The Best Tulips for Rock Gardens

Posted by Brent & Becky's Admin on

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We live in fast-paced times, and folks seem to be getting busier and busier every year. Careers, kids, grandkids, and arm-length to-do lists seem to be chipping away slowly into our free time, and for some people, managing a traditional garden just isn’t in the cards. Fortunately, you don’t have to have a heap of spare time to keep a beautiful, elegant rock garden.


About Rock Gardens

Rock gardens have become more popular in recent years, and they’re a lovely way to use yard space. Depending on the kinds of rock used, you can create a tidy-looking space with river rock or a wild and rustic vignette that looks older than the home itself. Mosses, succulents, and creeping groundcovers help to blend the rock garden into the landscape. Still, no garden is complete without a little color! 




While there are several flowering bulbs that work nicely in these stoney settings, none are quite as diverse as the famed tulip. Yeah, we hear you. “But my Tulips get eaten!” But when Tulips are used in a rock garden setting, the stones are not easy for squirrels to dig into, and deer don’t like the unstable feeling under their hooves! So, utilizing Tulips in a rock garden is a natural, chemical-free way to deter the pests! Here are my favorite tulip varieties for brightening up rock gardens, available for pre-order now in our Fall-Planted catalogue!


Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’

This is a fun little tulip with excellent color and contrast. Lilac Wonder has lilac-pink petals with a glowing yellow center, which it shows off with an open flower. Like many of the rock garden-friendly tulip varieties, it’s a relatively compact cultivar that nestles in well between boulders, or up front in a border arrangement. The contrast of cool and warm on the flower allows it to blend well with plants on either side of the color spectrum; pair it with sunny Daffodils, silvery foliage plants, or both! Measures 6”-8”, winter-hardy to zones 3-8.

Tulipa sylvestris

Sylvestris is a woodland tulip variety native to a few regions of Europe. As a woodland plant, it’s tough and adaptable, naturalizing easily in both sun and shade. It also has a wilder appearance compared to many domestically-bred cultivars, which lends itself well to rustic landscapes. The happy yellow petals are as pleasant as its sweet fragrance. Measures 8”-12”, winter-hardy to zones 3-8.


Tulipa clusiana var. Stellata

I just love the star-shaped blooms of this tulip cultivar. At peak bloom, the form of the flower is more reminiscent of an Asiatic Lily than a classic tulip, a nice departure for those who like a little something different. From afar, the creamy-white petals contrast beautifully with the bright pink sepals. As you get closer, the yellow center and dark stamens add another sensational layer of contrast. Measures 6”-10”, winter-hardy to zones 3-8.




Tulipa cretica Hilde

Another star-shaped variety, Hilde shares some similarities with Stellata, but its pink hues are more intense and the yellow centers match the yellow stamens. Native to the mountainous regions of Crete, this variety was born for the rock garden! Hilde is a compact, multi-flowering tulip with up to three flowers to a stem, so she’ll happily fill color-poor areas with a bright dose of cheer. Measures 3”-7”, winter-hardy to zones 3-8.


Tulipa humilis ‘Alba Coerulea Oculata’

As you may know, true blue is the one color you won’t find in a tulip. However, Alba Coerulea Oculata comes fairly close with a steel-blue base and white petals. This tulip is understated and mesmerizing at once and is a must-have for lovers of blue flowers, or for rock gardens with primarily cool-toned stones. Measures 6”-8”, winter-hardy to zones 3-8.




Tulipa whittallii

If your rock garden is dominated by warm beige or rust tones, this fiery tulip cultivar is a perfect match. Bright yellow, orange, and red tones dance together in the petals, grounded by a deep brown center. The glow of sunlight sets the flowers ablaze, and in mass planting, the effect is phenomenal! Measure 8”-12”, winter-hardy to zones 4-8.


Tulipa batalinii ‘Bronze Charm’

True to her name, Bronze Charm is definitely a charmer! The fragrant blooms have a lovely yellow-to-apricot color with bronzy feathering. The foliage has a bit of a gray cast, which creates a subtle contrast with the flower. This is another rather compact variety that brings a cheerful presence to the landscape. Measures 4”-6”, winter-hardy to zones 3-8.


While you may soon be seeing some of these varieties blooming around your neighborhood, tulips must be planted in the fall to decorate your spring garden. Fortunately, you can pre-order yours today, and we’ll ship to you in the Fall once the time to plant is near. I encourage you to sign up for our newsletter for more bulb news and updates throughout the season. 


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If you can’t wait for next year to get your color fix, be sure to browse our Spring-Planted catalogue! Our 2020 lineup is filled with bright and fragrant options to enjoy in your garden this summer, and we lovingly pack and ship them anywhere in the United States.


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