Species Tulips

Species Tulip
Species Tulip

We all know about the tulip bulbs that are widely grown for mass displays and cut flowers, but what about species tulips, which is after all the bulbs where it all started.

These are the original species that were around long before the Dutch began to hybridize, are they better or different ? Well we take a look at some of the best species tulips and how to grow them.

The beauty of species tulips or ‘tulipa species’ as we should call them is that the variety of flower forms and colors is enormous.

From the pure white flower with blue centre of Tulipa humilis ‘Alba Caerulea Oculata’ to the yellows of Tulipa kolpakowskiana and the red flowering Tulipa wilsoniana syn Tulipa montana the range is incredible. From Iran and Turkey we have Tulipa batalinii pictured right.

And to add to the beautiful flowers, in general the species are easier to grow and hardier that the hybrids we see so often.

Growing Species Tulips

Tulipa clusiana

A humus rich free draining moist soil is best although remember that these are a varied group, with some species being alpine species and other not, so look for specific growing instructions when you buy the bulbs.

Most species will flower in spring although some such as Tulip humils are early flowering and some like Tulipa batalinii, Tulipa tarda and Tulipa sprengeri are late. As long as you keep the water up to them until the foliage begins to die back they seem to thrive. You do not need to dig these bulbs for winter unless you have soil that refuses to drain. Yes you can grow them from seed, or divide established clumps.

Try growing them in the garden border, the rock garden or in containers. Remember that most of the species tulips are much shorted growing than the modern cultivars so towards the front please.

Origins of Species Tulips.

The origins of tulips is tied mainly to the Mediterranean the Caucuses and Asia Minor However the spread is further to Japan, Korea, and Eastern China.

With most species being from areas such as Turkestan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, through Turkey, Cyprus and Greece the species are as varied as the terrain and climate, however often they are easier to naturalise, and many have a graceful charm not found in modern varieties.

The appeal of species tulips is not only that they are colorful and easy care, they are also a link to the history of modern tulip hybrids. Growing them is simple, and the the enthusiast can even grow them from seed.

Although they were the first to be commercialised, they fell off the radar as the Dutch went to great lengths to improve flowers size and form. The appeal of the ‘big and new’ pushed the species into the background.

As the wheel turns, , and many gardeners across the country are falling in love with species tulips, collectors and specialist nurseries have have again made available good collections. The internet has made them easier to find, and today you can buy species tulips online.

Species Tulips are just as deer resistant as other tulip bulbs, not very. However planting them mixed in with daffodils seems more successful.

Links to Species Tulips


Digging or Lifting Tulip Bulbs.

It is common practice to dig or lift tulip bulbs over summer, however in nature this is not what happens. Tulips are originally from the Middle east where summers are very hot dry, tulips like a dry dormancy. We lift tulips to provide these conditions. Mark where your tulips are planted while the foliage is still visible, this allows you to dig around them.

Storage of Tulip Bulbs.

Store the bulbs in a cool dry position during summer. Store the bulbs outside in a cool dry position to dry before bringing into storage.

When to Plant Tulip Bulbs.

Tulip Bulbs are best planted in late fall to early winter. Remember that tulips like a sunny position. Look for bulbs that are of a good size and are clean, firm and dry but not shrivelled. Plant bulbs at 3 times the height of the bulb.

Where to Buy

Readily available for sale online from specialist growers.