The Tulip as a Perennial

The Tulip as a Perennial

One of our most frequently asked questions is: Why does the Tulip not come back for multiple years when so many other flower bulbs do? The most important reason for this is that our climate is just too different from the climate of the Tulip’s natural habitat: the Middle East and the mountain areas around the Caspian Sea.

In Western Europe, we have a mild climate in which Summer is not too hot and Winter is not too cold. In the Tulip’s natural habitat, temperatures can be much more extreme. Winter can be quite cold, but more importantly, Summer can be very hot.

Tulpenverkoop langs de weg in Oezbekistan

Tulipa tsimganica sold on the side of the road in Uzbekistan

The Tulip needs this hot Summer to be able to survive. They taught us this at the agricultural school in Lisse I attended years ago: Good Tulips are grown in the warehouse during summer.

High Summer temperatures are not just crucial for the development of the Tulip that is going to grow in your garden next Spring; it is also important for the growth of the Tulip bulb itself.

Flower bulb growers therefore store their Tulip bulbs at 25 degrees Celsius after they are dug. This temperature is gradually lowered to 20 degrees Celsius in October.

Tulpen in gebergte Kazachstan

Tulipa greigii in the Tien Shan mountain range in Kazachstan

So if you want to enjoy your Tulips for multiple years, you will have to dig them in June, after their leafs have died. Then, they will need to be stored at a constant temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius. In October, they can be planted again.

If you want to do this for yourself you have a high chance of succeeding. Proof of this is the fact that age-old Rembrandt Tulips are still grown by members of the Wakefield and Northern Ireland Tulip Society.

There are, however, a few Tulips that manage to survive Western Europe’s climate reasonably well if you were to leave them in the soil year-round. I cannot promise you that they will do just as well as the Daffodil, but if you are in luck and they like your garden they can bloom for several years without you having to dig- and store them.

These Tulips are the type ‘fosteriana’ and the type ‘Darwin hybrid’. I have seen Tulips of the type ‘fosteriana’ and ‘Darwin hybrid’ manage to naturalize fairly well. But even these Tulips will vanish from your garden after a few years when you leave them in the soil. 

If you do want to try one of the Tulips that come back for a couple of years, we offer these fosteriana- and Darwin hybrid Tulips in the Fluwel web shop:

American Dream
Apricot Impression
Beauty of Spring
Big Ups
Blushing Impression
Design Impression
Disneyland Paris
Exotic Emperor
Gentle Giants
Globo Rojo
Glow Motion
Hakuun
Hot Hot Hot
Janis Joplin
Prosecco
Purissima
Tang Dynasty

Kind regards,
Carlos van der Veek