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Time for Tulips: 7 Things About Tulips You May Not Know

The arrival of tulips signifies the start of spring. These beautiful blooms are an excellent way to brighten your indoor decor with a cheery arrangement, as well as add color and curb appeal to your home’s landscaping.

At Illinois Willows, we typically bring tulips to market in beginning in February, and continue to offer them as we move outdoors in May. Around Mother’s Day, when the weather starts to get warmer, we will transition from tulips to our summer offerings.

Despite being the flower of the season, there are quite a few things about tulips that you may not have known...until now.

There are actually thousands of different types of tulips!

There are over 3,000 registered varieties of tulips. Within these varieties, there are 15 groups, based mostly on the flower type, size, and blooming period. The 15 groups are as follows: single early, double early, triumph, darwin, single late, lily-flowered, fringed, viridiflora, rembrandt, parrot, double late or peony-flowered, kaufmanniana hybrids, fosteriana hybrids, greigii hybrids, and species or botanicals.

Illinois Willows grows six colors of tulips At Illinois Willows we grow Darwin tulips. These tulips provide a really classic tulip shape, with a broad base and slightly more narrowed top. They’re ideal for cut flower arrangements because they stand tall and have big, showy flowers. Within this category of tulips we offer six gorgeous colors of tulips. Check our Facebook and Instagram to keep tabs on what colors we will have each week at the farmers market!

Symbolize love and the arrival of spring. Tulips symbolize love. Some people also believe that they symbolize rebirth because they are the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Digging even deeper into symbolism, certain colors of tulips have specific meanings. White tulips symbolize forgiveness, yellow cheerfulness, purple royalty, red everlasting love, and pink confidence and happiness. Lastly, tulips are the flower associated with the 11th wedding anniversary.

From the Lily Family. Tulips are part of the Lily family, another popular spring flower (and also offered by Illinois Willows). And, both tulips and lilies are related to onions. It’s a good thing both flowers don’t carry over the fragrance that comes from an onion!

Tulips are actually edible! Although we would rather admire tulips than eat them - they are in fact, edible. During World War II tulip flower petals were consumed as a result of the Dutch famine. Although the height of tulip consumption ended in the mid-1940’s, they are still sometimes used to garnish salads and other delicate spring vegetables dishes.

Can be both annual and perennial. The tulips grown at Illinois Willows are annuals. We harvest them when there is just a touch of color on the bud or bloom. Why? By harvesting at this exact point in their lifecycle they will provide the customer with the longest vase life.

Tulips are also perennials, which you may have beginning to peek out of the ground in your own yard. Cold winters and hot summers are the perfect conditions to nurture perennial tulips, which is why they thrive here in Central Illinois. If you grow perennial tulips in your flower beds, and want to cut them for an arrangement, be sure to do so when the bloom is fully colored but not yet opened. Cutting the tulips at this point will allow them to continue to develop and open even after you cut and vase them.

How to care for and handle your tulips. Tulips can last for quite some time if you keep a few things in mind in regards to their care and handling. When you bring your tulips home, snip off a little bit of the bottom of the stem, doing so at a slight angle. Be sure to use cold water in your vase rather than warm water. Bulb flowers respond best to cold water. Change the water out every 2-3 days, and snip just a little more from the bottom of the stem each water change. Keep your arrangement away from direct sunlight and away from heat sources. Tulips are phototrophic, meaning they follow sunlight. Keep this in mind as you find the perfect location in your home for your arrangement. You may notice the flowers begin to chase the sun, so you’ll need to rotate your vase if you’d like to keep the tulips standing upright. Speaking of standing upright, a taller vase will ensure that your tulips stand tall as they begin to bloom, rather than bend. However, no matter how you arrange your tulips, they’ll be sure to provide a happy and elegant addition to your home or office.

Visit our booth at Urbana’s Market at the Square (Saturdays from May-October) or Market in the Square (Saturdays from November-April). Check out our other seasonal product offerings here available at the farmers market, by special order, and for wholesale. And be sure to keep up with Illinois Willows on Facebook and Instagram.


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