Tulipa: Tulips

Family: Liliaceae
Common name: Tulips

Nothing says spring like the beautiful bluish-green leaves sprouting out of the ground all of a sudden, and the bright, lovely tulip flowers. In India, Tulips are only found in the cold hilly areas in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.

These plants grow to a height of 50-70 cms with 4-6 flat glossy leaves. Most plants produce only a single flower, but there are many variants that produce multiple flowers in a single plant. Tulip plants grow from underground bulbs which are usually planted in late fall so that the plants germinate by early spring.

There are over 4000 varieties of tulips with colors ranging from white, yellow, pink, purple, red, magenta, maroon, and a variety of shades in between.

The flowers have both male and female reproductive organs, with 3 sepals and 3 petals that look very similar to each other. Most petals have clean oval edges, except for the fringed varieties that have wavy, lacy edges. Tulip plants also produce ovoid fruits that contain flat, disc-like seeds.

There are tulips with a single layer of petals, double layers, and even multiple layers. Tulips are divided into categories like Single Early, Double Early, Triumph, Darwin Hybrid, Single late, Lily flowered, Rembrandt, Parrot, Double late, and many more based on the shape and size of flowers and when they bloom. There are early flowering, mid-season flowering, and late flowering tulips.

Some popular variants are Tangerine beauty, Queen of night, Foxtrot, Blumex, and Giuseppe Verdi. Most original flowers had a single solid color, but those affected by the mosaic virus were called ‘broken’ with variegations in color running along the flower.

These were very popular and in demand, especially during Tulipmania in the early 1600s when the prices of tulips soared due to a speculative bubble, which burst after some time.
Tulips are still the most preferred garden plants, because of their spontaneous blooming, covering the garden or even entire fields with bright, beautiful flowers.

The Netherlands is well-known for its tulip cultivation, with acres of tulip flowers blooming in April. Tulip plants are a native of Iran, and were introduced to Europe and the US in later years. Currently, they are grown in most cold-weather countries as ornamental plants and used as cut flowers since they can last for a week after they are cut.

Though tulips are reasonably pest-resistant, they can be affected by aphids, mites, slugs, and even root rot. Though these plants are considered perennials, most bulbs do not grow multiple seasons on their own. It’s best to buy new tulips bulbs each year or save up the tulips bulbs from each season in a cool, dry place.

Propagation is through root bulbs.

Image credits: Shino Thomas, Sonia Jerin Joseph