Despite their nearly compulsory presence in cool spring gardens and fragile bouquets of buxom, long-necked beauties, tulips in the wild are an altogether different breed of much stronger stuff. Native to harsh landscapes in hard-to-reach corners of the world, they’re often found clinging to barren mountain ledges exposed to wind, cold, and drought.
Species tulips are tough.
Smaller and shorter than the more often planted hybrids, what species tulips lack in stature they make up for in resilience. They thrive on neglect and beautifully blend with naturalistic plantings where hybrid tulips would appear grossly out of place.
Whether or not you grow tulips, most of us have a soft spot for this traditional symbol of spring. And now, thanks to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and U.S. bulb seller Colorblends, we can explore images of rare species tulips in their remote mountain native habitats. The contrast of harsh habitat and colorful tulips featured on www.tulipsinthewild.com makes for some breathtaking photographs, most shot in the wilds of the Himalayan, Caucasus, Tien Shan, Elburz and Pamir mountain ranges of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Plant species tulips in fall. Provide full sun and good drainage; rocky or lean sandy soils are ideal and most closely approximate their native conditions. Plant in scattered bunches in those forgotten parts of the garden: along alleyways, in a gravel pathway, and mixed in with groundcover sedum and succulents that also thrive in hot dry locations. Protect from foraging animals, turn off the hose or sprinkler in the summer, and enjoy these wild jewels of spring. Hardy in USDA Zones 3-7; (pre-chill 7b-10).
The flower of Tulipa batalini ‘Bright Gem’ is a warm yellow-butterscotch color ripening to bronze. Native to the Pamir-Alay Mountains of Central Asia, the plants are 6-inches tall and bloom in late spring.
Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’ is a multi-flowering tulip with red-flecked pumpkin-colored flowers that open wide in the sun to display blue-black stamens at the heart. Native to the Gissar Mountains of Tajikistan, the plants are 12-inches tall and bloom in early to mid-spring.
The petals of Tulipa clusiana ‘Tubergen’s Gem’ are pure yellow, brushed with crimson on the outside. When warmed by the sun, the flowers open wide into a bright golden star. Native to Afghanistan and Tibet, the plants are 8-inches tall and bloom in mid-spring.
Tulipa ‘Little Princess’ has orange flowers brushed with flecks of deeper orange and red centered with a blue-black heart edged in yellow. This is a Dutch hybrid of two wild tulips: Tulipa hageri (native to Crete) and T. aucheriana (native to Iran). The plants are 4-inches tall and bloom in mid- to late-spring.
Tulipa tarda is a multi-flowering tulip with bright yellow star-shaped flowers, edged in white. Native to the Tien Shan Mountains bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China, this 5-inch tall mid-spring bloomer is a good perennializer.
Tulipa turkestanica is a multi-flowering tulip that produces four to eight small white flowers with a golden eye per stem; plant in generous numbers to enjoy its sweet fragrance. Native to Turkestan, the plants are 8-inches tall and bloom in early spring.
The shiny scarlet flowers of Tulipa linifolia open wide, nearly flat, in the sun, creating a starburst of reddest-red centered on a jet-black heart. Native to Central Asia, the plants are 8-inches tall and bloom in late spring.
For more images of rare wild tulips in their native habitats, visit www.tulipsinthewild.com.