Without exception, parrot tulips are the most flamboyant of the spring flowering bulbs. Ruffled, wavy petals and rich, rippling colours make these blooms as showy as any exotic bird. The chunky, overlapping petals of the closed buds are also thought to look like a parrot’s beak.
These ostentatious blooms aren’t for gardeners who prefer restrained shapes and colour palettes, but for those who like to have fun with flowers, these plants are perfect. What they lack in subtlety, they make up for in cheery splendour.
Their ostentatious looks are a result of genetic mutations that cause the petals to split and feather. The original parent tulips are from the Triumph class tulips (the largest and most colourful group) and some late flowered varieties.
There are parrot forms of classic varieties, such as ‘Irene Parrot’, a sport of ‘Prinses Irene’. Most are mid to late season flowering.
Fact: Some are scented. Try ‘Apricot Parrot’, ‘Orange Favourite’ and ‘Rococo’ for fragrance.
Bulbs will be available from September or October, but plant in November to avoid virus infection. Most varieties are tall at around 50cm in height and the flowers are top-heavy, so can get bashed by spring storms. For best performance plant them where they have sun but also shelter from wind.
It’s best to treat these plants as bedding as flowering will peter out after the first year, especially on heavy soils. On a light, free draining soil that’s baked over summer, the flowers may be perennial, but it’s rare.
Bin the bulbs after flowering or, to improve chances of re-flowering, feed them all the way through their growing cycle and wait until the leaves die down naturally. Then dig out and dry the bulbs, and store them until planting again in autumn.
Sinking the bulbs into a pond plant basket or other container makes them easier to lift out of the ground.
The earliest flowering parrot and one of the most sumptuous with purple-grey, red and green markings. height
beautiful green buds open to silky grey-purple with a deep violet centre. Height 55cm.
The most refined parrot, with deep purple cup shaped blooms with delicately cut edges. Height 55cm.
Rounded buds bust to a lipstick-pink and green ruffled flower. Very long-lasting as a cut flower. Height 50cm.
Creamy white with crests of green. Good for adding interest to a white scheme. Height 40cm.