Species Tulips Preview

Last fall, I decided to forego planting the usual brightly colored hybrid tulips in favor of species tulips.

I still like the hybrids tulips. They are beautiful and showy and make a stunning display when planted in wide swaths in the garden. But after the first year they become "unreliable", at least here in my zone 5 garden.

They might come back up the second year, or they might not. They might just send a leaf up, or they might have leaves and smaller blooms.

It's pretty hit or miss so I usually planted them every fall and tore them out in the spring, treating them like annuals.

The species tulips, on the other hand, should be more reliable and return each year. So I planted about eight different species type tulips last fall, placing a recycled plastic label, on which I had carefully written the name of the tulip, next to each one.

What turned out to be not reliable was the marker I used to write the names of the tulips on the plastic labels. The writing faded out over the winter and now you can't even tell I wrote the tulip names on the labels.

I know it was the marker because I had previously used these labels in the vegetable garden and had written "Beets", "Turnips", etc. on them, and that writing remains on the other side. Where was that marker when I needed one last fall?

Since the labels are now worthless, I've yanked them all out, just in case someone stops by and sees a label for "beets" in the middle of a patch of species tulips and thinks I've gone all daffy about flower names.

So with no labels, I'm going to have to go back to the online catalog where I purchased these and compare the blooms to the catalog pictures to figure out which is which.

This first one, pictured above and here appears to be Tulipa biflora. The flowers are just starting to open.

I'm pretty sure this is Tulipa humilis, 'Persian Pearl'. When these open, they should have gold coloring in them. Hopefully we'll see that in a few days or maybe tomorrow, depending on the weather.

I have six more types of species tulips out and about in the garden. As they bloom, I'll figure out what/who they are, and make a little map for myself for next year. And I'll find a better marker to write on the plastic labels.


Update on the Antique Plant Stand.

Thank you to everyone for putting up with my annual April Fool's Day post yesterday.

Most of you figured out that it was a made up story. As much as I wanted it to be true, it wasn't. It was a rite of spring here, to post something "less than true" on my blog on April 1st.

A tiny bit of it was true. That is an antique plant stand, and the chicken foot orchid sits on top of it. My grandfather really was born on Nov. 16, 1901, and yes, my backside is probably broader than I think when I bend over!

The rest, well, I wish it had been true. That would have been fun!

If you enjoyed that post, you might also enjoy these:

New Plants (2006)

Major Upate on Boulder in My Garden (2007)

Never Thought It Would Be This (2008)

Will there be a 2010 post? I'll never tell (at least not in advance).


  1. Carol .. after seeing your species tulips .. well, I think I am going to hunt them down for mine this Autumn .. they are gorgeous plants ! .. as for the marker .. you are NOT alone girl !! LOL

  2. Carol your tulips are so pretty. I did enjoy your April Foolishness.

  3. Carol, we would all like a reliable marker. I hate labels but like to know what and where my plants are! I am looking forward to more on your species tulips, I hope to plant more next year. Some hybrids seem to be more reliable than others, with Pomona we are trying to make a list but it takes time to trail them. As you say different climates, also different years - there are some many variables.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  4. I have the same problem with labels, and have gone to the gardeners journal to keep a record of what I planted--we'll see how successful it is at the end of the season--or better still, next year.

    BTW, loved the antique plant stand and the April Fool story that went along with it. ;-)

  5. I had the same problem with the tags for my species lilies I planted. The sharpie faded really quickly, I guess they don't have UV inhibitors, need to find a better solution. I am really unfamiliar with species tulips, the first one I saw was on Gail's blog just the other day.

  6. I am glad to see you have these. I looked at them last fall, and then never got them. Love to see pics when the pink one opens.... Lovely.


  7. Hi Carol...I love species tulips! They are so much more reliable....and unique looking. The first I ever tried were the Tulipa bakeri Lilac Wonder. Just adorable~~This past fall I planted Tulipa humilis Mixture...it's been a great surprise! The color display of the hybrids is remarkable, but I really don't like the leafy mess after they bloom. Labels are a real problem...I don't like them in the garden, but what can you do to id a plant/bulb location. gail

  8. I didn't realize that you had trouble with hybrid tulips lasting only a season or two. Your post last year inspired me to try some 'Angelique' tulips this year...but only two out of six bloomed. It was just too hot (in the 80s) in early spring here. (Not typical, even for us).

    The only species tulips I have been successful with are T. clusiana. I like them very much. I think you're going to fall in love with yours too--and here you are inspiring me again to try something new.

  9. here in albany,ny our tulips are only about 2 inches tall...so i know spring is coming to zone 4! and yes, i suckered in totally to your april fool trick! thanks

  10. My T. clusianas did their thing a few weeks back. I also have Lilac Wonder tulips, which are T. bakeri, I think. I'm still waiting on them to bloom.

  11. Those little Tulips are so cute! I used to grow T. humulis, but it died out. What did not die out, but has continued to bloom for over 5 years (at least) is a big Darwin Tulip in a raised bed. The Darwin Tulips out front would also be thriving, if it weren't for the deer that have chewed a couple of them down to the ground before I had a chance to spray repellent on them.

  12. I love species tulips. I really do need to try them, but they'd need to go in pots to keep those marauding voles away from them.

  13. Ah well. So long as you enjoy them, who cares what they're called! I love those kinds of tulips and wish I could buy them here instead of having to order them. The big tulips won't do at all down here. Well I guess they do but they're strickly annuals.

  14. I didn't know about species tulips. Makes sense, the hybrids have to come from somewhere... Apparently there are a few of the species that even do well in coastal California. It must say something about my taste, and possibly the taste of a lot of other people of my generation, that I consistently like the species better than the hybrid. Plant after plant, it's the case.

  15. I'm so glad to see that there are other people jumping on the species tulip bandwagon. I've been planting them at The Havens for several years, and have featured them prominently on my blog in the past couple of weeks.

    If anyone is looking for a reliable source for these sweet darlings, check out McClure and Zimmerman. They have 46 varieties of species tulips and 5 collections of them for those of us who have a hard time choosing one over the other. www.mzbulb.com

  16. So simple. Write on your plastic labels with a No. 2 pencil. It will not fade, and can be erased for reuse without having 'beets' on the back.

  17. Ah, label pens and hybrid tulips. Both are ephemeral here. I still try and try, but . . . . I will say that if I bury most of the label in the ground and use a Sharpie, it doesn't fade, but it has to be buried.~~Dee

  18. I'm a landscape designer in the metropolitan Washington DC area. I LOVE species tulips!! My favorite is 'Stresa,' with yellow and red stripes. I have a stand of it that has returned faithfully for six or seven years now. I've also had good luck with 'Persian Pearl' and a yellow one whose name I forget. Thanks for spreading the word about these babies. Having just started a blog of my own, I will probably write about them at some point myself. Thanks again for helping people learn more about these very special tulips.


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