Graceful and bold, jewel-toned and pastel, tulips (Tulipa spp.) are one of the most popular harbingers of spring. These cup-shaped beauties range widely in size, from varieties that are just a few inches tall to those that soar to over 2 feet. In general, tulips that bloom earliest are the shortest, while the later-blooming varieties reach greater heights.
Very Early-Blooming Varieties
All tulips flower in the spring. Some emerge as early as March, while others wait until April or May. The flowers last for about two weeks until they fade. Very early-blooming varieties are the first to show off their colors. These varieties bloom in late March to early April. Early-blooming tulips range in average height from 4 to 18 inches. Most are between 10 and 12 inches tall. "Showwinner," which has bright red blooms, reaches heights of between 6 and 8 inches. Water lily tulips are the shortest. Some are only 4 inches tall.
Early-blooming tulips flower from mid-April to the beginning of May. Many are fragrant but still on the short side, with average heights hovering around 10 inches. A few are taller. Bright-orange "Dillenberg" can reach heights of 18 inches. "Yokohama" is a cheerful yellow variety that averages between 10 and 12 inches tall.
Late April and early May is when the mid-season tulips make their appearance. These flowers average about 12 inches in height. "Blenda" is a soft pink variety that reaches maximum heights of 12 inches. "Negrita" is a tulip that features deep purple petals. It reaches an average height of between 12 and 14 inches.
Tulips that bloom last are often the largest. These late-blooming varieties flower in mid to late May. "Maureen" is a pure white variety that averages about 18 inches in height. Some varieties, such as those in the Darwin series, can reach heights of 30 inches. The Rembrandt series of tulips are almost as tall at 2 feet, and have showy striped petals.
Ensure your tulips grow to their maximum heights by choosing varieties most suitable to your climate. Although it varies by species, tulips grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 7. Some can grow in USDA zones 3 and 4 if they are mulched. In addition, take a look at the bulbs. The size of a tulip is foreshadowed by the size of the bulb, according to North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension. Choose large bulbs if you want a taller, showier plant, and smaller bulbs for shorter flowers.
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