Romantic and frilly, parrot tulips delight

Experts group tulips into 15 divisions—and one of the most fascinating of these is parrot tulips.

Far from demure, the parrots flaunt multi-colored flowers with wild patterns on their twisted, crimped or cut-edged petals from mid- to late spring.

Plant parrot tulips in mid- to late fall in a somewhat protected area. (Their unusual petal forms make their flowers susceptible to wind damage.) These flamboyant beauties will be the center of attention in the garden or in spring bouquets.

Common name: Parrot tulip

Botanical name: Tulipa

Plant type: Bulb

Zones: 4 to 8

Height: 12 to 16 inches

Family: Liliaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun or part shade

• Soil: Well-drained loam or sandy loam

• Moisture: Provide even moisture; avoid overwatering when bulbs are dormant.

Care

• Mulch: None

• Pruning: Deadhead flowers when they fade.

• Fertilizer: Work in bone meal or other phosphorus fertilizer when planting bulbs; apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring.

Propagation

• None

Pests and diseases

• Deer and rabbits may eat tulips.

Cultivars

• ‘Apricot Parrot' has apricot yellow flowers highlighted with cream, pink and green.

• ‘Blue Parrot' has bluish violet flowers with a slight metallic sheen.

• ‘Estella Rijnveld' sports cherry red petals feathered with creamy white.

• ‘Rococo' has scarlet, burgundy and green flowers.

• ‘Texas Gold' has yellow-to-gold petals flamed with red edges.

Garden notes

• Combine parrot tulips with single late-flowering and double late-flowering (also known as peony-flowered) tulips or cool-season annuals like pansies and violas.

• Most hybrid tulips, including the parrots, will return for only a few years at most, so many gardeners replant new varieties each fall.

• Parrot tulips make exquisite cut flowers, but they have somewhat weak stems for their large blooms. Solve this problem by placing several twiggy cut branches (flowering cherries or crabapples work well) in the vase first, then work the tulip stems through the supporting twigs.

All in the family

• Parrot tulip is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae).

• Other garden bulbs in the lily family include lilies (Lilium spp.) and fritillaries (Fritillariaspp.)

• There are about 100 Tulipa species, most native to parts of Europe and western to central Asia.

Where to buy

• John Scheepers Beauty from Bulbs, johnscheepers.com

• Old House Gardens, oldhousegardens.com

• Wayside Gardens, waysidegardens.com