Are tulips dangerous?

Started by janemcgary, July 22, 2022, 02:51:25 PM

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Long ago I was warned not to plant imported commercial tulip bulbs because they were likely to host viruses that could be transferred to my species tulips and lilies, which are likely to be more vulnerable to virus damage. How true is this? It's very tempting to order some Dutch tulip bulbs to grow for temporary color and especially for cut flowers. I don't have a solid-sided greenhouse, so insects (i.e., aphids) could get in among my species collection from the open garden.


Hi Jane,

I've been ordering tulips from commercial sources for more than 35 years and never noticed any virus transfer to my species plants or lilies.  The lilies sometimes develop virused leaves which, I think, may be a problem at source rather than from growing in my garden.  I do grow the tulips only in pots  - they're gopher fodder here -  and usually in a place not near my species or lilies.  Perhaps my success is dependent on location.  You might try a few tulip cultivars in pots kept away from your species and see if you're successful. Tulips are hard to beat for early color and indoor vases.

Sylvia in cool, foggy Oakland (California Bay Area)


Hello @Jane,
I think it is very true, unfortunately. But it may depend on the race or variety of tulips. For sure the Rembrandt strain with its "pretty" flame like colour breaks is a virus carrier. Similar, long gone varieties were fuel for the infamous Tulip Fever. The problem was that the ridiculously expensive bulbs had a very short lifespan. This turned out to be a very bad investment and made the fever cool down quickly, simply because they were all virused....... I would assume that this also applies to other varieties with colour breaks. Why do the parrot tulips have deformed petals?
If you consider that all named tulip hybrids are vegetatively propagated and grown in very large fields (admittedly a breathtaking sight) the risk of contamination over the years is very high. This said, the toughest (and commercially  most successful) varieties will probably still be virused but can cope more or less under optimum growing conditions. But still are carriers.
Sorry about this pessimistic reply.....
Algarve, Portugal
350m elevation, frost free
Mediterranean Climate


I decided to order a few modern varieties, plant them in pots, and keep the pots far away from my bulb collection (my house is on a large lot). Also, I will dose the pots with a very effective systemic insecticide to prevent infestation by aphids, which are the vectors of viruses. I will use the tulips as indoor decoration once they begin to show color. That will prevent the insecticide from harming bees.


Tulips are dangerous in that people might spend a lot of money trying to find species that might survive in their climate, and wind up being completely unsuccessful.