I discovered species tulips decades ago but I hadn’t planted any recently until last fall. This one is T. Clusiana Cynthia. It opened yesterday and I am very pleased. Species tulips are the tough old tulips that grow wild in the Mediterranean and Turkey. Unlike the modern hybrids we see most often today that are at their best the first year and wimp out in subsequent springs, these get better with time and even naturalize.
This very red species tulip, linifolia, dates all the way back to 1884, according to the catalog. I planted it in the small bed around my mailbox. It’s much shorter than Cynthia, about 6 inches tall, so a good choice for small spaces. Linifolia is also known for naturalizing.
Species tulips not only persist year after year and even spread, they are also very inexpensive. I bought 50 linifolia for $10.50, and Cynthia was 50 bulbs for $15. We have very sandy, and therefore well-draining soil where I live, so I just added good compost to the planting holes.
You probably won’t find species tulips at the big box stores, but you can order them easily from catalogs. I like the John Scheepers catalog from Connecticut, because it’s chock full of different species and cultivars, and provides inexpensive opportunities to experiment.