cut flower of the month
Tulips have goblet-shaped
blooms in a variety of forms from slender and pointed to
rounded. The hybrids that are most commonly grown as cut flowers
single (having six “petals” [tepals])
double (peony flowered)
parrot (ruffled petal edges and multicolored)
lily flowered (pointed petals)
fringed (serrated petal edges)
Tulip stems (scapes), each
of which supports a single bloom, are smooth and leafless and
generally range from 10 to 24 inches in length. (French tulips,
which are specialty hybrids, have longer stems and larger blooms
than standard Dutch tulip hybrids.) One or two long leaves
originate near the base of each stem and are often attached to
these cut flowers.
Some tulip varieties are slightly fragrant.
Cut tulips are available
in a wide range of hues including reds, pinks, oranges,
salmon/peach/apricot, yellows, violets, lavenders and
white/cream/ivory as well as bicolors and multicolors.
Longevity at the consumer
level is relatively short—usually from three to six
days—depending on variety, care received and stage of maturity
at harvest. Sell these flowers within two days of arrival in
Although cut tulips are
most abundant from about January through May in North America,
they are available year-round primarily from U.S. and Dutch
growers, due, in part, to “ice tulip” technology (bulbs are held
in sustained cold—“on ice”—to delay forcing and extend their
Unpack tulips immediately upon their arrival at your facility,
and check the flower quality. Remove any bindings from the
stems, but leave the flowers in their sleeves. Then remove lower
leaves, and rinse stems under tepid running water to wash away
dirt and debris.
HYDRATION AND NUTRITION
Recut the stems with a sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of
stem, to eliminate desiccated (dried-out) ends as well as any
dirt and microbes (bacteria) that might have accumulated there,
which will impede water uptake. Be sure to cut off the entire
white portion of the stem ends.
Immediately after cutting
the stems, place them into containers with 4 to 6 inches of
bulb-flower-food solution prepared with cold, nonfluoridated
water. Cold water will reduce the chance that blooms will “blow
Bulb-flower foods contain—in addition to the ingredients in
standard flower foods—“replacement” hormones to help correct
imbalances that occur when the flowers are cut from their bulbs.
They also have a lower concentration of sugar, which can
aggravate leaf yellowing.
Most varieties of tulips do not benefit from the nutrient
(sugar) in flower food, but flower food should always be used
because of its other ingredients, which limit the growth of
stem-plugging microbes in the water and correct hormone
Once tulips are processed, immediately place them into a floral
cooler at 33 F to 35 F and 85 percent to 90 percent relative
humidity, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours
before selling or arranging them. Store these flowers vertically
in their containers to encourage straight stems (see “Care
It is critical that cut
tulips be kept cold, so except for design time, always keep them
refrigerated until they’re sold or delivered. This will slow
their respiration (moisture loss) and help them maintain their
carbohydrate reserve, which is their fuel for vase life.
Most varieties of tulips are not sensitive to ethylene gas;
therefore, antiethylene products probably will not increase the
vase life of tulips, and administration of such a product can
increase postharvest stem elongation (see “Design Tips,” Page 17
in the February 2011 issue).
Avoid placing tulips into storage containers with any species of
Narcissi (daffodils, jonquils, paper-whites, etc.) because, when
cut, Narcissi exude a mucilage that adversely affects the vase
life of tulips. Narcissi and tulips can be mixed in arrangements
only after both have been conditioned separately for several
hours. After that time, most of the harmful sap will have
leached, and even if the Narcissi are recut again, it won’t
affect the lives of cut tulips.
Tulips are geotropic
(affected by gravity) and phototropic (curve toward the light),
so be sure to store them upright in their containers and in a
dark area of the cooler where they’re shielded from the light
(unless the light source is directly above the flowers). Some
care experts recommend leaving tulips in their sleeves during
storage to help prevent stem curving; however, doing so can
restrict air circulation among the blooms, leaves and stems.
For maximum vase life,
purchase most cut tulips when they are in tight bud form
and flower color is just visible. Some varieties,
however, should be harvested and purchased at a more
mature stage. In either case, look for firm straight
stems and firm green foliage, with no discolorations.
Tulips can be a challenge
to arrange, not only because of their geotropic and
phototropic natures but also because their stems (scapes)
continue to elongate after the flowers are harvested.
Therefore, many designers place tulips deeper into
arrangements than where they want them to eventually be.
Wiring the flowers will not help prevent elongation and
is not recommended.
HOME SWEET HOME
Although they’re widely associated with Holland, tulips
are native to the area known today as the Middle East
(primarily Turkey and Iran), where they have been prized
since the Middle Ages. Tulips were introduced into
western Europe in the mid-16th century, where their
enormous popularity caused a financial hysteria that
became known as tulipomania.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
The botanical name Tulipa is a Latin derivation
of the Turkish word “tülbend” (meaning muslin or
gauze) and the Persian “dulband,” which means
turban and refers to the shape of the blooms.
Tulips are members of the Liliaceae (lily)
family. Close relatives include lilies, Gloriosas,
lilies-of-the-valley (Convallaria), hyacinths,
grape hyacinths (Muscari) and stars-of-Bethlehem
America’s most popular cut
Of the 234 million stems
of cut tulips available for sale in the United States in 2009,
approximately 64 percent were grown domestically and almost 33
percent were imported from the Netherlands, according to U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. Interestingly, though,
nearly all tulip bulbs, even those for the cut flowers produced
in the U.S., come from Holland.
The 15 varieties of cut tulips on these pages are the most
popular ones sold in the U.S., according to the Netherlands
Flower Bulb Information Center (NFBIC).
Download the PDF to view all 14 new varieties.
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Some information provided
Botanica, by R.G. Turner
Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® ,
Cut Flowers, by C. Gelein
Cut Flowers of the World by Johannes Maree and Ben-Erik van Wyk
Hortus Third by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
SAF Flower & Plant Care by Terril A. Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S.
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners by William T.