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tulip bulbs

The Tulip Bulb

The Tulip Bulb, of the genus Tulipa, belongs to the lily family - Liliaceae.

tulip bulbs There are 100 species, mostly originating from the Middle East, but also from Europe stretching across to the Himalayas . The name 'tulip' derives from a corruption of a Middle Eastern word for turban, which the tulip flower is said to resemble.

Tulip bulbs have been popular garden plants in Europe for 300 years.They were introduced from Turkey , where they had already achieved great acclaim, and were an instant success. Within 100 years tulip mania had swept Holland and the surrounding countries.



Today, specialist growers worldwide, in Holland especially, cultivate hundreds of named varieties. In addition to this breeding work, plant collectors have continued to seek the original species in their native countries, thus extending the range of colors, flower shapes and heights available.

All tulips grow from rounded or somewhat egg-shaped bulbs. These have thin outer skins and come to a point at the top. This should face upwards when planted in the ground. Most carry a solitary flower on an upright stem, but a few have two or more per stem.

The flowers are goblet shaped, with six petals that vary from slender and pointed to broadly rounded. There is also what is known as Double types. These have many more than the normal number of petals per bloom. In mature flowers the petals generally open out rather flat in the sunlight.


tulip bulb
cross section
1st stage of growth
2nd stage of growth
leaves are formed
final stage with the flower
tulip bulb cross section
tulip bulb - 1st stage of growth
tulip bulb - 2nd stage of growth
tulip bulb - leaves are formed
tulip bulb - final stage with the flower

One or two leaves grow at or near ground level, with two or three smaller ones up the flower stem. A few species - including Tulipa tarda - have a tuft of narrow leaves at ground level.

Many of the attractive color blemishes - known as color breaks - found in tulip flowers are due to a virus. This virus causes vividly defined splashes of color to appear. The virus can be isolated and coerced into a new color strain. Natural mutation is another common source of changes of color. When this happens the plants are called sports.

Nearly every form of tulip, flowers well in the first year after planting the bulbs. This is provided you choose your tulip bulb well and prepare the ground correctly. Only a flooded garden or one of the serious pests or diseases will prevent this. After the first year, however, it requires careful cultivation to get some tulips to flower again.

The official classification of the tulip bulb defines 14 divisions or groups of cultivated varieties - mainly on the basis of flower shape, flowering season and lineage - with a fifteenth division containing species.


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