Gardeners tend to think of tulips as those tall beauties who bloom in rich colors in the spring. But the story of where tulips originate in the wild shows flowers that are seriously tough. Knowing a bit more about them also shows how we tend to kill them with kindness — and overwatering — in our gardens.
Red-flowered Tulipa micheliana (above) is native to Central Asia. This photo of the plant in the wild was taken at about 6,500 ft in Iran, near the border with Turkmenistan. For a look at more images of rare wild tulips in their native habitats, click here. Image courtesy of Marijn van den Brink).
The only tulips that have done well for me are those that I'm growing in similar conditions to the wild: out in my traffic island garden in the middle of the road. The soil is rocky and poor, it bakes in the summer sun and only gets what water falls from the skies. I have been having tulips return in that location for six years. The tulips I grow here — all in shades of orange — are all from Old House Gardens and Brent and Becky's Bulbs.