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Plant Profile: Fire Flame Tulip (Tulipa acuminata)

This tulip is so strange that I am tempted to call it bizarre. The bright orange color streaked with yellow is only part of its appeal; the petals are long, thin, and twisted and resemble attenuated claws. Although the plants are 12-18” tall they are somewhat delicate in appearance probably due to the unobtrusive nature of the leaves. You will probably find this tulip listed with the species tulips for lack of a better place to put it as it is probably a hybrid that was bred hundreds of years ago in Turkey. It was introduced into the gardening world by 1813 and so is considered a heirloom tulip. It naturalizes well in an environment that suits it.  Flame tulip is 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, acuminata, is the Latin word meaning tapering into a long narrow point and refers to the appearance of the petals.

Type: Bulb

Bloom: Four inch orange and yellow flower with twisted petals in mid spring

Foliage: Two to seven linear gray-green leaves about 12” long.

Size: 12-18” tall

Light: Full sun

Soil: Fertile, well-drained.

Hardiness: Zones 3-8 (best in 4-6 and where summers are hot and dry and winters are cold)

Care: Remove faded flowers and allow foliage to die naturally.

Pests and Diseases: Susceptible slugs, snails, aphids, nematodes, gray mold, bulbs may rots in wet or poorly drained soil.

Propagation: Plant offsets in summer; seeds possible but take several year to produce flowering bulbs.

Companion plants: Plants tend to be lanky and profit from companion plants that can give them some support.

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