When tulip time rolls around I especially look forward to the bloom of the candlestick tulip, a species tulip that has the wonderful capacity to return, even multiply, in my zone 7 garden. Species tulips do not have the size or vivid colors of the more popular kinds but their delicate colors and smaller size make them a wonderful addition to my secret garden where it blooms with grape hyacinths, Hawera narcissus, and both white and pink bleeding heart. T. clusiana varieties are good bulbs for the South since they do not seem to require the extensive chilling period that their more demanding cousins need (chilling may be required in zones warmer that 8). Candlestick tulip a member of the lily family, Liliaceae, that also includes fritillaria. The genus name, Tulipa, is the latinized version of the Turkish word for turban, Tulbend, referring to the resemblance of the flower to a turban. The specific epithet, clusiana, honors Carolus Clusius (1526-1609) Flemish Botanish and polymath.
Bloom: Rosy-red buds emerge in mid season (late march-early April in zone 7) and open to show white margins on the exterior of the petals and creamy white interiors.
Size: 6”-18”H x 4”W
Light: Full sun.
Soil: Well drained light soil on the dry side especially during the summer; neutral to slightly acid.
Fertilizer: Treat as any bulb, spreading a balanced fertilizer when the plants first emerge and then again after flowering.
Hardiness: Zones 4-8.
Care: Allow the foliage to die before removing so that it can manufacture food for next year’s plant.
Pests and Diseases: None of significance.
Propagation: Offset are produced after flowering and may be harvested.
Companion plants: Alyssum, viola, grape hyacinth, white standard hyacinths, silver thyme.
Outstanding Selections: There are three other Tulipa clusiana that are great garden plants and available by mail order. All three are reported to be hardy in zones 3-9 and are a little shorter than “Lady Jane’. ‘Cynthia’ is long-lasting with pointed yellow and red flowers. Var. chrysantha is a good naturalizer and has vibrant yellow flowers flushed with warm rose on the petals edges. Var. chrysantha ‘Tubergen’s Gem’ has sot red outer petals, and a bright canary-yellow interior.