London (change)
Today 8°C / 4°C
Tomorrow 6°C / 3°C

Growing species tulips

Hardy tulips

If you find tulips difficult to grow, you may find species tulips easier. These are quite unlike their large-flowered cousins, which can frustrate gardeners by dazzling in their first year, then all but disappearing the next.

Species tulips are as reliable as daffodils and, while they're smaller and seem more delicate, they've got the stamina for long-lived displays.

Most species tulips hail from the mountainous regions of northern Turkey, so they can cope with extreme weather. With minimum care, they'll flower year after year, and many will bulk up into clumps after a few years.

Like cultivars, species tulips prefer growing in free-draining soil in full sun. Plant them in drifts for swathes of colour, dot them around a rockery, or show off their blooms with decorative mulches in pots.

Our favourite varieties

Tulipa platystigma

The rose-pink flowers of T. platystigma bear traces of orange running through the petals, becoming clearer towards the margins. Height 60cm.

Tulipa linifolia

This species thrives where summers are hot and winters are cold. It's ideal for rock gardens or container displays. Flowers in late-April. Height 20cm.

Tulipa humilis

A sweet-scented and early-flowering variety. Flowers from March to April. Height 10cm.

Tulipa armena var. lycica

Grow T. armena var. lycica in a sunny spot, as this species likes a hot, dry dormancy period in summer. Flowers in April. Height 25cm.

Tulipa tarda

T. tarda looks great in rock gardens and containers. Flowers in April. Height 15cm.

Tulipa acuminata

This is one of the oldest species tulips in cultivation. Combine it with with foliage plants to show off its spidery blooms. Flowers in May. Height 40cm.

Tulipa altaica

With bright yellow blooms, T. altaica is perfect grown on its own in pots. Flowers in April. Height 15cm.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Growing species tulips
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

sterelitza 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I have found that tulips give a great show in my garden in the first year and then they diminish in both size and quantity from them on. What am I doing wrong and which variety is best to grow in pots so that they don't all fall over.

Helenlittleash 08/12/2011 at 19:26

These photos and descriptions are confusing, as they don't marry up on my screen. The flamed flower at the top is T. platystigma, from then on move the description to above the photo of the flower, there's no picture of T. altaica... These species tulips are much more reliable when it comes to returning year on year. I grow linifolia, various humilis varieties and tarda and they give a lovely show each year, tarda especially bulks up well for me.

Kate Bradbury 09/12/2011 at 12:25

@Helenlittleash - thanks for highlighting the image problem. A few images on our our features pages have got mixed up in the transfer over to the new site. This will be fixed as soon as possible!

Thanks again


GRACELAND 09/12/2011 at 14:50

I have the same Trouble with Tulips  just don't return the next year Daffs are loads better