Tulip Types and Varieties

Parrot tulips bloom among double pink tulips in the Bluebird Gardens retaining wall. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Parrot tulips bloom among double pink tulips in the Bluebird Gardens retaining wall. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tulip Types and Varieties

Did you know tulips are edible? As members of the lily family, they're also related to onions, which may explain the first part. Although I rarely hear anyone promote tulips for a meal, they do make for a lovely addition to any dish assuming no chemicals have been applied to them as they were growing.

One other interesting thing about tulips. If you have them planted in a bulb garden, watch the flowers follow the sun by literally moving in the dish. They will also do that as cut flowers in a flower vase.

According to the National Garden Bureau, tulips say “spring” like no other flowers. Their "vivid, paint-box colors are a feast for winter-weary eyes" and I couldn't agree more. Who doesn't think of spring when they see tulips in bloom??

These members of the lily family typically grow a single stem and flower from teardrop-shaped bulbs that are planted in fall for spring flowers. Tulip bulbs require a dormancy period with cool, winter-like temperatures for several weeks. During this time, the bulbs sprout roots and the embryonic leaves and flowers inside the bulb begin to develop.

Tulips are native to southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia. Works of art depicting their distinctive shape date back to the 10th century. They have been cultivated in earnest for at least 400 years including generating the short-lived "tulipmania" in the 1600s where collectors were spending literally fortunes to possess one tulip bulb.

By leveraging the tulip’s natural tendency toward diversity, generations of breeders and tulip collectors have produced a mind-boggling array of flower forms, heights, colors and bloom times. Today, Holland produces most of the world’s annual tulip crop, which exceeds 4 billion bulbs annually.

My garden frog is unimpressed but I love the double yellow tulips blooming. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My garden frog is unimpressed but I love the double yellow tulips blooming. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Basic Tulip Types and Varieties

There are more than 150 species of tulips with over 3,000 different varieties and are classified into Divisions by type. The tulip names include links to a variety of suppliers so you can see the actual tulip varieties.

Division 1: Single Early. Medium size blossoms with a classic tulip shape. Short, sturdy stems with an overall height of 10-14," often fragrant. FlairPurple PrinceBestseller, Apricot Beauty

Division 2: Double Early. Extra petals give these flowers a full look. Shorter than most other tulips, most are about 12” tall. Lovely cut flowers. AbbaMonsellaFoxtrotMonte Orange

Division 3: Triumph. This class offers the widest range of tulip colors. Triumphs are midseason bloomers and stand 15 to 20”. Barcelona, BastogneJimmyPrincess IreneRonaldo

Division 4: Darwin Hybrid. Strong plants with large flowers. Bulbs often return and bloom for several years. Mid-Spring. 22” tall. Ad RemApricot ImpressionBanja LukaPink Impression

Division 5: Single Late. Tall, egg-shaped flowers are large and long-lasting. Regal presence in the landscape. Heat tolerant. 22” tall. La CourtineMentonDordogneViolet Beauty

Division 6: Lily-Flowered. Long, narrow cups with pointed petals that flare out at the top. Excellent for cutting. 12-20” tall. Elegant LadyMarilynMerlotPieter de LeurSapporo

Division 7: Fringed. The top edge of each petal is whiskered and often slightly paler in color. Bloom time is mid to late spring. Overall height 20”. CarouselFancy FrillsLambadaRed Wing

Division 8: Viridiflora. Streaks of green give these tulips a distinctive look. Most cultivars bloom mid to late spring. Long-lasting cut flowers. 20” tall. Groenland, Spring GreenFlaming Spring GreenArtist

Division 9: Rembrandt. Petals display exotic markings and color breaks and resemble the tulips in 17th-century paintings. 20-24” tall. Rembrandt Mix

Division 10: Parrot. Ruffled, puckered and fringed petals twist as they mature. Excellent cut flowers. Heights vary from 14-22”. Black ParrotEstella RijnveldSilver ParrotTexas Flame

Division 11: Double Late. Plush, peony-like flowers are long-lasting in the garden or in a vase. Many cultivars are fragrant. 15-22” tall. I planted several Angelique this fall because those are supposed to be very fragrant.  AngeliqueCarnaval De NiceUpstarYellow Pomponette

Division 12: Kaufmanniana. Early bloomers with a tall, narrow cup and pointed petals. Blossoms open out flat in the sun. 8-10” tall.  Johann Strauss, Scarlet Baby, StresaHeart’s Delight

Division 13: Fosteriana. Also known as Emperor tulips. Big flowers are  4-5” tall and open wide on sunny days. Early spring. 18” tall. Albert HeijnOrange EmperorPurissimaRed Emperor

Division 14: Greigii. Decorative foliage adds to the appeal of these flowers. Some cultivars have two to four flowers per stem. 12” tall. Mary AnnQuebecRed Riding HoodToronto

Division 15: Species. Wild or wild-like cultivars with relatively small flowers on slender stems. Good naturalizers. 4-10” tall. Lilac WonderLady JanePeppermint Stick

Division 16: Multiflowering. Sometimes called “bouquet” tulips. Three to five flowers per stem extends bloom time and impact. 14-20” tall. Candy ClubFlaming Club

As members of the lily family, tulips are also relatives to onions.