Nothing says spring like Tulips planted en masse, and there are so many varieties available around the world.  Some have fringed petals whilst others are often mistake for peonies. Some are even delicately scented and then there are the single red and yellow tulips that spring to mind when you think of tulips. Tulips are super easy to grow and will grow anywhere in New Zealand.  We have only a couple of varieties available at the moment - ones that we love to grow but we hope to add more to our range as we trial them here at Puriri Lane in our floral workshops which we hope to bring back later this year after a long absence as a result of a certain virus!  Tulips are both a mainstay of the spring cutting garden and one of the most popular cut flowers.
We are going to take you through a bit of the history around tulips and a few tips and tricks for growing them which we hope you enjoy.


The Latin name for Tulip is Tulipa and the flower originates from Kazakhstan. In the 16th century a part of Kazakhstan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The leader of the Ottoman Empire was Sultan Suleyman the First.

Tulips in the wild in Kazakhstan

Puriri Lane | Wild Tulips In Kazakhstan

The tulip was discovered in the mountains of Kazakhstan and they were very impressed with its beauty. Some tulips were brought to present-day Turkey and planted in the gardens of the most powerful people in the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople, now Istanbul, was in the 16th century one of the most beautiful cities in the world and important for its commerce and culture. The city had the most beautiful gardens where many people came to admire the flowers. Every year when the tulips were in bloom, a big party was given by the Sultan.

Tulipa gesneriana, one of the parent species of modern tulip cultivars.

Puriri Lane | Tulipa species

The tulip became very popular and was a symbol of power and wealth. To express this Ottoman sultans wore a tulip on their turban. Because the tulip also seemed very much like the original turban is the tulip name derived from the Persian word 'tulipan' which means turban.

In the 17th century (1634-1637) the tulip craze (also known as tulip mania) burst. There was a lot of demand for tulips and they became more and more expensive.  A single tulip bulb at one point had the value of an Amsterdam canalhouse. It could not continue at this pace and in  1637 the tulip craze stopped just as quickly as it had begun. There were many people that had become very rich as a result of it but many speculators were destitute.

Multicolored tulips were among the most valued in the Netherlands in the 17th century, here illustrated in this Hans Bollongier painting from 1639Puriri Lane | Hans Bollongier Painting 1639

The first tulips had flamed flowers, as painted by Rembrandt van Rijn and many other famous Dutch painters of the 17th century. These flames were the result of a viral infection. Flamed tulips today, as Helmar and Rem's Favourite both of which you can see below which are healthy tulips whose flame is genetic - neither unfortunately are available in New Zealand

Tulipa :: Rems Favourite - A flame which is genetic

Puriri Lane | Tulipa Tems Favourite

Tulipa :: Helmar - Yellow with a dark red flame - also genetic

Puriri Lane | Tulipa Helmar

Growers of these tulip bulbs gave them names reflecting status and nobility, such as Semper Augustus and Viceroy which were two of the most famous Tulips in history

 Tulip Semper Augustus - the most famous and coveted TulipPuriri Lane | Tulips

The flowers were introduced into Western Europe and the Netherlands in the late 16th century. In the 1590s, a gentleman by the name of Clusius became the director of the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden,  which was the oldest botanical garden of Europe and founded in 1587. Clusius was hired by the University of Leiden to research medicinal plants. While doing so, his friend in Turkey, Ogier Ghiselain de Busbecq, the ambassador of Constantinople which is now Istanbul, had seen the beautiful tulip flowers growing in the palace gardens, and so sent a few to Clusius for his garden in Leiden. This was the start of the bulb fields in the Netherlands that can be seen today.

In the beginning of the 17th century, the tulip was starting to be used as a  decorative garden plant and it soon gained major popularity as a trading product, especially in Holland. The interest for the flowers was huge and bulbs were sold for unbelievably high prices.

Tulips are grown on an extremely large scale, especially in the Netherlands where their history goes back to the end of the sixteenth century - That was when the first tulips were noticed growing in the vicinity of Leiden.

Now, more than 400 years later, billions of tulips are being cultivated, the vast majority of them in Holland.

The “garden tulips” that we know of today are the result of hybridization in which the species Tulipa gesneriana played an important role. Now there are more than 3,000 cultivated varieties registered, and more exciting varieties being added each year to replace older ones.

Today, the cultivation of tulips in the Netherlands is one of the most important industries of the country. Netherlands is the world producer where there are about 3500 registered tulip growers who produce about billions of bulbs annually and export to more than 80 countries worldwide annually.

 Keukenhof Gardens :: LissePuriri Lane | Keukenhof Gardens | Netherlands


Tulips are incredibly hardy, and will grow in any part of New Zealand.

Tulip is an enormous genus, consisting of approximately 75 species. Tulips are native to areas including the Middle East and the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. These regions have long cold winters and hot, bone-dry summers, and these are the conditions in which Tulips perennialize or return year after year most successfully. In New Zealand it’s difficult, if not impossible, to replicate these climatic conditions, and as a result, we recommend that Tulips are treated as annuals. Plant the bulbs in autumn and, enjoy their colorful blossoms in spring, and when the flowers subside, remove the plants, including the bulbs, and compost or discard them.

The advantages of doing this are that you won’t spend weeks of spring waiting for second- or third-year Tulips that don’t bloom and you also  won’t spend weeks looking at yellowing Tulip foliage in your garden.  In addition to this you can look forward to the delight of choosing new varieties, colors, and forms each season to refresh your garden display.

The beautiful tulip Wyndham that we grew last year - you can find bulbs of this 
vintage cream tulip with berry coloured flares available for sale here 



Tulips love colder climates, but also perform very well in warmer climates.  If you are not somewhere with a cold climate, we recommend chilling your Tulip Bulbs for 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting. This will trick them into thinking they are having their Winter period, and prolong their stems and Flowering period.

If you’re chilling them as we do, you should leave them in their paper bags, and pop into your fridge around early April - taking them out to plant late April to June. Keep an eye on your Bulbs as they are being chilled as you don’t want them to go moldy.

A great read on Growing bulbs by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew


Puriri Lane | Growing Bulbs


Plant your Tulip bulbs in a sunny site with very well-drained soil.

Be sure to use a good quality potting mix, and mix in a bit of compost for good measure if you are planting in a pot or the garden.

Some of my pots planted with the beautiful Wyndham Puriri Lane | Pots with Tulips

My Spring pots

Puriri Lane | Spring Pots

Plant your Tulip Bulbs at about 10cm deep, with spacings of only 1 or 2cm’s as this will provide you with a beautiful display  as they look stunning planted en masse. Erin from Floret says plant them as close as eggs in a carton and we think that is just perfect too!

We plant our tulip bulbs in crates as we remove them for picking when ready

Puriri Lane | Tulip Bulb Planting

Water them in well and if growing in pots, site your pots in an area that gets full sun although partial shade is fine. It’s essential to keep watering them, as potting mix dries out quite quickly.

We tend to add a layer of fine mulch on top of our bulbs to help retain moisture as well as keeping the weeds out. Or if in pots I often underplant with pansies.

We have some great little bulb markers for any winter dormant bulbs so that you can mark where they are to avoid putting spade through them... you can find these here.

Puriri Lane :: Bulb Markers - Designed by us and made locally

Puriri Lane | Bulb Markers

A great tool for planting bulbs

Puriri Lane | Wolfgarten Bulb Planter

Pop on over to our Bulbs collection to see what is available this season.

If you love all things Tulips have a peek here as we have some beautiful limited Edition Tulip themed tinware and a whole host of of other lovely Tulip themed gifts and homewares great for gifting or treating yourself.

Happy Planting


Credits: History of the Tulip excerpts and some photos from The Tulip Store | Europe & Hub Pages all other photos from Puriri Lane

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