Most tulips reach their peak display in late April and May, but by choosing early-flowering varieties, you can enjoy blooms from March.
Early tulips largely consist of more robust short-stemmed types, so they’re great for growing in exposed spots and there are many beautiful cultivars and species to pick from.
How to grow tulips
To help avoid tulip fire, plant your tulip bulbs in November, choosing a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Check out our tulip grow guide for full advice on planting, propagating and deadheading and more.
For a tulip-packed spring, we’ve also picked some of the best late tulips to grow.
Discover 10 of the best early-flowering tulips to grow, below.
Tulip ‘Apricot Beauty’
‘Apricot Beauty’ is a single early variety with pale orange blooms, flushed a darker shade within. Try combining with other pale-flowered varieties like ‘Purissima’ and ‘Verona’. Grows to a height of 40cm.
Pale orange blooms of tulip ‘Apricot Beauty’
Tulip ‘Van der Neer’
A single early variety, ‘Van der Neer’ has sumptuous purple blooms and grows to a height of around 40cm. Try combining with other richly-coloured varieties for a dramatic display.
Deep pink-purple flowers of tulip ‘Van der Neer’
Tulip ‘Chato’ has frilly, double blooms, reminiscent of peonies. The large blooms make brilliant cut flowers that you can pick from March to April.
Frilly, double, pink blooms of tulip ‘Chato’
Tulip ‘Orange Emperor’
‘Orange Emperor’ is one of the earliest, if not the earliest orange-flowered tulips to emerge, doing so in March. Here’s how to layer tulips in a container with daffodils and crocuses.
Soft orange blooms of tulip ‘Orange Emperor’
This pretty species is native to Greece, Turkey and Crete, where it grows in rocky, well-drained soils. As such, it’s ideal for growing in alpine or gravel gardens, where it’ll slowly spread.
Pale-pink and bright-gold flowers of Tulipa saxatilis
Tulipa clusiana is a distinctive species tulip that reaches a modest height of 15-30cm. Though small, the flowers can’t be missed, and look lovely as part of informal plantings. Cultivars to grow include ‘Cynthia’ (pictured) and ‘Peppermintstick’.
Elongate flowers of Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’, striped red and pale-yellow
This species tulip has glorious yellow flowers with a gentle fragrance. Tulipa sylvestris flowers in March and April and looks especially good when allowed to colonise grassy areas.
Small, yellow flowers of Tulipa sylvestris
‘Verona’ is a beautiful double early tulip, with creamy yellow blooms. It begins flowering in early April and reaches a height of 35cm.
Cream, double blooms of Tulip ‘Verona’
Tulipa ‘Purissima’ is part of the Fosteriana group of tulips. It has white flowers that are flushed with yellow at the centre and flowers from March to April. Reaches a height of 45cm.
Yellow-centered, white flowers of tulip ‘Purissima’
Caring for tulips after flowering
For all tulips, provide them with a good feed after flowering and mulch with organic matter. Don’t remove the leaves until they have fully withered, to give them the best chance of flowering the following year.