Native to rocky and stony areas in the mountains of Iran and northern Iraq,  mountain tulip is a perennial bulb and a member of the lily family, Liliaceae, that also includes fritillaria.   Plants grow 4-8″ tall and have linear , blue-green, glaucous leaves with  undulating margins.  The cup-shaped flowers are 2-4″ across, usually a shade of red from scarlet and crimson to blood-red, and have a greenish-black blotch in the center and yellow anthers.   The blooms appear on short stems in early spring, early summer, or mid summer depending on the geographical location.   A yellow form exists in the wild. 

Mountain tulip is one of several plants that is thought to be intended by the translation “rose of Sharon”.  Other strong possibilities include Narcissus tazetta and Tulipa sharonensis (Sharon tulip).  All authorities agree that the plant is not a true rose and is not one of the plants Americans know as rose of Sharon.

Song of Songs 2:1 (NKJV) The bride tells her bridgroom:

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”

Mountain tulips like full sun, and average, moderately moist, well-drained soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.  They are susceptible to damage by  aphids, slugs, stem and bulb eelworm, tulip fire, tulip viruses, and bulb rots.  Propagation is by seed or division of off sets in mid summer.  The plants are especially attractive when massed and  are a good choice for rock, cottage, and patio gardens as well as containers.

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, montana, comes from the Latin word mons, meaning mountain, and refers to the native habitat of the plant.

By Karen