Wild for Species Tulips
By Teresa Woodard
Imagine an alpine meadow of dainty tulips in Kazakhstan or stout red tulips thriving on the rocky slopes of the Elburz Mountains in Iran. After seeing this collection of images from Tulips in the Wild, I decided to give these tough little beauties a try.
Last fall, I planted clusters of 8 to 10 Tulipa linifolia and Tulipa clusiana ‘Tubergen’s Gem’ along edges of our meadow. In April, they made a charming show with natural, wildflower-like blooms – much more fitting for the meadow setting than their larger, more showy hybridized cousins.
If you want to try planting some of these ‘wild’ or species tulip bulbs this fall, here are a few suggestions. Plan to order a larger quantity than expected, since the bulbs are smaller and look more impressive when planted in mass. Also, consider a location where these diminutive spring flowers will get noticed like a walkway, a mailbox garden or a border’s edge. The bulbs will grow best in a sunny location with good drainage, ideally a sloped area that is not irrigated. While deer are known to eat tulips just as they open, I was fortunate they didn’t find these blooms. However, be prepared to protect them with barrier plants or a deer repellent.