Tulips are one of the oldest cultivated flowers, and there are many varieties and colors of tulips. This allows the gardener to plant different types that bloom at different times, ensuring there are tulips available for the entire growing season.
The Netherlands is the country most associated with tulips, but that is not where they got their start. They originated in central Asia in the time of the Persian Empire. They were first reported in Europe in 1554, but it is unknown exactly when and how they got there. The first printed reference to tulips in Europe dates from 1592. Tulips were so popular and valued that between 1634 and 1637 they were actually used as currency.
There are more than 150 different types of tulips. Tulips are grouped into 15 classifications: by when they bloom and the type of flower. Single Early tulips are the first ones to bloom in the spring and have one flower on a stem. Double Early tulips have more than the usual number of petals. Darwin Hybrid is one of the tallest tulips. Single Late tulips are single flowers that bloom later in the season. Triumph tulips are a hybrid cross of early and late singles. Lily-flowered tulips have thin, pointy petals. Fringed tulips come in a wide range of colors and have fringed edges. Viridiflora tulips have petals that are part green. Parrot tulips have large flowers with twisted petals. Double Late tulips have one of the longest bloom times. Kaufmanniana blooms best in full sun. Fosteriana and Griegy are also types with pointy petals. Wild tulips are one of the shortest varieties.
Tulips are native to southern Europe, north Africa and parts of Asia. Tulips are grown from bulbs and are considered perennials. Depending on the variety, tulips can grow from 4 to 27 inches in height, and have from two to twelve leaves. The tulip flowers are cup shaped with six petals, and can have single or double blooms.
Tulips will flourish if they get long cool springs with an early summer. In warmer climates, they are annuals and will bloom in the spring. If you do not have the right climate, tulips can be used as a container plant and brought inside if necessary.
Tulips should be planted in the late summer or early fall. Make sure the soil is well drained. In hotter climates, tulips need to be planted deeper, as deep as 12 inches, in order to protect the delicate bulbs from the hot sun of summer. Tulip bulbs can be dug up in June after the flowers are gone and re-planted in September. This is also the time to divide the bulbs to make more plants. Water them as soon as they start to grow and the stems will be longer and the flowers larger.