Most of what we’re familiar with in this country are hybrid tulips with large showy blooms. But equally beautiful are the species tulips. They’re small and have grown wild for thousands of years unimproved or hybridized. In my garden, I grow several varieties, like Tulipa clusiana, Tulipa saxatilis and Tulipa tarda. Last fall I planted T. clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ bulbs under a mass of English ivy. In the spring a bouquet of rose colored blooms with white piping emerged. They were particularly impressive late in the afternoon when the flowers were fully open, revealing a pure white interior. I also appreciated the textural contrast of the delicate blooms combined with the heavier ivy foliage.
Because species tulips are more reliably perennial, they don’t need to be re-planted every year. Plant them just as you would other tulip bulbs, except because of their perennial nature, choose areas that are a little bit out of the way so they won’t be disturbed. When you purchase species tulips, make sure they are grown from cultivated stock. This should be clearly indicated on the packaging. This is important because many populations of wild tulips have been depleted in their native environment of Turkey.