The Wild Bunch
Species Tulips are the uncut diamonds of Tulips. Un-hybridized and uncultivated, many have a raw beauty and a tough constitution. Most are small. Some are tiny. Many, given the right conditions, will naturalize freely, just as they do in their native habitats in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Despite this, they are only now becoming widely available to gardeners - although they have long been coveted by collectors and enthusiasts, who tend to favor them over hybrids.
Unlike other Tulip Groups, Species Tulips are not defined by their flowering times, which may be anytime between February and May. Species Tulip are also sometimes called Botanical Tulips.
Tips for Growing Species Tulips
- In the wild, many of these Tulips are kept dry as a bone in summer. Make sure your soil is well-drained. Add plenty of sharp grit if necessary.
- For a natural look, try scattering bulbs and planting them where they fall.
- As with other tulips, leave dying foliage for at least six weeks after flowering.
- To encourage naturalizing (spreading) don't deadhead the flowers.
- Many Species tulips will naturalize in Southern US states such as Texas, where winters are too mild for hybridized tulips. Successful varieties include Tulipa clusiana (Lady Tulip), Tulipa praecod (Fire tulip), Tulipa saxatilis (Cretan Tulip), Tulipa sylvestris (Florentine Tulip) and Tulipa orphanidea (Greek Tulip).
Tulipa Praestans Unicum
- This is a short orange-red tulip with variegated leaves.
- Height is just 12" (30cm). Each stem bears up to five flowers in April.
- Tulipa Praestans Unicum is a sport of Tulipa praestans 'Fusilier'.
A to-die-for crimson and orange tulip with delicate translucent flowers and graceful grass-like leaves in late May and early June. While it's made for flowers meadows, it will also tone down late-seasons displays of more blousy tulips. Try it with Tulip Rococo, an over-the-top Parrot Tulip, or Tulip Orange Princess, a striking orange Double Late Tulip.
Frequently called wild tulip, woodland tulip, or florentine tulip, this flower is among the best of the species tulips. Relatively tall (10", 25cm), sweetly scented, vigorous and reliable, it has nodding teardrop buds, which open into golden star-shaped flowers.
First registered in Italy around 1600, Tulip sylvestris can today be seen growing wild in Europe, the US and Canada. A common site in arable fields, it spreads by way of stolons deep underground, avoiding the plow. In the garden, it will naturalize just as well, albeit a little slowly. It is tolerant of some shade. Flowers pop up in April to May.
Tulip sylvestris will even naturalize in areas with mild winters (i.e. bulbs do not need to be chilled).
- Extraordinary old-fashioned tulip with blood-red and yellow spear-like petals with yellow bases.
- Tulipa Acuminata flowers in late April. Height is 16" (40cm).
- Canary yellow dwarf tulip. Height is just 4" (10cm), and star-shaped flowers are tipped white. Tulip tarda flowers in April, at about the same time as double early tulips.
- RHS Award of Garden Merit Winner
Tulip Clusiana (The Lady Tulip, Candy Cane Tulip)
- Rare and ancient miniature tulip, a sugary confection of pink, purple and white, which flowers in April to May.
- Tulip Clusiana grows to a 30cm (12").
Tulipa humilis var. pulchella Albocaerulea Oculata
- Exquisite miniature tulip with snow-white petals, a blue heart and a sweet scent.
- Height is just 15cm (6").
Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane'
- Tulip clusiana 'Lady Jane' produces elegant pointed flowers in April. Petals are rose red on the outside and white on the inside.
- Height is 10" (25cm).
Tulip hageri 'Little Beauty'
- Stunning fuchsia miniature tulip with white ring around a blue base. Height is just 15cm (6"), so plant it high or alone, where it won't be dwarfed by other plants.
- Tulip 'Little Beauty' is an hageri tulip, not as sometimes listed, a humilis tulip.
Tulip humilis Persian Pearl (Crocus Tulip)
- This is a tiny jewel of a tulip with magenta petals, a gold center and a very short stature—height is usually about 15cm (6"). Flowers arrive in April, March or May depending on the the climate.
- Very good for naturalizing.
- Pale yellow dwarf tulip with a canary yellow center. Height is just 6" (15cm).
- Tulipa biflora flowers late April to early May. It still grows wild in the Middle East and Central Europe.
Tulip Bakeri Lilac Wonder
- An RHS Award of Garden Merit winner, Tulip Lilac Wonder is a little stunner. In April, it has low-growing lilac (8"/20cm) flowers, which open in sunshine, exposing a golden heart. A descendant of Tulip Bakeri (Baker's Tulip), which grows wild in Crete, it naturalizes easily.
- Tulip Lilac Wonder was introduced in 1971.
- Soft yellow pointed petals brushed at the edges with orange appear in April.
- Height is 9" (22.5cm).
Tulip praestans 'Fusilier'
- Award-winning floriferous tulip with three to five orange-red flowers per stem appearing in April.
- Height is 8" (20cm), and Tulip Praestans Fusilier is one of the best dwarf tulips.
- Tulip sogdiana is quite a rare little tulip.
- Pale yellow-green buds open into rose-tinged white flowers.