Blooming Plant of
Tulips are true bulbs—they
have compressed stems with special scalelike leaves that serve
as storage tissue, providing food that allows the bulbs to
produce flowers and foliage. The many cultivars of tulips are
divided into 15 groups based on flower form, including single
early and late, double early and late, lily-flowered (pointed
petals), parrot, Triumph and fringed. Some cultivars have
There are more than 3,000 cultivars of tulips available in red,
yellow, orange, pink, purple, white and bicolors.
This varies greatly depending on cultivar, temperature, light
levels and stage of development when purchased (see “Quality
Checklist”). Generally, potted tulips should last from a week to
The top 20 cultivars represent the majority of tulips that are
sold, and most come from Holland.
Tulip plants are available in the fall, winter and spring,
generally from about mid-September through mid-May.
1 Upon arrival, remove the plants from the shipping boxes by grasping their protective sleeves and lifting the plants out.
2 Carefully remove each sleeve by tearing upward along the seam upward from the bottom.
3 Inspect plant variety, size, color, and quality.
4 Remove any damaged stems, leaves, and blooms.
5 Inspect each plant for disease or damage. Isolate diseased or damaged plants, and report them to the grower or buying office immediately.
6 Determine water needs by pressing a finger into the soil or testing with a moisture meter.
7 Water each plant, as necessary, with room-temperature water, and allow excess water to drain from each pot.
8 Dress plants with decorative pot covers,
foil/cellophane treatments, ribbon, and/or picks; price them;
and place them into your displays.
Keep in well-lit conditions but away from
Display plants at cool temperatures (as low
as 45 F) away from heating ducts.
Potted tulips may be stored at 33 F to 35 F
for three to five days.
Tulips are sensitive to only high levels of ethylene.
Aphids are the most common problem on tulips.
They usually can be controlled by washing them off.
The most common disease affecting tulips is
Botrytis, which can be avoided by watering in the morning.
Tulip stems often elongate, making them grow
out of their place in pots. Growers can apply growth regulators
to reduce this elongation.
Choose and sell tulips when the buds are still green or just
beginning to show a tinge of color. The tighter the flower buds,
the longer the plants will last.
Check the blossoms for any signs of rot, bruising or wilt.
Check the foliage for any signs of rot, bruising or breakage. If
the plants become “leggy,” use plant stakes to give the stems
The name “tulip” is the Latin version of the Arabic word
“dulband” (turban). The name was applied because Turkish men
tucked tulips into the folds of their turbans.
Tulips are members of the Liliaceae (lily) family. Common
relatives include lily, hyacinth, Ornithogalum, Asparagus, Hosta
These plants originate from the Mediterranean to China. For the
past 400 years, they have been extensively hybridized. All of
the tulips sold as potted plants are hybrid cultivars. Holland,
which dominates world production with 80 percent of the world
market, produces 3 billion bulbs a year on 21,078 acres. In the
United States, there is limited production on the West Coast and
During the 17th century in Holland, the popularity of tulips
resulted in “Tulipomania,” and bulbs were incredibly expensive
and the subject of financial speculation that resulted in both
extreme wealth and finally poverty when the market crashed. The
most prized tulips were the “broken,” or striped, flower forms.
is now known to be the result of a virus infection in the bulbs.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology lists
this species as an allergy-safe pollen-producing plant.
Consumer Care Tips
Check the pots frequently, and water to keep the soil moist at
Tulips prefer bright light, or the stems will become weak and
elongated. Keep interior light levels at 50 to 100 foot-candles
or higher. They can be kept in or near windows where the light
is indirect. Keep the pots away from heat sources, such as
televisions and heat ducts.
Potted tulip plants are responsive to interior temperatures.
They prefer cool rooms. It is beneficial to store the plants in
garages or similar cool environments at night.
Medium humidity is best.
None is needed. All the food tulips need is stored in the bulbs.
Potted bulbs usually are too
spent to save and rebloom, but it is worth a try.
Images courtesy of Netherlands
Flower Bulb Information Center
Some information provided by:
The Department of Horticulture at Clemson University,
The San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart, San Francisco, Calif.,
Chain of Life NetworkÆ,
SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual
Reach Blooming Plant of the Month writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD,
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