Sure there are lots of red tulips to choose from, but here are four reasons you may want to plant the species Tulip, Tulipa praestans.
Great color. I have two varieties of T. praestans, ‘fusilier’ and the variegated ‘Unicum’. Both flower in a clear, scarlet red that I find irresistible, especially so when backlit by the sun. Looks good even when the flowers are closed up in the early morning or evening.
Relatively long-lived. I don’t want to oversell here, but I have had clumps of T. praestans in a couple of places for over 10 years. They have not naturalized, but have tended to shrink slowly over time. Not great, maybe, but better than the average Tulip. Also, as with other species tulips, the rabbits generally leave them alone.
Early bloom. In our garden T. praestans blooms with the Daffodils in early- to mid-April (sometimes even late March) when few other Tulips are in flower. Makes for a great color contrast with the mostly white and yellow Narcissi in bloom at this time.
Variety. There are three varieties of T. praestans that I know of. As noted above, I already have two: ‘Fusilier’ and ‘Unicum’. But there is also a third, called ‘Shogun’, that I found on the John Scheepers website. According to Scheepers, ‘Shogun’ has a range of colors including “melon, pumpkin and copper-yellow with variable red striations and bluish-black stamen.”
‘Shogun’ is also hardy to zone 3, which bodes well for its use in containers. I’m giving some serious thought to ordering a few for this fall, along with some more ‘Fusilier’. I’ll keep you informed.