Tulips may be as Dutch as windmills, but the flower is not actually native to Holland. Most tulips originated in the rugged mountains and steppes of Central Asia, the Mideast and China. Designed by nature to endure poor soil, hot dry summers and frigid winters, wild or species tulips are a special combination of toughness and charm.
In the home garden, these shorter tougher tulips introduce a wildflower look to sunny spots where other plants might not thrive, including rocky areas, along sidewalks and drives, at woodland edges and even in gravel – as long as the site has good drainage.
Following are wild or near-wild tulips from Holland to plant this fall suggested by Christian Curless, horticulturist at Colorblends, a Connecticut-based flower bulb wholesaler that sells direct to landscape professionals and home gardeners across the country. All are suited to growing in USDA Zones 3-7 (pre-chill 7b-10) and available from Colorblends.com, 1-888-847-8637.
Colorblends Tulip Blend Aladdin's Carpet provides a rolling display of spring color for three weeks or more, depending on conditions. Its bloom period spans early through mid-late spring. The blend mixes six species tulips, three types of Muscari and a miniature daffodil for a wildflower meadow effect.
Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ – Its lilac-pink flowers with deep yellow centers bob daintily in soft spring breezes, weathering hard rains and wind with equal aplomb. Details: eight-inches tall, blooms mid-spring, native to Crete.
The flower petals of Tulipa clusiana 'Tubergen's Gem' are pure yellow, stroked with crimson on the outside. When warmed by the sun, the flowers open wide in bright golden star-shapes. Details: eight-inches tall, blooms mid-spring, USDA zones 3-7 (pre-chill 7b-10), native to Afghanistan and Tibet. A top source for bulbs to plant this fall is Colorblends, a Connecticut-based flowerbulb wholesaler that sells direct to land care professionals and home gardeners across the country. See Colorblends.com or call 1-888-847-8637 for a printed catalog.
Tulipa 'Little Princess' has orange flowers brushed with flecks of deeper orange and red. Inside, a blue-black heart edged in yellow anchors six pointed orange petals. Details: four-inches tall, blooms mid-late spring, USDA Zones 3-7 (pre-chill 7b-10), a Dutch hybrid of two wild tulips: Tulipa hageri (native to Crete) and T. aucheriana (native to Iran). A top source for bulbs to plant this fall is Colorblends, a Connecticut-based flowerbulb wholesaler that sells direct to land care professionals and home gardeners across the country. See Colorblends.com or call 1-888-847-8637 for a printed catalog.
Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’ – A multi-flowering tulip with red-flecked pumpkin-colored flowers that open wide in the sun to display blue-black stamens at the heart. Details: 12-inches tall, blooms early mid-spring, the species is native to the Gissar Mountains of Tajikistan.
Tulipa tarda – A multi-flowering tulip with bright yellow star-shaped flowers, edged in white. It is a stellar perennializer when planted in full sun in well-drained soil. Details: five-inches tall, blooms mid-spring, native to the Tien Shan Mountains bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China.
Tulipa turkestanica is a multi-flowering tulip that produces four to eight small white flowers per stem. This golden-eyed wildflower is particularly appealing in mass plantings where its sweet fragrance can be enjoyed. Details: eight- inches tall, blooms early mid-spring, USDA Zones 3-7 (pre-chill 7b-10), native to Turkestan.
Colorblends Tulip Blend Votive Motif presents a mix of diminutive clusiana tulips with the wild look of species tulips. The striped, elongated flowers on slim stems open wide in full sun. As light dims they close tight. The blend blooms in mid season.
Colorblends Tulip Blend Wildfyre combines two multi-flowered wild-look tulips that pack a wallop in the early-mid spring landscape. The flowers are large, one orangey-red, the other pumpkin-orange. Both varieties are 12-inches tall, low enough and tough enough to stand up to erratic spring weather.