Monday, May 12, 2014

Perennializing Tulips

Despite the fact that my garden does not bear even the slightest resemblance to the deserts of Turkey, I have actually had some fairly good luck with perennializing certain kinds of tulips.

Tulip 'Abba' in the peony bed, with tree peonies, candytuft, spurge, and lamb's ears

The best seem to be the doubles, for some reason. This is the third year for this early double tulip 'Abba', and it seems to get stronger and more numerous every year.

Tulip 'Abba', with mugo pine, candytuft, and lily foliage
 I just love the tomato red color, the shaggy-lion shape, and the splash of yellow and black in the interior.

Double early tulip 'Abba'

This double early yellow tulip 'Monte Carlo' has also returned undiminished in its second year. This one is a solid clear yellow, with no interior markings.

Double early tulip 'Monte Carlo'

It is in a sunny spot in my backyard patio bed, but it's not a spot I keep particularly dry as there are moisture-loving roses, filipendula, and siberian iris nearby. Some may find the intense ball of yellow overwhelming, but I like strong color in spring.

Tulip 'Monte Carlo', with siberian iris and filipendula

Another good returner is this fosteriana tulip aptly named 'Juan'. It has large, flamboyant red-orange blooms with yellow interiors, and fantastic purple-mottled foliage. The flowers fan out into a lovely star shape when open to the sun, and roll tightly closed on overcast days.

Fosteriana tulip 'Juan'

These are actually in a part shade location at the bottom of a slope - quite possibly the worst location for a tulip - but have returned nicely. For some reason the squirrels seem to enjoy lopping off their heads periodically.

Fosteriana tulip 'Juan' with Hypericum (St. John's Wort)

I have some "plain old tulip" tulips along the front of the house, in a narrow west-facing crevice between the front walk and the building, which are in perhaps the hottest, sunniest, driest spot in my yard. They predate both me and the previous owner of the house, and have been blooming every May like clockwork for at least ten years. These are the only ones I have in truly tulip-friendly conditions.

Unindentified red tulips

I haven't been as lucky with every tulip I've planted. The single early tulip 'Purple Prince', planted in the same spot as 'Monte Carlo', put on a disappointing show in its second year, with only a few scattered bulbs returning. It is a lovely tulip though - the mauvey-purple shade is just perfect with the spring green of fresh foliage. In my book, worth replanting periodically to keep it going.

Patio bed with tulips 'Monte Carlo' and 'Purple Prince'. Last year there were twice as many purples as yellows - most of the purples failed to return.

 Tulip 'Sweetheart' returned somewhat from last year, but noticeably diminished. I planted more of these last year, thank goodness, or there would be only 1-2 total. Again, its delicate loveliness earns it a spot in my garden, even as a semi-annual.

Tulip 'Sweetheart' with narcissus 'Katie Heath', tree peony and geraniums

New this year is tulip 'Princess Irene', a well-known classic. I certainly hope she returns, because she is a stunner for sure! I will do my best to keep her hot and dry. She is next to a barberry, so hopefully that should not be too hard.

Tulip 'Princess Irene' with purple barberry

Have any particular kind of tulips perennialized well in your garden?


  1. You've got a pretty collection and it's wonderful that some return on a reliable basis. In my own case, here in southern California, getting a tulip to survive a single season is a feat in itself. I did manage a few seasons out of some species tulips but they were far less showy than the beautiful examples in your garden.

  2. Glad to see you are having good success with your double tulips... I, on the other hand, have less good luck with doubles and they seldom come back despite being only 70 miles or so north of you.... happy spring! Larry

  3. You have many blooming tulips in your garden, Rebecca. It's a pleasure to see them and not to dig every year.
    They are perennials! Perhaps the soil, fertilize, or a climate suits them in your place!

  4. Sono bellissimi quelli arancioni ! Complimenti!

  5. These tulips are so precious! I was surprised when I discovered that one variety from my garden smells of oranges. None of the others do...

  6. Your tulips are doing very well. Nice photos. Mine are still "in process" of coming up out of the soil. Maybe in a week or two I will have some blooms. Glad I visited today. Jack


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