Parrot tulips are a variety of tulips that are brightly colored, like a parrot. The flowers are larger than the average tulip. The petals are not straight or pointed like a regular tulip, either. Instead, they are fringed and twist and curl. There are usually more petals than usual, and they almost look like feathers.
Parrot tulips are taller and larger than a regular tulip. They grow as high as 18 to 20 inches and their stems can twist. The color is probably the most notable feature of a parrot tulip. There are those that are one color, but the hue is very bright, almost to the point of being fluorescent. There are some parrot tulips that have multiple bright colors, and others that are more subdued.
Parrots are not truly bred. The colors and interesting petal configurations are due to genetic mutation called de novo mutation, when cells spontaneously change during division. The color and shape of petals are not inherited but occur at different times during the life of the plant. In the past it was common to look for mutations that would make a new flower. Unusual tulips have always been considered very valuable.
It is important to plant parrot tulips in a protected area to prevent the long stems from becoming damaged. Plant them near a house or against a fence. They can also be planted in a pot. If a windstorm blows in, the pots can be moved to safety. They will freeze in temperatures below 40 degrees F. Parrot tulips look great as borders around trees and larger shrubs. They work well in window boxes because they are protected by the structure of the house. The stems can be staked.
Because these tulips are so large, they should never be planted in clusters. They need to be planted individually about 2 to 3 inches apart. Dig a 4-inch hole and place the bulb in pointed side up. Cover the bulb with soil, and next spring they should start to grow. All tulips need to be planted in the fall; they need to go through the cold period in order to sprout. Plant parrot tulips from September all the way up to November as long as the soil can be cultivated.
There are many varieties to choose from. The one that looks the most like a parrot is Rococco. The flower is red with green, yellow and purple at the base. Orange Favorite has bright orange petals with black and green flares of color shooting through. Many parrot varieties are single color. Texas Gold is bright yellow, and Apricot is a light orange. There aren't too many blue or black flowers, but there are parrot tulips in those colors. Blue Parrot is actually more purple than blue, but Black Parrot is really black and looks like satin.