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.

Tulipa praestans ‘Unicum’

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.

T. praestans ‘Fusilier’

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.

T. praestans ‘Unicum’
Species tulip 'Fusilier'
T. praestans ‘Unicum’.

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.

T. praestans ‘Unicum’ foliage
T. praestans ‘fusilier’, with flowers closed.

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.”

T. praestans ‘Shogun’. Photo from johnscheepers.com.

‘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.

29 Comments on “A Little Red Tulip”

  1. Beautiful bold scarlet little tulips. I like the one with variegated foliage. The red species tulip I grow is linifolia. It’s been multiplying nicely for five years now. It’s perfect in the rock garden and is just 6″ tall. A friend described it as “glow in the dark, neon red”. I think you’d like it! You have a wonderful variety of spring bulbs, Jason.

  2. I’d be very tempted to mix Shogun with Unicum, though I think that gold-yellow would look stunning with other colors too. My favorite photo above is the one with the tulips closed so primly and the daffodils so nosey about everything going on around them. A great study in flower personality!

  3. One of these beauties found its way into my front yard and bloomed this spring. My only other tulips are much more common-looking and have been planted here and there by squirrels. I will see if I can convince them to plant more of these. 🙂

  4. T praestans ‘fusilier’ is my favorite tulip! I had some in my former garden in Michigan and this post brings back fond memories of those fiery red flowers. I miss them and resolve to buy some this fall. Tulips are the lipstick of a garden ( that’s not original- I think I may be remembering that quote from Henry Mitchell) Anyway, yours are awesome little tulips!

  5. Hello Jason ! How are you ? .. I hope you are as well as possible and that your family is too.
    I just did my first post of the season .. mostly hellebores because we are behind you with opened Spring bulbs. Yours are so pretty ! A delight to see those sweet tulips. Funny enough when ever I think about tulips they are always red in my mind’s eye .. I have some Darwin species (I think ? LOL) that will bloom in the front garden, fingers crossed … but I have to admit my favorite Spring bulb are daffodils .. that bright yellow is something that makes my heart so happy to see after a long winter .. yellow just does it for me in the happy department.
    Glad to see your post 😉
    Take care and stay safe !

  6. A most timely post! I’ve been staring at this Tulipa praestans in a catalog for the last week – I’m planting a new sidewalk border and I want to add something different. Brent and Becky’s has a cultivar ‘Bloemenlust’ they describe as a “more vigorous and floriferous cultivar than ‘Unicom’. I think I’ll go for it, and now I can’t wait for NEXT spring!

      • Well, that is how I would have bought them just a few years ago, before I found that several of the reliably perennial sort are available only. I used to buy only what was available in the local hardware store or nursery. Even now that I could get perennial tulips if I want to, I will probably get ‘Maureen’ anyway.

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