Call us at 1-800-355-8086
cut flower of the month                                                                       (printable PDF)

Hyacinth - February 2010BOTANICAL NAME
Tulipa (TOO-li-puh)


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 are:

  • 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 your department.

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 availability).

vase-life extenders


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.

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 open.”

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 imbalances.

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 Extras,”).

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.

  purchasing advice  
  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.  
  design tips  
  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.  
  fun facts  

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.

FAMILY MATTERS 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 (Ornithogalum).


America’s most popular cut tulips
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.

(printable PDF)
If you have trouble viewing these PDF (portable document format) files, download a copy of the free Adobe Reader.

Some information provided by:

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. Reid, Ph.D.
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners by William T. Stearn


Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2011
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.