Types of Tulips

Types of Tulips

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 to give you a tulips 101 intro!

Now, onto the tulips!

Standard 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 happy flower – you can’t go wrong giving this as a gift
  • They 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

Bi-color Tulips


Parrot Tulips

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. I’m not entirely sold on this origin story, but there doesn’t seem to be a better explanation out there!

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 large headed, 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 luxurious 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, but my current favorites are “Secret” and “Bright Parrot”

Ellie's Favorite Parrot Tulips


Doubles or Double Tulips (also called “peony bloom” tulips)

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 referred to by many different names, but I’m going to use the term “double bloom” since I think it’s the most descriptive (although some of these really do look like peonies!).

Peony Tulips

These are great to use:

  • Since they will add a full and lush look to your design
  • Like the other tulips, these are great on their own, but you can easily mix these with other flowers to create stunning arrangements

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 specific variety.

Fringed or Frill Tulips

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).  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. 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.

Fringed Tuilp


You may have seen another type of tulip called lily-flowered tulip. As you can guess by the name, the petals of these have some resemblance to a lily. The petals are pointed and face out outwards. These varieties are not commercially grown in large quantities, so you don’t really see these very often and that’s why we’re not going to say much more about them.

Of course, there are also French Tulips, which are a topic for another day.  French tulips are a slower growing and longer stemmed family of tulips that were, originally grown…can you guess?…in the south of France (Côte 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 category (which has its own parrots and double blooms).  French tulips are so much bigger than other tulips that you typically wouldn’t use them for the same type of arrangement as other 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania) or if you want to learn more about tulips in general, there is great information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip

Well, that’s enough tulips for now!  Check out our quick “cheat sheet” below to help you remember the different types of tulips we’ve discussed and check out our tulip page if you’d like to get some of these exciting blooms!



Common Types of Tulips


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