Types of Tulips

Types of Tulips

Although botanists organize tulips by genus, species and cultivar, the bulb catalogs that arrive in your mailbox every summer describe tulips according to 15 groups, defined by shape, heritage and flowering time. Several groups include tulips that have been in commercial production since the beginning of the 18th century. Here’s an illustrated overview of these 15 groups, with a few examples of the cultivars that belong to each.  Today, there are thousands of cultivars and hybrid tulips with registered commercial names.


Group 1: Single EarlyPrincess Irene tulip

Single early tulips flower in mid-spring with relatively large, round flowers, neat foliage and short, sturdy stems no more than 16 inches tall. This stature makes them ideal for containers. Many cultivars still in production date back to the mid-19th century along with a few that first appeared in the early 18th century. Examples include the “Flair,” “Pretty Princess” and “Princess Irene” (pictured).  

foxtrot double earlyGroup 2: Double Early

These double-flowered tulips are shorter, bloom a little later and hold their flowers longer than their single counterparts. The long-lasting blossoms have so many petals that they resemble peonies! The large, heavy blooms sometimes require staking. The “Foxtrot” (pictured), “Abba,” “Monte Carlo,” “Peach Blossom” and “Orca” are all tulips that belong to the Double Early group.

Group 3: Triumph

Robust, mid-season tulips created by crossing early and late varieties, Triumphs form a widely varied group that offers everything from compact, rounded flowers to those with long, slightly flared petals. These flowers bloom on strong, upright stems standing 16-20 inches high. Examples of the Triumph group are the “Alibi” (pictured, photo by Acabashi), “Nigrita,” “Blue Ribbon,” “Dreaming Maid” and “Early Glory.”  

types of tulips - Best YellowGroup 4: Darwin Hybrid

These mid-season giants are a 20th century innovation created by the brilliant breeder Dirk Lefeber, who crossed 19th century Darwins with Tulipa Fosteriana. Known for their giant, pyramid-shaped buds and their height. Darwin Hybrids are best massed in beds or as long-lasting cut flowers, and tend to be warm colors like yellow, pink and red. Certain varieties will perennialize if their foliage is allowed to die back naturally. Some of the hybrid tulips that belong to this group include the “Beauty of Spring,” “Best Red,” “Marit,” “Pink Impression,” “Daydream” and “Best Yellow” (pictured). 

Types of Tulips - Queen of NightGroup 5: Single Late

Regal and tall, Single Late tulips bear relatively delicate, orbed flowers on stems of 24 inches or more.  Created in the 20th century through a series of hybrid crosses, these the elegant flowers win admirers everywhere they are planted. Single Late tulips can be found in a wide range of vivid hues, including the “Queen of Night” (pictured), whose deep purple petals are some of the darkest shades found in tulips. As the name suggests, tulips in this group tend to bloom later than all the rest. Other commercial hybrids in this group include the “Violet Beauty,” “Sorbet,” white “Maureen,” and “Hocus Pocus” tulips whose bulbs resemble a yellow candle flame with a red center.

Types of Tulips - AladdinGroup 6: Lily-flowered

Lily-flowered tulips bloom in mid-to-late spring, and while they come in fewer colors than other groups, their delicate petals end at a point and are often trimmed in contrasting colors. These slender, beautifully flared tulips rise on narrow stems that bend and sway gracefully with even the slightest breeze. Some cultivars are evocative of the pointed tulips that were so beloved in the Ottoman Empire, while others resemble lilies much more closely. Examples of the Lily-flowered tulip group include the “China Pink,” the “Fly Away,” and the “Aladdin” (pictured, photo by William Warby). 

Types of Tulips SantanderGroup 7: Fringed

Fringed tulips arose from mutations within other groups and as a result, bloom at varied times, rising on stems that range from short to tall.  With petals that may be delicately crimped, wildly cut, or even feathery, they bring a startling beauty to gardens wherever they are planted. You’ll find fringed tulips like the white “Swan Wings,” the purple “Cummins,” the pink “Bell Song” and the “Santander” (pictured).

Group 8: Viridiflora

Tulips in this group open late in the season with green buds that gradually reveal their base color while the petals retain a vivid green steak from base to tip.  The form of these flowers is varied enough to include single, double, parrot and lily shaped blossoms on stems that range from 12 to 20 inches. Commonly found commercial types of Viridiflora include the “Artist,” “Hollywood Star,” “Yellow Springgreen” and “Formosa” (pictured, photo via Creative Commons). 

Types of TulipsGroup 9: Rembrandt

Although Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is not known for his tulip paintings, he was the leading painter of the Dutch Golden Age, and bi-colored flamed tulips that resemble the famous broken tulips of that era are collectively referred to as Rembrandts. Large commercial growers no longer sell true broken tulips, but this group offers the closest approximation that gardeners can buy today. The Rembrandt’s flamed and feathered petals are stable mutants of healthy plants from many of other groups. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and bloom from early spring until late in the tulip season. (Photo by Robert Lyle Bolton.)

Types of TulipGroup 10: Parrot

Parrot tulips are as flamboyant as their name suggests, with elaborately cut, curled and ruffled single petals in a wide range of colors and patterns.  These gorgeous flowers mutated from Triumph tulips and bloom late on stems from 16 to 24 inches tall. Popular parrot tulips include the “Estella Rijnveld,” the “Flaming Parrot” and the “Rococo.” The tulip pictured here is called a “Caribbean Parrot.” 

types of tulipGroup 11: Double Late

Showy flowers, Double Late tulips have rounder blossoms than their earlier-blooming cousins and usually much taller. They flower in May in a wide range of colors and patterns, with blooms that sometimes even resemble roses. Examples of this group include the “Cretaceous,” the “Moris Gudanov (pictured),” the “Annelinde” and the “Carnaval De Nice.”

Types of tulip - Heart’s DelightGroup 12: Kaufmanniana 

Petite and very early flowering, Kaufmanninnas are often distinguished by beautifully mottled foliage with bi-colored flowers that open flat close to the ground. They are often called ‘water lily tulips’ for their resemblance to the aquatic flowers that are no relation at all. Examples of Kaufmanniana tulips include the yellow and red “Giuseppe Verdi” and the pink and white “Heart’s Delight” (pictured, photo by René Blumensaadt).

Types of TulipsGroup 13: Fosteriana

Popularly known as Emperor tulips, these broad-leafed plants stand from 10 to 16 inches high with unusually large flowers. Like Kaufmanninnas, they flower early in striking single colors. The most famous of the Fosteriana tulips is the “Red Emperor” (pictured), which was originally introduced as “Madame Lefeber” and goes by both names today.

Dwarf TulipsGroup 14: Greigii

Another petite tulip, Greigiis (pronounced GREG-ee-eye) feature distinctive mottled or striped foliage that spreads close to the earth. The relatively large flowers on short, sturdy stems flower early, but a bit later than Kaufmanninnas or Fosterianas. Their compact size makes them a good choice for small container gardens. Sometimes called dwarf tulips, this group includes the “Winnipeg,” the “Pinocchio” and the “Red Riding Hood” and the “Casa Grande” (pictured, photo by Flickr user Charley).

Group 15: Miscellaneous

As the name suggests, this category covers a wide range of varieties and cultivars with that don’t quite fit any other grouping. For the most part, these are low growing, small-flowered tulips with a delicate charm, though occasionally members of the group will raise their petals high. They flower from early to late in the season, depending on the specific variety.