Black Tulips

A Quick Guide to Black Tulips

Gardens are often thought to be rainbows of color, but a more dramatic and exotic appeal can be achieved through the addition of the Queen of the Night, one of the darkest of black tulips.  This is not a flower that occurred naturally, but rather in the testing gardens of hybridizers.

Developing hybrids

Most flowering plants are naturally occurring life forms; propagated through the cooperation of birds, insects and butterflies.  Variations of the plants and their blooms happen quite by accident as the pollen carried is mixed during the visits from flower to flower, creating new color variations, bloom types and even plant characteristics.  Long ago, people began to realize they could take on this pollination process and develop specific traits by design.

Tulips are one flower that had gained the attention of these individuals.  Available in a myriad of rainbow colors, shapes and sizes, the darkest of hues has long been the goal of many horticulturists. 

For generations, hybridizers have been trying to develop a truly black version of the popular, stately flower called the tulip; likely due to the fact that it was the only elusive coloration.  It is believed that it is impossible for any flower to appear as a true black.  The theory behind this belief is that no other hues or overtones from any other color can be present in a true black coloration; a phenomenon that only occurs in nature upon death.

This fact did not daunt determined hybridizers, however, who continued their efforts to get as close to the deepest hue resembling black possible.  Hybridizing is a process of mixing the pollen of two separate flowers (called “parent” plants”) to create a new plant that hopefully capitalizes on the best qualities from each parent.  A plant can be developed with a specific color scheme and fragrance through this manner, as well as the height of a plant or the shape of the bloom.  The purpose behind hybridizing is generally to create a harmony of attributes that will be appealing, and in most cases can be achieved.  A true black, however, remains as unattainable; although many varieties have come very close.

The Queen of the Night

Of all attempts to create the darkest of hues to simulate black tulips, the closest has been the Queen of the Night.  Its coloration is an intense, rich purple that is enhanced by a silky quality of the petals.  So lovely is this tulip that it has quickly made its way into the top 10 list of favorite tulips in America.

The Queen is a single, late bloom possessing a long stem.  Pairing this dark beauty with bright yellow, crimson red or snowy white tulips either in beds or containers provides an unusual and showy presentation.  They are equally as remarkable used as cut flowers in a decorative vase.

Care for the Queen of the Night is no different than any other tulip.  Loose soil with good drainage is ideal for optimal increase of the bulbs and for the best growth and flowering potential.  The phrase “tulips don’t like wet feet” is certainly true.  Over a period of years the bulb will increase, so it will be necessary to dig them up and divide the bulbs to avoid overcrowding.  Allow the leaves and stem of the tulip plant to die off naturally once the blooms have faded; this is essential for energizing the bulbs.

Developing nearly black tulips has proven to be a successful venture by the fact that the Queen of the Night has become one of the most popular varieties in America. While rainbow hues are certainly a welcome and colorful touch in the spring, this dark beauty will add an exotic and unusual touch as well.