Most modern tulip cultivars bloom well for only 3 or 4 years. These include the popular, large-flowering tulip divisions like single and double early, single and double late, triumph, parrot, and fringed types. Their vigor declines each year, eventually leading to plants with leaves and no blooms. For this reason, these tulip types are often treated as annuals. They are planted each fall with the intent of replacing them. After bloom, bulbs can be removed and composted. The following October, new and different cultivars can be planted to provide a completely different show the following spring.
However, some tulip types (classes) bloom well over a longer period. These varieties make better long-term additions to the garden and will bloom each season reliably. Choose from the following types if you want perennial-type tulips with attractive flowers.
Darwin hybrid tulips are generally the longest-blooming hybrid tulip. Darwin hybrid tulips are prized for their large, brilliant flowers. Flowers are available in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. Blooms are borne on stems that are up to 30 inches tall. Darwin hybrid tulips bloom in mid-season.
Popular cultivars include:
- 'Apeldoorn' (cherry red)
- 'Come Back' (dark red)
- 'Daydream' (yellow to apricot-orange)
- 'Golden Apeldoorn' (primrose yellow)
- 'Golden Parade' (buttercup yellow)
- 'Ollioules' (rose with silvery white edges)
- 'Parade' (signal red)
- 'Pink Impression' (rose pink)
- 'Red Impression' (bright red).
Fosteriana tulips also perennialize well. They are noted for their large, elongated flowers. Flowers appear in early spring on 10- to 20-inch-tall stems. Foliage is typically green or gray-green. However, a few cultivars have mottled or striped foliage. Fosteriana tulips are also known as Emperor tulips.
Popular cultivars include:
- 'Albert Heijn' (rose pink)
- 'Juan' (bright orange with yellow base)
- 'Madame Lefeber' (red)
- 'Orange Emperor' (soft orange)
- 'Purissima' (white)
- 'Yellow Purissima' (canary yellow).
Species tulips are generally the longest-lived tulips. Some naturalize when given favorable growing conditions. Species tulips include wild tulip species and cultivars developed from these wild species. Species tulips are usually smaller than modern tulips. They also have smaller flowers. Species tulips are excellent for rock gardens and in the front of beds and borders. They are also sometimes referred to as botanical tulips.
Popular species/cultivars include:
- Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' (lilac pink with yellow heart)
- Tulipa batalinii 'Bright Gem' (sulfur yellow flushed with orange)
- Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane' (red and white)
- Tulipa clusiana 'Cynthia' (red-edged chartreuse yellow)
- Tulipa linifolia (bright red)
- Tulipa 'Peppermint Stick' (red and white)
- Tulipa praestans 'Fusilier' (orange-red)
- Tulipa tarda (yellow and white)