In the 17th century, the parrot tulip was the subject of many paintings. People were absolutely mad about these flowers in 1665; everyone wanted them. But why shouldn’t they? After all, a parrot tulip is a magnificent living work of art, and each one is more luxurious than the next. Even after their peak stage of flowering, they still make a fascinating sight. It’s no wonder they were named for such a brightly coloured bird: the parrot. Although available in many solid colours, it’s probably the bicoloured varieties that attract the most attention. What makes them even more unique is that all their flowers display a little bit of green.
Parrot tulips are actually a nice little gift from Mother Nature. This is because their bizarre flower shapes aren’t the result of human breeding efforts but occur as spontaneous mutations of an ordinary tulip. They are known for their imposing flowers that can reach a diameter of 12 centimetres and that feature contrasting black stamens. Their petals are twisted or have deeply fringed margins and are often bicoloured displaying flamed markings or a chaotic intermingling of colours. Beautiful jewels for the garden.
These pretty prima donnas take their time to appear on stage; parrot tulips don’t flower until late April / early May. But the wait is well worth it. To discover how special they are, plant them in the garden from September through December. Be sure to give them a spot in full sun or partial shade. Once their long elegant stems reach heights of up to 50 centimetres, their flowers will follow. The warmth of the sun helps the buds open slowly but surely to finally reveal larger and larger petals in dazzling colours.
- Did you know that parrot tulips will also thrive in pots and plant containers?
- If you have a vegetable or cutting garden, plant a lot of them; when they start to bloom, pick them for use as cut flowers.