Last updated on May 22nd, 2023 at 11:36 am
The tulip is a bulbous perennial plant of the family Liliaceae (lilies) and the genus Tulipa. It contains over a hundred species and thousands of modern hybrids and cultivars. Tulips are solitary upright flowers with strong and bright colors. Depending on the species or variety, the length of the stem can vary from 8 cm to a meter.
Today’s tulip cultivars and hybrids have various colors and shapes. However, the original native tulip species were mostly in shades of red and yellow and had smaller flowers. Since the tulip species evolved at mountain altitudes, the plant is tolerant to cold winters and drought.
Tulips are native to the temperate zones of Central and Western Asia. There are approximately 120 species of wild tulips. Of these, three-quarters are native to central Asia. Modern science speculates that the tulips likely originated from the Pamir-Altai Mountains of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
The tulips were colonized early in the region of the Caucasus Mountains. From there, the tulips then naturally spread toward the east—to India, the Himalayas, and Western China, and toward the west— to the Middle East and the Atlas Mountains.
The tulip flower is also known under several other common names, including Tulipan, tulipant, tulipano, a pot of gold, lale, lâleh, common tulip, Didier’s tulip, and Dalmatian cap. The French used to call this flower Tulipan, a name derived from the Persian word for turban, tulbend. In Turkey, the flower is known under the common name Laleh. Since the letters of Laleh, when rearranged, form the name Allah in Turkish, the Turks considered the tulip a divine plant.
What does the Tulip flower symbolize?
Many tulip meanings revolve around the idea of romantic and passionate love. The tulip symbolizes several aspects of romantic love, such as absolute romance, a declaration of love, dreaminess and imagination, romance, elegance, and grace.
This flower symbolizes the grip of overwhelming attraction and is therefore associated with sensuality, advancement, lust, and determination. Sometimes, the flower was considered an aphrodisiac. Finally, the tulip sometimes becomes an emblem of a person blinded by desire, representing arrogance, aspiration, determination, importance, notoriety, and a lover’s heart darkened by passion.
A Persian love story about Farhad and Shirin immortalized the tulips as love flowers. The story goes that Farhad loved Shirin but couldn’t confess his love. One day, upon hearing of his beloved’s death, Farhad was grief-stricken and chose to die by stabbing himself. From the soil upon which his blood fell, red tulips bloomed, becoming a symbol of eternal, never-ending love.
Historically, the tulip was the beloved flower of the East. Its origins have been traced to Persia, where the flower was an emblem of consuming love. Persian stories narrate that whenever a bachelor gifted a tulip flower to a girl, he conveyed his adoration and love for her. The black base of the tulip flower also symbolized that his heart was burnt to coal.
Certain tulip meanings originate from folklore and fairytales. According to a popular folk belief, the fairies and pixies use the tulip flowers as cradles where they rock baby elves to sleep. They also make their clothes from tulip petals. The fairies and elves are also believed to protect those who cultivate tulips.
The tulip flowers bring love, prosperity, abundance, luck, and fame to the owner. Wearing a tulip flower is a powerful protection against poverty and bad luck. Placing tulip flowers in a vase in the kitchen is believed to attract good and plenty in the house.
Persian poets often mentioned tulips in their poetry. One of them, Musharrifu’d-din Saadi, described them growing within a heavenly garden, thus becoming symbols of beauty and plentitude.
A legend popularized by the Jesuit poet Rapin tells the story of an innocent and modest Dalmatian nymph. Proteus, the god of the sea, notices the nymph’s beauty. He disguises himself as Vertumnus, a world traveler, to get her attention and seduce her. When he fails to win her heart despite all his gifts and tricks, Proteus decides to take her by force. In desperation, the nymph prayed to the sky to be saved, and her wish was granted. She metamorphosed (turned into) a beautiful tulip flower.
In India, the traditional meaning given to the tulip is not so positive, as the flower symbolizes jealousy and unhappy love. The origin of this belief can be traced back to an Indian story named “Rose of Bakawali.” The fairy Bakawali was so beautiful that “The tulip immersed itself in blood because of the jealousy it entertained of her charming lips!”. The story ends with the bitter words of the hero, whose love for the fairy remains unrequited. “I quit this garden carrying in my heart, like the tulip, the wound of unhappy love—I go, my head covered with dust, my heart bleeding, my breast fevered.” Thus, not all tulip meanings are positive and promising.
All in all, the tulip flower symbolic meanings are:
- new start
Meaning of the Tulip flower colors
Red tulips symbolize declaration of love, irresistible love, undying love, and trust. They carried the message: “Believe me” or “Believe that I love you.”
According to Feng Shui, decorating your home with red tulips is thought to bring both riches and affection to the homeowner. Furthermore, it is thought that red tulips assist people in achieving reputation and popularity.
Orange represents happiness, passion, and a desire for sunshine. Because orange color can also represent fire, it has deeper significance in terms of love and compassion.
Orange tulips indicate happiness and enthusiasm for these reasons. They’re also used to express understanding, mutual connection, and respect between two people, regardless of their relationship.
Sending an orange tulip arrangement indicates that you have a profound spiritual or physical connection with the receiver. These are perfect for parties, birthdays, and thank-you gifts.
Pink is the hue of happiness, health, and self-assurance. Pink tulips are, therefore, an excellent method to congratulate someone on graduation or a new job.
They can also signify that you want someone to recover quickly. This makes them ideal for bringing to a sick relative or friend as a get-well present.
Purple tulips are associated with royalty due to their velvety gloss and regal color. These are among the most attractive color combinations and stand out among the green foliage.
Black tulips are also popular but aren’t officially considered genuinely black. They are classified as this because their petals have a purple hue.
Yellow was once thought to symbolize jealousy and the rejection of love. Yellow tulip was often an inauspicious messenger—it meant either hopeless love or no chance of reconciliation. Yet, color has taken on a more positive connotation in recent years.
Yellow tulips are now associated with sunshine, brightness, and true friendship. Yellow tulips have become one of the most popular spontaneous floral presents due to this.
According to Feng Shui, if you want a little luck to knock on your door, put a yellow tulip in your front yard, as they offer prosperity and good omens.
The white tulip was a flower of youth, innocence, sincerity, and virginity; sometimes, it symbolized forgiveness.
An intriguing symbolism was ascribed to the variegated tulip flowers—they meant, “You have beautiful, magical, splendid eyes.”
Interesting facts about the Tulip flowers
- Some tulip meanings are associated with the past’s mighty rulers and wealthy men. Once upon a time, the Turkish Sultans held an annual Feast of Tulips, an opulent event where all the gardens were richly decorated, and the entire harem attended the festivities. It is believed that the sultans brought tulips from Iran and India.
- It is also believed that the Turks were the first to cultivate tulips.
- The tulip flower was the official flower of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.
- An entire period in Ottoman history was named the tulip period, or the tulip era. It lasted from 1718 to 1730. Today, the tulip is a national flower of Turkey.
- It is believed that the tulip was brought from Persia to the Levant. The story goes that, in the middle of the sixteenth century, Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq, the ambassador from the Emperor of Germany to the Sublime Porte, was traveling from Adrianople to Constantinople. He was amazed at the sight of tulips along the road as they bloomed in the middle of winter. Busbecq introduced the flower to Western Europe, where it became popular immediately.
- In 1530, a ship captain named Lopez Sampayo gifted the Portugal king some tulip flowers, and from there, the flower was introduced to Spain as well.
- Carolus Clusius, the French botanist in charge of the imperial gardens in Vienna, acquired tulip seeds from de Busbecq, germinated them, and sent bulbs to England in 1578. After he joined the University of Leyden as a Professor of Botany, Clusius brought with him tulip bulbs and planted them in the university gardens.
- In Holland, the obsession with the beautiful tulip flowers reached unexpected heights and a true frenzy from 1634 to 1637. The phenomenon became known as “tulipomania” or the “tulip fever.” There was an extremely high demand among people of all social classes to possess rare types of tulips. The price of certain tulip varieties (named Viceroy, Admiral Liefken, Admiral Van Der Eyk, Schilder, Semper Augustus, etc.) became enormous, yet people were ready to purchase tulip bulbs at any cost.
- Some tulips were even more expensive than jewels. Anecdotes tell cases when cattle, land, and houses were traded for just a couple of tulip bulbs. Eventually, the “tulip bubble” burst, and many lost their possessions in this unusual flower craze.
- After the crash of the tulip market, the Dutch government imposed regulations on the tulip trade. The 2017 movie “Tulip Fever,” with Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz in leading roles, popularized this interesting episode in Dutch history.
- In the Christian tradition, tulips are associated with May 1, the day dedicated to St. Philip and St. James.
- Tulips celebrate love on the 11th wedding anniversary when couples traditionally give tulips to each other. Using tulips to decorate flowers on the anniversary celebration is also common.
How to grow Tulip flowers
Tulips offer a lovely touch to any flower garden or yard. With the proper care and attention, you can grow beautiful tulips year after year.
- Plant the tulips in rich, well-draining soil with a neutral pH to slightly acidic.
- Choose a spot where they can get full sun.
- Mix in compost to improve drainage and provide nutrients to the bulbs.
- Water the bulbs thoroughly immediately after you plant them.
How to care for Tulip flowers
- Water tulips only during a dry spell.
- Do not allow your tulips to remain in standing water.
- Apply compost annually to provide the nutrients needed for future blooms.
- Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer once at the beginning of spring for continuous growth.
- Remove the flower head from the stem once it’s fully spent.
Best time to gift Tulip flowers
Tulips have been associated with the concept of love for generations because they are a classic flower many people have enjoyed. Because the flowers last a long time, they are an excellent present for loved ones. These are great for giving to someone you have a deep, unconditional love for, such as your partner, children, parents, or siblings.
Tulips symbolize rebirth because they bloom at the start of spring. Whether you know someone going through a life transition, embarking on new adventures and difficulties, or who has welcomed a new addition to the family, a beautiful arrangement of tulip flowers would be an ideal gift.
People have marveled at the enchanting beauty of this amazing bulb for hundreds of years.
Tulip flowers are an excellent gift, a work of art in your yard, and a means to express a thousand unspoken words.