7 Colorful Tulips That Grow Well In Rhode Island

Written by Kathryn Koehler
Updated: July 20, 2023
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Growing tulips in Rhode Island is a satisfying activity that beautifies one’s outdoor space. The vibrant colors and graceful tulip blooms create a visual spectacle that brightens any landscape. From the early days of spring, when the first tulips emerge, to their dazzling display in full bloom, the experience of growing tulips is a joyous one. Witnessing bulbs you carefully planted in the fall transform into exquisite flowers in the spring is deeply rewarding. In Rhode Island’s temperate climate, where cool winters and mild springs prevail, tulips thrive and flourish, allowing you to enjoy their beauty year after year. Whether planted in beds, borders, or containers, tulips bring a hint of elegance and a burst of color that truly enhances the charm of your Rhode Island garden. Keep reading to discover seven colorful tulips that grow well in Rhode Island.

A Brief History of Tulips

Tulips have a rich and storied history dating back centuries. Central Asia is where tulips originated. Ancient civilizations, including Ottoman Empire and Persia, cultivated and revered tulips. They captivated Europe in the 16th century, particularly in the Netherlands, where Tulipmania ensued. Tulip bulbs became highly sought after and commanded exorbitant prices. The Dutch eventually established a thriving tulip industry and introduced many of the popular tulip varieties we know today.

21st Century Tulips

Several cultivars have been introduced since the Dutch began hybridizing tulips. Some of the more popular varieties include:

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  • Single early tulips: These are early-blooming tulips with cup-shaped flowers, often in solid colors or with contrasting edges.
  • Triumph tulips: This is the largest group with the most varieties. These mid-sized tulips have sturdy stems and a wide range of colors. They have a classic tulip shape and bloom in mid-spring.
  • Darwin hybrid tulips: Known for their large, bold blooms, these tulips have strong stems. They come in various colors and have a mid-to-late-spring blooming period.
  • Fringed tulips: These tulips have distinctive fringed or serrated edges. These add a feathery quality to the blooms. They come in a range of colors and bloom in mid-to-late-spring.
  • Parrot tulips: Recognized for their ruffled and twisted petals, parrot tulips often have vibrant and contrasting colors. They are flamboyant and bloom in mid-to-late-spring.
  • Lily-flowered tulips: These tulips have slender, pointed petals that curve outward, resembling the shape of a lily. They come in various colors and bloom in late spring.
  • Double late tulips: These tulips have densely packed, fully double blooms with layers of petals. Growers refer to them as peony-flowered tulips because of their double petals. They bloom in late spring and come in a range of colors.

Regardless of which variety you choose, you can’t go wrong. Each variety offers a splash of color and a dash of elegance to your spring garden. Mix and match for the most appealing display.

Tips For Growing

By following these general tips, you can create a beautiful tulip display in your Rhode Island garden, bringing color and vibrancy to the spring landscape. Plant tulip bulbs in the fall, ideally in September or October, before the ground freezes. This allows the bulbs to establish their root system before winter.
Choose a location that receives full to partial sunlight. Tulips thrive in well-drained soil, so ensure the planting area has good drainage to prevent waterlogged conditions. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds and incorporating organic matter, such as compost or manure, to improve soil structure and fertility. Plant tulip bulbs at a depth of approximately 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) deep. Place the bulbs with the pointed end facing up. Space them according to the recommended spacing for the specific variety.

Apply a layer of mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the planted bulbs to help conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Mulching is particularly beneficial during winter to protect the bulbs from extreme temperature fluctuations. once planted, water the bulbs thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture. Subsequently, monitor the soil moisture throughout the growing season and ensure the bulbs receive adequate water, particularly during dry periods.

If your soil quality is poor, you may wish to apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer. This provides nutrients for healthy bulb development. Additional fertilization may not be necessary in subsequent years if the soil is rich in organic matter. Tulip bulbs require a period of cold dormancy in which to set their blooms. In Rhode Island, the cold winter temperatures usually fulfill this requirement. It’s essential to leave the foliage intact after flowering, allowing it to wither naturally. The foliage helps replenish the bulb’s energy reserves for the following year’s blooms.

1. Green Wave

Tulipa ‘Green Wave’ is a parrot tulip. Growers recognize its distinctive coloration and eye-catching appearance. ‘Green Wave’ tulips feature striking cream-to-pink flowers rising out of a green base. The petals often display a mix of green and pink, creating a beautiful contrast and giving the flowers a truly distinctive look. The combination of green and pink adds a bit of intrigue to your garden space. This tulip variety typically grows to a height of 16-20 inches (40-50 cm).

‘Green Wave’ is classified as a mid-season bloomer, meaning it generally flowers in the middle of the tulip blooming period, which falls in mid-spring in Rhode Island. ‘Green Wave’ has strong stems, which provide excellent support for the flowers. The petals have a smooth texture and a slightly glossy appearance. Appreciated for its longevity, Tulipa ‘Green Wave’ can hold its vibrant color for an extended period. ‘Green Wave’ tulips make a statement when planted in groups or combined with other tulip varieties or spring-flowering bulbs. The striking green and creamy pink color combination creates captivating visual displays and complements a range of garden styles.

Tulip 'Green Wave' (Tulipa parrot) in spring garden

‘Green Wave’ tulips feature striking cream-to-pink flowers rising out of a green base.


2. Linifolia

Tulipa ‘Linifolia’, commonly known as the Bokhara tulip or flax-leaved tulip, features bright red flowers. The flowers have slender, elongated petals and a unique star-like appearance when fully open. The petals often have a black or dark purple base, which adds depth and contrast to the overall bloom. This species of tulip grows to a height of 6-10 inches (15-25 cm). It is an early bloomer, often one of the first tulips to flower in spring. ‘Linifolia’ tulips add a burst of vibrant color to the garden when other plants are just beginning to awaken from winter dormancy.

Tulipa ‘Linifolia’ is resilient and has naturalizing tendencies. It is a perennial species that can establish and multiply over time, forming impressive displays. ‘Linifolia’ tulips are also deer-resistant, making them a good choice for areas with deer populations. Due to their small stature and early blooming nature, ‘Linifolia’ tulips are ideal for rock gardens, borders, or containers. They can be planted in clusters to create eye-catching patches of vibrant red color. ‘Linifolia’ tulips also work well in naturalized settings, such as meadows or woodland gardens.

Tulipa linifolia 'Red Hunter'

‘Linifolia’ tulips feature bright red or scarlet flowers with a distinctive shape.


3. Orange Emperor

Tulipa ‘Orange Emperor’ is a popular and striking tulip variety known for its vibrant orange flowers.
‘Orange Emperor’ tulips showcase large, cup-shaped flowers with bright orange petals with peach and tangerine accents. These tulips add a bold and eye-catching element to garden displays. ‘Orange Emperor’ generally grows to a height of between 18 and 22 inches (45 and 55 cm). It is a mid-to-late-season bloomer, often flowering in the latter part of the tulip blooming period, which typically occurs in late spring.

Tulipa ‘Orange Emperor’s’ sturdy stems hold the flowers upright, even in windy conditions. The petals have a smooth texture and a glossy sheen. ‘Orange Emperor’ tulips have long-lasting blooms, which provide weeks of visual appeal in the garden. ‘Orange Emperor’ is a popular choice for gardeners who wish to add a burst of intense orange color to their spring gardens. Its bold blooms and reliable performance make it a standout choice for creating eye-catching floral displays.

Garden of Orange Emperor Tulips in bloom

Tulipa ‘Orange Emperor’s’ sturdy stems hold the flowers upright, even in windy conditions.

©Andrew Fletcher/Shutterstock.com

4. Candy Prince

A single early tulip variety, Tulipa ‘Candy Prince’ displays exquisite flowers with a charming color combination. The blooms typically have a blend of soft lavender-to-lilac. These subtle variations give the flowers depth. ‘Candy Prince’ grows 14-18 inches (35 -45 cm) tall. It is a mid-season bloomer, typically flowering in the mid-to-late-spring. Tulipa ‘Candy Prince’ is valued not only for its beauty but also for its durability. It boasts strong stems that can withstand wind and rain, ensuring the flowers remain upright and intact. The petals have a silky texture and a slight sheen, enhancing their overall appeal. These beauties are a wonderful addition to gardens, borders, and containers. Their sumptuous blooms create a lovely focal point and complement various spring garden designs.

Silvery-violet Single Early tulip Candy Prince flowers in a garden in April 2014

Tulipa ‘Candy Prince’ is valued not only for its beauty but also for its durability.

©Sergey V Kalyakin/Shutterstock.com

5. Ballade

Tulipa ‘Ballade’ features elegant, cup-shaped flowers with well-defined petals. The blooms typically have a rich and deep coloration, often described as a blend of purple, violet, or maroon. The inner petals have a slightly lighter shade, creating a subtle contrast. ‘Ballade’ tulips typically grow to a height of 12-18 inches (30-45 cm). They are mid-season bloomers, typically flowering in mid-spring. Tulipa ‘Ballade” is revered for its resilience. ‘Ballade’ exhibits good weather resistance, making it suitable for coastal gardens. It holds up well in both sunny and partially shaded locations. With its eye-catching blooms and strong stems, Tulipa ‘Ballade’ is a popular choice for garden beds, borders, and containers. It adds vibrant color and elegance to spring gardens and can be combined with other tulip varieties, spring bulbs, or perennials for visually appealing displays.

Ballade tulips blooming

Tulipa ‘Ballade’ features elegant, cup-shaped flowers with well-defined petals.

©blue caterpillar/Shutterstock.com

6. Tulipa ‘Prinses Irene’

This single early variety features large, elegant flowers with a cup-like shape. ‘Prinses Irene’s petals are a rich orange-yellow color with puce flames. The combination of orange and puce creates a striking display. ‘Prinses Irene’ tulips grow 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) tall. They are known as mid-season tulips, blooming in the springtime. ‘Prinses Irene’ tulips are suitable for gardens, borders, and containers. They also make lovely cut flowers for floral arrangements. Tulipa ‘Prinses Irene’ is named in honor of Princess Irene of the Netherlands. The naming of tulip varieties after members of royal families or individuals of significance is a common practice in the horticultural world.

Tulip Princess Irene, delightful color combination of orange with purple flames

‘Prinses Irene’s petals are a rich orange-yellow color with puce flames.

©Popova Valeriya/Shutterstock.com

7. Marilyn

‘Marilyn’ tulips feature large, graceful flowers of creamy white or ivory with scarlet flames rising from the center of the base on each petal. The petals are pointed, adding an element of texture to the blooms. Tulipa ‘Marilyn’ is a tall variety, that grows between 18 and 24 inches (45 and 60 cm) high. It is considered a mid-to-late-season bloomer, often flowering in the latter part of spring. Tulipa ‘Marilyn’ flowers have a subtle fragrance that adds to their allure.

Tulip hybrids – Marilyn, with the sharp petals. Blooming red and white tulips on blurred background. Beautiful flowers as floral natural backdrop.

‘Marilyn’ tulips feature large, graceful flowers of creamy ivory with scarlet flames rising from the center.

©Liviu Gherman/Shutterstock.com

‘Marilyn’ tulips also possess strong stems that support the blooms, ensuring they remain upright. These tulips are a beautiful addition to various garden settings. They are often used in borders, beds, or mixed spring flower displays against other vibrant colors. Tulipa ‘Marilyn’ is named in honor of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. The tulip’s name is a tribute to her and is meant to evoke her beauty and elegance. The soft and delicate appearance of the ‘Marilyn’ tulip is believed to reflect the grace and allure associated with the Hollywood star.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Flower_Garden/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Kathryn Koehler is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her focus is on unusual animals, places, and events. Kat has over 20 years of experience as a professional writer and educator. She holds a master's degree from Vanderbilt University. When she is not writing for A-Z-Animals, Kat enjoys puttering in her garden, baking deliciously healthful treats for her family, and playing with her two rescue mutts, Popcorn and Scooter. She resides in Tennessee.

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