Updated from our original version:
Tulips are one of those types of flowers that almost everyone can identify. Every spring, tulips make appearances in gardens across the country. In doing a little informal research about them, I found that the most commonly associated words with tulips were “spring” and “Dutch” and that many people thought that tulips were “nice” but “nothing special” (one friend went as far as to call them downright “boring”).
I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would have to say with absolute certainty that tulips are most definitely NOT boring! How can a flower with hundreds of varieties, different shapes, textures and colors be considered boring and it’s a flower that actually continues to grow once you put it in a vase (seriously – measure them the next time you have tulips if you don’t believe me). I think people just aren’t aware of all the different types of tulips that are available, so I’ve put together a brief overview of the most common types of tulips (and scroll all the way down for our handy reference chart!):
Types of Tulips
I’ve used the term “standard” as these are the type of tulips that most everyone pictures when they hear the word “tulip”. It’s what you see in the floral department of your local grocery store and in gardens. All tulip bulbs need a good freeze to bloom, but with modern farming techniques, tulips are available year round (see our recent post about a tulip farm). You can further classify these tulips (single early, single late), but these are really terms for the hardcore gardener.
As a cut flower, “standard” tulips are great for several reasons:
- Pretty much everyone is familiar with tulips and they just scream happiness! You can’t go wrong giving these as a gift.
- Standard tulips have a very pure and consistent color. This is a huge plus if you’re looking for a strong solid color to use in your floral design.
- In addition to great bold single colors, there are some gorgeous bi-color tulips with fabulous color combinations (like red & yellow or orange & red).
- “Standard” tulips generally tend to be relatively inexpensive and are widely available.
Parrot Tulips (from the scary sounding family Tulipa gesnerana dracontia) are my personal favorite among the tulip families. Parrot Tulips supposedly take their name from the fact that most varieties have ruffled petals with multiple colors – sort of like the feathers of a parrot. This seems to be the most plausible origin story and I have yet to hear of a different explanation! If you’ve heard of another story, let us know!
What makes parrots different from “standard” tulips:
- They grow more quickly
- They tend to have larger heads (blooms). This has made them a challenge for tulip breeders since stronger stems are needed to support these weightier blooms. The breeders have fortunately figured this out but you may still find that these curve and bend a bit more than standard tulips.
- All parrots are multi-colored and open into really gorgeously textured and interesting blooms. It’s a great flower to incorporate into your floral design when you want something unique and different or use them on their own to create a special look.
It’s not uncommon for someone to see a picture of a really unique parrot tulip and ask “What kind of flower is that?” They have such a stunning look and that’s why they are my favorite type of tulip. However, I should note one thing when you’re working with them – if you want a very structured and regimented design, these are not the flower to use. They grow and move quickly (for a flower!) if given the room to do so. The shape of your arrangement will change over time as the tulips open up more. I personally like this as it’s fantastic to see how your arrangement can change over the course of a week, but others may want something that is better at staying put! There are a ton of amazing parrot varieties and a couple of my favorite are “Secret” and “Bright Parrot”
So the name of this tulip clearly makes sense when you see what they look like! Rather than a single layer of petals like a “standard” tulip, these have multiple layers of petals. You’ll hear these tulips referred to by many different names, like “peony bloom tulips”, but I prefer to use the term “double bloom”. It’s the term that most people in the floral industry use!
Double bloom tulips are great to use:
- Since they will add a full and lush look to your design.
- Like other tulips, these are great on their own, but you can easily mix these with other flowers to create stunning arrangements.
- They make a good substitute for peonies when peonies are out of season.
Some varieties are highly seasonal (available literally for only a few weeks a year!), so if you’ve fallen in love with these and want to use them for your wedding or event, you’ll be safer going with a color family (e.g., pinks) rather than a very specific variety.
The name pretty much describes how these tulips look. They are very similar to “standard” tulips except that the edges of the petals are “fringed” or “frilled”. I like to describe it by saying nature took pinking shears to the edges of the petals! This fringed effect creates a wonderful texture that makes these so eye-catching and they come in diverse colors (solid & bi-color).
As you can see from the pictures below, fringed tulips are a really elegant flower on their own and they are a great choice for anyone who wants to create a simple, yet stunning, tulip bouquet or arrangement. If you’re planning to use these in your design be careful of combining them with too many other flowers as you’ll lose the subtle texture that these have. One of my favorite varieties of fringed tulips is called “Queensland”. It also has a double form, so you have multiple layers of fringed petals which just makes this tulip absolutely stunning.
Lily-flowered tulips are named for their lily-like bloom shape. What makes these tulips different from other types of tulips is the distinctive recurved shape of the petals. You’ll see that each petal curves back outward much like a lily.
Years ago, you may have been able to find only white lily-flowered tulips and only for a few weeks out of the year. While lily-flowered tulips are still not widely available today as a cut flower, in recent years they have become more prevalent with better availability and a few more color options from commercial cut-flower farms. The most common lily-flowered tulips are solid white and pink colors.
Lily-flowered tulips is a beautiful flower to use for its unique shape. They arrange well with other flowers and the curved blooms are eye-catching. They’ll immediately feel familiar yet slightly different because of the recurved petals.
French tulips are not an official horticultural class of tulips, but it’s a common name that is widely used to refer to a slower growing and longer stemmed family of tulips that were, originally grown…can you guess?…in the south of France (Cote d’Azur specifically)! Although they are genetically related to the other tulip families (their ancestor is a “standard” tulip called Mrs. John T. Scheepers), I tend to think of them as an entirely different group of tulips with it’s own parrot, double bloom, and fringed varieties.
The main difference that distinguishes French tulips from other types of tulips is the longer stem length and larger bloom size. Most dutch-grown French tulips range in size from 20-25 inches in length. Given the larger size, they are perfect for grand-scale arrangements or they can be cut-down to include in smaller-sized bouquets or centerpieces where you want a larger sized tulip. One thing to keep in mind about French tulips is that given the longer stem and larger (and oftentimes heavier) bloom, you’ll find that French tulips are prone to more natural bending than standard tulips.
So, have I gotten you hooked onto tulips? It’s a flower with A LOT of history and some very interesting botany behind them. If you’re interested in their history, you can check out some facts on the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637. You can even watch a recent movie, Tulip Fever, that is a romantic drama based during the time of tulip mania in Amsterdam. And if you want to learn more about tulips in general, find more information here.
We’ve updated our quick “cheat sheet” below to help you remember the different types of tulips we’ve discussed, so feel free to pin and save it for reference! And if you want to shop tulips, visit our entire tulip collection over on our site.