Gardeners have loved tulips for decades (and even centuries, in the Netherlands) for their delicate petals, easy care, and huge variety. Name a color of the rainbow, and you can find a matching tulip. With so many to choose from (there are thousands of registered varieties), it takes a true stunner to stand out from the crowd. 'Brownie' (Tulipa x hybrida ‘Brownie’), a newcomer to the tulip scene in the last few years, is one of the biggest, brightest, and earliest blooming tulips out there. Though its delicious, rich name might make you think of gooey chocolate brownies, the actual flower only has light touches of bronze and brown on its orange blooms, but those tiny changes in color make each one look like a sunset unfolding in your garden.
Courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds
Like peony tulips, 'Brownie' tulips are double-flowered, meaning they have lots more petals than regular blooms. If you spot them on a walk in your neighborhood, it’d be easy to mistake these tulips for a type of peony, because they’re so much fuller than traditional tulip varieties. That’s part of what makes them so impressive in the garden, but their sunset coloring will also stop you in your tracks.
As the blooms open, their colors keep on brightening, and if you stop to inspect a few flowers, you’ll see shades of gold, copper, and even dark purple on the outer petals. 'Brownie' tulips also have a slight fragrance, and they’ll last up to 10 days in a vase.
Courtesy of Dutch Grown
How to Grow 'Brownie' Tulips
Recommended for USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8, 'Brownie' tulips grow best in well-drained soil with full sun, though they’ll also tolerate part shade. Expect them to be a little shorter than other tulips; they’re usually between 12 and 16 inches tall when they bloom, while other varieties can grow over 18 inches. 'Brownie' blooms in early spring, so they'll be some of the first tulips you see each season.
Like all tulips, the best time to plant 'Brownie' is in the fall, about five or six weeks before the ground freezes). But you can still watch for them at your local florist shops and in public gardens this spring. You can also get your order in early for a batch to plant in the fall (some growers are already accepting preorders).
Plant the bulbs at a depth of about five inches, and between one and six inches apart, depending on how dense you'd like the flower show to be. Water the bulbs right after planting, but after that you can rely on rain to keep them watered. 'Brownie' tulips won't usually bloom again the following year, so you’ll have to replant them each fall, but the extra work is well worth it for those huge, gorgeous blooms in spring.
A whole garden filled with 'Brownie' tulips would look dazzling, but growing even a few in containers on your porch or patio would be enough to add an extra burst of spring cheer to your landscape. So be on the lookout for them in your neighborhood this spring, and get your order in for bulbs to plant in the fall!