Despite its elegant posture and stately appearance, the tulip originally was a wildflower from Central Asia. In the 17th century, tulips became a major export for Holland, and their popularity has grown ever since. A mass planting of tulips is a sea of color that lifts the spirits after a long winter. When choosing tulips for a large area, look for labels that say "good for naturalizing." This ensures your tulips will return for many years, and often multiply and spread.
Greigii tulips are native to Turkestan. These tulips are short, only about 12 to 15 inches tall, but their blooms are quite large in proportion to the whole plant. They naturalize well, multiply and return year after year. Good varieties for mass planting include "Red Riding Hood" (red with striped leaves), "Marie Jose" (lemon yellow) and "Toronto Double" (fuchsia; peony-like).
The Darwin is "an ideal all-purpose tulip," according to the Texas Cooperative Extension. Its blooms top long, graceful stems and peak in late March or early April. Recommended varieties include "Paul Richter" (bright red), "Zwaneburg" (white), "Red Master" (crimson) and "Aristocrat" (soft rose). Darwin hybrids are produce larger blooms several weeks earlier than the standard Darwins. Excellent varieties include "Apeldoorn" (orange-red), "Elizabeth Arden" (salmon pink) and "Jewel of Spring" (yellow with red markings).
Fosteriana tulips, also known as Emperor tulips, are early flowering, with green or gray green leaves that are sometimes mottled or striped. These tulips, which are some of the largest of the genus, are topped by a large, elongated bloom. "Exotic Emperor" (creamy; double), "Golden Emperor" (yellow) and "Red Emperor" (scarlet) all naturalize well.