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Tulipa clusiana

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Tulipa aitchisonii
Phonetic Spelling
Too-li-pa kloo-zee-AN-uh
Description

Lady tulip is an early spring blooming perennial bulb. They have grayish-green foliage, and the tender stems have graceful vaselike white to cream blooms edged in dark pink or red. They typically bloom in March and measure 3/4 to 1 feet tall.  They perform best in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7 with moist winters and warm dry summers. They naturalize easily and with time produce larger colonies. They are members of the Liliaceae or lily family. 

The lady tulip is a native of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Western Himalayas.

The genus name, Tulipa, is Latin, but it is derived from the Turkish word tulbend which means "turban." The species name, clusiana, is in honor of a Flemish physician and botanist, Carolus Clusius. 

The lady tulip prefers full sun and fertile, well-drained soils of chalk, loam, and sand. They grow best in alkaline or neutral soils in a sheltered location. The bulbs should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep in mid-fall to late fall. It is recommended to space the bulbs 4 to 5 inches apart. They perform well in rock gardens and containers. During the summer, the spent foliage should be removed. They may be propagated by seeds, naturalization, or division. If propagated by seeds, it may take 4 to 7 years to produce flowers.

Each bulb produces 2 to 5 linear leaves, up to 6 inches in height, and will sometimes have wavy edges. The flowers measure 4 inches across. Initially, the flower is bowl-shaped and becomes more star-shaped. They have tepals with pointed tips. The interior of the flower is white or cream with a purple blotch at the base and purple stamens. The exterior of the bloom is white or cream, and the outer tepals are edged in dark pink to red. The blossoms will close at night or on dark cloudy days. On bright sunny days, they open and are star-shaped.

The lady tulip or one of its cultivars would make a beautiful addition to a home garden or urban/courtyard garden to signal the approach of spring. Consider using them in a flower bed or border, patio planting in containers, rock gardens, and cottage gardens. Mass plantings are truly vibrant and eye-catching. Beware that squirrels, deer, mice, and voles like them too!

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Spring    Foliage: Spring

Quick ID Hints:

  • perennial bulb with a clumping habit and tender stems
  • 2 to 5 narrow, linear, smooth, grayish-green leaves up to 6-10 inches long
  • bowl-shaped flowers are about 4 inches wide of white or cream with deep pink or red-edged outer tepals
  • interior of the flower is solid white with a small purple blotch at the base and purple stamens
  • in sunlight the flowers open to form a star shape
  • the flowers close at night or on dark cloudy days

Pests, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The lady tulip has no serious insect or disease issues. Aphids, slugs, and snails may be seen. Gray squirrels, mice, voles, and deer are attracted and may eat the bulbs or plants. Diseases such as tulip fire, tulip gray bulb rot, and viruses can occur. Blue mold may develop on stored bulbs. In poorly drained soils, root or bulb rot may also occur.

The bulbs should not be ingested. When handling the bulbs, it is best to wear gloves and use other protective equipment to prevent skin allergies.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Cynthia'
    pale yellow bloom with pink to red edged tepals, solid yellow interior, dark yellow center, and bluish foliage
  • 'Lady Jane'
    Rosy red exterior with ivory white petal margins, interior ivory white with yellow base, green foliage with pink edges
  • 'Peppermint Stick'
    alternating bright pink and white tepals
  • 'Tinka'
    yellow tulip with red outer tepals
  • var. chrysantha
    Rosy red to scarlet tepals edged with yellow
'Cynthia', 'Lady Jane', 'Peppermint Stick', 'Tinka', var. chrysantha
Tags:
#cultivars#bulb#showy flowers#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#perennial bulbs#red flowers#colorful#low maintenance#spring flowers#cottage garden#mass planting#well-drained soil#naturalizes#rock garden#border planting#cutting garden#clumping#gray-green leaves#patio planting#spring flowering bulbs#black walnut toxicity tolerant#contact dermatitis#container#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Cynthia'
    pale yellow bloom with pink to red edged tepals, solid yellow interior, dark yellow center, and bluish foliage
  • 'Lady Jane'
    Rosy red exterior with ivory white petal margins, interior ivory white with yellow base, green foliage with pink edges
  • 'Peppermint Stick'
    alternating bright pink and white tepals
  • 'Tinka'
    yellow tulip with red outer tepals
  • var. chrysantha
    Rosy red to scarlet tepals edged with yellow
'Cynthia', 'Lady Jane', 'Peppermint Stick', 'Tinka', var. chrysantha
Tags:
#cultivars#bulb#showy flowers#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#perennial bulbs#red flowers#colorful#low maintenance#spring flowers#cottage garden#mass planting#well-drained soil#naturalizes#rock garden#border planting#cutting garden#clumping#gray-green leaves#patio planting#spring flowering bulbs#black walnut toxicity tolerant#contact dermatitis#container#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Tulipa
    Species:
    clusiana
    Family:
    Liliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Bulb
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Northern Iraq to the West Himalaya
    Distribution:
    Native: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and West Himalaya; Introduced: East Aegean Island, France, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States--CA,
    Wildlife Value:
    Deer, gray squirrels, mice, and voles are attracted to the bulbs and may use them as a food source.
    Play Value:
    Colorful
    Easy to Grow
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Black Walnut and Drought
    Edibility:
    The plant or bulbs are harmful if ingested.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Bulb
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers appear from March to April and are bowl-shaped and become star-shaped. They measure 4 inches across and have tepals with pointed tips. The flower is white to cream-colored. The exterior of the tepals is edged in dark pink to red. The interior of the flower is white or cream with a purple blotch in the base and purple stamens. The flowers are usually solitary.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The foliage is 2 to 5 narrow, linear, smooth, grayish-green leaves that measure up to 6-10 inches long. The edges of the leaf may appear wavy.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The stems are slender and grayish-green. The flower blooms atop the stem.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Drought
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis