How to Grow Parrot Tulips

Parrot Tulip

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The parrot tulip is a truly unique and even whimsical plant thanks to its eye-catching variety of twisted, ruffled, or curled petals drenched in vivid color combinations. In fact, they resemble the colorful feathers of the tropical bird they are named for.

Though they are perennials by nature, the parrot tulip--as well as many other varieties of spring bulbs--are often grown as annuals. Parrot tulip aficionados know that these cultivated varieties typically lose their vigor after the first year.

Parrot tulips are large, fancy flowers that are a perfect addition to a flower bed or border where their exotic beauty can be fully showcased. There's an array of options when it comes to parrot tulips, ranging from petite four-inch botanical species to the giant 30-inch cultivated plants.

There are actually more than 50 different cultivars that are available in nearly all colors of the rainbow, from nearly black to pink, orange, red, purple, yellow, and white, as well as gorgeous multi-colored variations.

No matter the size, you can expect about a four-to six-inch spread. Parrot tulips are often interplanted with hostas, as they are leafy plants that can help shield their delicate stems and hide their foliage as the color fades into summer.

Botanical Name Tulipa Parrot
Common Name Parrot Tulip
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 5 inches across, 15-20 inch stems
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Chalky, loamy, and sandy soil
Soil pH 6-7
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Wide variety of bright colors
Hardiness Zones 3-8
Native Area France, Netherlands

Parrot Tulip Plants Care

For the most spectacular blooms, you'll want to choose the right location for your parrot tulips. Start by identifying a location that's somewhat sheltered from strong winds, and you may want to consider foundation planting since a building can provide additional shelter. Try to avoid northern placements for these plants.

They will grow best in well-drained soil when planted any time between early fall and November. Mulching can definitely come in handy when growing these bulbs as perennials. Two or three inches of mulch can be applied as the foliage turns brown and stars to wither, as this will provide extra insulation against both summer heat as well as the winter cold.

The good news is that these plants are virtually free of pests and disease. However, they can be easily killed by over-watering as well as hungry rodents.

Light

These plants will thrive when planted in full sun.

Water

Parrot tulips will only require one inch of water per week during the growing season. After that, they can easily succumb to water-logged soil, so be sure not to over-water these plants.

Soil

The parrot tulip will grow best in well-drained acid, alkaline, or neutral soil with a pH of 6-7.

Temperature and Humidity

Generally speaking, parrot tulips are not as tolerant of temperature extremes as some other varieties of spring bulbs. They also cannot withstand high winds or drenching rain, though their stems have become considerably stronger than they once were due to continued cultivation.

When heavy storms are predicted, you can save your plants by covering them with large, lightweight containers (ideally weighed down with bricks or rocks).

Fertilizer

Parrot tulip bulbs can be fertilized with a balanced, slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer. You'll want to fertilize in the spring before the plants being to sprout, and then fertilize again in the fall.

Potting and Repotting

The bulbs of a parrot tulip can vary greatly in size. You'll want to plant them about four to six inches deep (just be sure to leave two to six inches in between each bulb), whether in pots or the garden.

Propagating Parrot Tulips

Bulb division is the most common method of propagation for parrot tulips and other similar blooms. Autumn is the best time to propagate these plants from bulbs because they will require a long chilling period before blooming.

Varieties of Parrot Tulips

  • Apricot Parrot: Oversized apricot and pink petals streaked with green and yellow
  • Black Parrot: Deep purple petals with feathered edges
  • Rococo: Flame-like petals of red and orange with scalloped edges

Pruning

If they've been grown as perennials, be sure to cover these plants with mulch after the foliage dies. If you're planting parrot tulips as annuals, you can lift them when they’ve finished blooming and plant new bulbs in the fall.

Planting in Containers

When planting parrot tulips in containers, you can choose tall containers on either side of an entryway, or even in a foundation bed. That way you can take full advantage of their vibrant beauty while the plants take advantage of the shelter provided by your home.