There are about 4,000 identified varieties of tulips, so no matter your preferences, you should be able to find a tulip variety to fit your needs. It will help, though, if you know some of the basics of how tulips are classified.
Each of the 4,000 tulip varieties can first be described based on when they bloom–either early, mid, or late spring.
Within those broad classifications, tulip varieties are further broken down by the characteristics of the flower and leaves. The current classification system contains 15 groups.
- Single Early: These range from ten to 20 inches tall and have one large flower which blooms in early spring.
- Double Early: These grow from ten to 12 inches tall and the flower itself closely resembles a peony or rose.
- Triumph: This tulip grows from 12 to 14 inches tall and is basically a cross between a single early and a single late. It blooms in mid spring.
- Single Late: These are among the tallest of the tulip varieties, often reaching heights of 32 inches. As the name suggests, these tulips produce a single flower which blooms late in the season.
- Lily Flowered: These tulips stand between 20 and 26 inches tall and produce a narrow bloom with pointed petals.
- Fringed: This group can grow as tall as 32 inches, and produces blooms with fringed petal edges. They bloom in very late spring, sometimes lasting into early summer.
- Viridiflora: These tulips are distinguished by the green streaks on their petals. They can reach heights of 30 inches, and bloom in late spring to early summer.
- Rembrandt: This group produces flowers with colorful streaks and blotches, a result of a harmless virus. They can grow as tall as 32 inches, and bloom in the late spring to early summer.
- Parrot Tulips: This group is marked by blooms with wavy-edged petals, often of two colors. They bloom in the late spring, and can last into early summer.
- Double Late: These are similar to Double Early in that they resemble peonies. They bloom in late spring.
- Kaufmanniana Hybrids: Tulips in this group produce a waterlily-like flower which opens flat. Their stems are short, only reaching four to ten inches in height. They bloom in very early spring.
- Fosteriana Hybrids: This group of plants produce blooms which are narrow when closed, and open fully in bright sun. The bloom in mid spring, and reach a height of up to 16 inches. They are known for their bright colors and large blooms. They flower in mid spring.
- Greigii Hybrids: This group is characterized by wavy-edged, striped leaves. They typically grow to be 12 inches tall, and flower in early to mid spring.
- Species Tulips: This group covers a wide range of plant and flower sizes and shapes. Most are best suited for pots, as they tend to be smaller than their modern hybrid cousins.
When planning your tulip beds, it’s helpful to know what group your bulbs belong to. With a little care, you can have tulips blooming in your yard all season!