colors of white or yellow appear as streaks or flames on the base colors. Unbeknownst to the Dutch these broken colors, as they were known, were caused by a mosiac virus that was spread by aphids. The colorful tulips became very popular and caused the first recorded speculative bubble known as Tulip Mania.

The artist Rembrandt did not produce flower paintings. The term "Rembrandt tulip" refers to the city of Leiden where Rembrandt was born and coincidentally tulip growing in Holland began.


What was Tulip Mania?

Tulips are native to Asia. They were brought to Europe during the 16th century by traders who brought exotic items from Asia and Africa. Thanks to the wealth that was the result of the new international trade, 17th century Holland was experiencing a Golden Age. There was a lot of demand for luxury items such as tulips by the newly rich. The bi-color tulips were rare enough to command high prices and demand soon outstripped supply. Prices escalated tempting even tradesmen to give up their professions and trade in tulip bulbs.

Tulips can be grown both from seed and from bulb offsets. Bulb offsets are small bulbs which grow around the base of the main bulb from which the plants grow. The seeds from infected tulips do not have the virus so the resulting flowers are solid colors. It is only the offsets, which are clones of the parent bulb, that are infected with the virus and produce the desired broken colors. So it was the bulbs, not the seeds that were traded.

Since tulip bulbs can only be lifted from the soil to be sold when they are dormant, a futures market was created to handle the contracts for purchase and sale while the bulbs were still in the ground. At the height of the mania, futures contracts on some bulbs were being traded up to ten times per day.

The market collapsed when an outbreak of the plague prevented buyers and sellers from meeting in the city of Haarlem for a bulb auction. Once that auction was cancelled, other bulb auctions were cancelled in a cascading fashion. Prices crashed back down to earth and many speculators were ruined.

Modern Rembrandt Tulips with Flame Coloration
Modern Rembrandt Tulips with Flame Coloration | Source

Are Modern Rembrandt Tulips Infected with the Virus?

The Dutch government has banned the sale of infected bulbs. Modern Rembrandt tulips are disease free. Their colorful flowers are the result of careful breeding. Because their coloration is genetic, most modern Rembrandt tulips come in only a few color combinations. The most common are white with red streaks or yellow with red streaks. The “streaks” are classified as either feathered which run along the edges of the petals or flamed which have color running the length of the petals rather than just along the edge.

Parrot tulip
Parrot tulip | Source

What is the Difference Between Rembrandt Tulips and Parrot Tulips?

Both Rembrandt tulips and parrot tulips have multi-colored flowers. This is how to tell them apart.

The flowers of Rembrandt tulips have the classic cup shape. The individual petals have straight edges. The flowers have two colors, a base color and a streaking color.

Parrot tulips have larger, more flamboyant flowers. The petals have scalloped or ruffled edges. The flowers can be solids, bi-colors or multi-colors. Instead of streaks, the colors blend in with one another without defined edges.

I can't decide which ones I like better so I grow both in my garden.

If you are interested in history as I am, you will want to add some Rembrandt tulips to your spring garden. You can leave the colorful blooms outside or cut them and add them to your flower arrangements for a truly Old Dutch Master display.

Questions & Answers

  • I live in Hemet, CA. Will Rembrandt tulips grow in my environment too?

    Yes, tulips will grow in your area. However, they will need special treatment. Your winter is not cold for them, so you will need to refrigerate them for two months before planting at the end of November or beginning of December. Plant them in a garden that gets shade in the afternoons because your spring and summer are too hot for them to be in full sun.

  • I live in Suburban outer-Chicago, how do I take care of my bulbs after they bloom in spring?

    When your spring bulbs have finished blooming, remove the dying flowers so that they don't go to seed. You don't want your bulbs expending energy making seeds. Instead, you want to fatten up your bulbs for next year. This is accomplished by leaving the foliage until it dies. The leaves provide food for the bulbs so that they will survive until next year and bloom again for you. Dying foliage is ugly so you can hide it by planting perennials around them to hide the foliage. For more information on growing and caring for tulips: https://dengarden.com/gardening/How-to-Grow-Tulips...

© 2017 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • poetryman6969 profile image


      2 years ago

      such beautiful flowers.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      2 years ago

      Thanks! And thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Casey White profile image

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

      2 years ago from United States

      These tulips are absolutely beautiful! I actually saw some in a botanical garden some time ago, but I didn't know what they were called until I read your great article. Way to go!!

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      2 years ago

      That's great! Bet you have the prettiest balcony in the neighborhood. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      Hi, I had never heard of them before! how fascinating! I love tulips and grow loads on my balcony in summer!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)