SPECIES TULIPS - Tulipa turkestanica
Looking more like a miniature daffodil, the Turkistan tulip is an absolute gem of a plant. Although strictly an alpine tulip, it seems to grow well in most soils as long as it’s able to remain in the sun.
It’s not shy on flowering either with each stem producing as many as nine flower buds at a time. On established plants these fragrant, star shaped flowers are so numerous that they can create a cushion of colour that ranges from antique cream to pure white. Each one is contrasted by an orange or yellow centre, and shows up against a backdrop of tough, narrow, and bluish-green leaves. Strangely the stamens on cultivated stock display a deep, reddish-brown colour whereas the anthers on wild stock are yellow with only the tips showing the reddish-brown colouration.
The most noticeable and typical trait of all true alpine plants is to do with their flowers as they are almost always far larger than the size of their leaves - each one can be up to 1 ¼ inch long in the case of Tulipa turkestanica. As a native to the mountains of Iran and Turkestan alpine tulips have evolved other modifications to tolerate the cold, drought, and poor quality soils that this environment has to offer. As well as producing comparatively large and colourful flowers to attract the few pollinating insects found at these altitudes, they also produce a thick, hard protective outer layer that helps to protect the apical bud from the worst of the mountain weather.
Rock gardens are an ideal place to grow the Turkestan tulip, it’s just a matter of adding a couple of handfuls of horticultural grit to the existing soil and then to give them a top dressing of whatever grit or ornamental gravel you are using for the rest of your alpine plants. However, if you intend to grow this beautlful alpine tulip at the front of your borders then just make sure they get full sun and are planted in a free draining soil. If not, then - as with the rockery – mix in a couple of handfuls of horticultural grit before planting.
As a species tulip it will reproduce true from seed, and in fact will readily self-seed around the garden should you allow it to. You will need to be quick if you want to collect seed as Tulipa Turkestanica is one of the earliest tulips to come into flower. Typically these will appear in March but depending on seasonal weather they have been known to flower as early as February.
For Further information click onto:
How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
How to Over-Winter Rare and Species Tulips
How to Propagate Tulips
Lost Tulips of the Dutch Golden Age- Semper Augustus and Viceroy
Old, Broken and Unususal Tulip Varieties
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip Duc van Thol 'Rose'
Old Dutch Tulips - Tulip 'Lac van Rijn'
Species Tulip - Tulipa acuminata
Species Tulip - Tulipa wilsoniana
Top Tips For Tulip Care
Tulip History and Popular Varieties
Tulip 'Semper Augustus' - does it still exist?