Breeding a Better Tulip

Gardeners have been planting tulips since the 1500s. Those early tulips were essentially wildflowers, imported from Turkey. Though beautiful, their blossoms were no bigger than your thumb. Thanks to plant breeders in Holland and elsewhere, today’s tulips have larger flowers, taller, stronger stems, and are available in hundreds of different colors.

To produce a bigger and better tulip, plant breeders hybridize two genetically different plants. The new generation of plants displays characteristics from each parent, and over time, the breeder selects offspring that display the most desirable traits.

Most tulips, like most plants, are diploids, which means they have two complete sets of chromosomes. In recent times, plant breeders have developed special techniques that allow them to add extra chromosomes, creating plants called Tetraploids. Extra genetic material gives plants an advantage. These “super hybrids” are typically stronger growers and better bloomers.

This year we are offer four outstanding tetraploid tulips: Judith Leyster, Judith Ruby, Golden Prins Claus and Prins Armin. Though all are classified as Triumph tulips, these “Leyster Family” tulips are noticeably more vigorous, with bigger flowers and extra sturdy stems. Better tulips in every way!