Timeline history of the tulip

A timeline of the history of the tulip starting more than 1,000 years ago.

Credit: Washington Bulb Co.

Did you know the first drawing of a tulip didn’t appear until the 16th century? Find other fun facts about the tulip in this timeline history…

Love tulips? So do we. All the more so since finding this timeline history of the tulip, via the International Flower Bulb Centre. (The site has a wealth of bulb info and advice so be sure to check it out if you’re looking for answers.) Knowing the brief history of such an important, and at times controversial, plant only enriches our experience of them! Enjoy.

Timeline history of the tulip

1000 AD

Record show that tulips were in cultivation in Turkey as early as this.


Tulips are used in the initials of an Italian bible.

12th century

Omarr Khayam writes a poem about tulips.

13th century

The poet, Rumi, sings the praises of tulips in many songs.


The ‘Tulip Era’ takes place in Turkey under Suleiman II.


First drawing of a tulip in western Europe.


First book in which a tulip is portrayed (C. Gesner).


First portrayal of a tulip in a Dutch book. (R. Dodoens’ ‘Cruydtboeck’ (Herbal).


First tulip appears in England.


Matthias de l’ Obel describes 41 varieties of tulips in his ‘Cruydtboeck’.


Carolus Clusius plants the first tulip in the Botanical Garden in Leiden, the Netherlands.


The first tulips bloom in the Netherlands.


The first tulip appears in France.


The tulip is an exclusive garden plant. It is planted in strategic places in the garden.


Establishment of the first cultivation operations south of Haarlem, especially along the Wagenweg and the Kleine Houtweg. These absolute monopolies would hold onto their positions for about 150 years.


Emanuel Swerts publishes the first trade catalogue and includes tulips in it.


The development of a lively trade in tulip bulbs results in a wild speculation in tulips. It was especially during 1623 and 1637 that prices rose steeply. An example: ‘Semper Augustus’ cost 1,200 florins per bulb in 1624; in 1625 it cost 3,000 florins; in 1633 it cost 5,000 florins; and in 1637, 3 bulbs cost 30,000 florins. In comparison, a house along a canal in Amsterdam cost 10,000 florins in those days. This period may receive a lot of attention. Since that time there has never been such a speculation in the Netherlands.


The first parrot tulip is described.


The firm of Voorhelm is established in Haarlem.


A record of tulips written by F. Morin appears in Paris.


The Elector from Brandenburg records 126 different tulips in an inventory.


Tulipmania in Turkey. Mohammed Lalizari is a great tulip enthusiast. During this time he imports thousands of bulbs to Turkey from the Netherlands.

18th century

The Tulip becomes less important than the hyacinth. Around 1730 there is somewhat of a speculation in hyacinths.


The Margrave van Baden-Durlack publishes a catalogue which includes the statement that he has bought bulbs from 17 Dutch companies, 15 of them in Haarlem.


Dialogue of Waermondt and Gaergoedt about the tulip speculation is published again, this time as a result of a threatening speculation in hyacinths.


The introduction of the tulip called ‘Keizerskroon’ (still cultivated on 2.3 ha of land in the Netherlands).

19th century

Cultivation is expanded, at first in the direction of Overveen and Bloemendaal, and then, in the second half of the nineteenth century, toward Hillegom, Lisse and Noordwijk. Tulips were included in the group called ‘bijgoed’ (miscellaneous kinds of bulbs and tubers). Only hyacinths were listed under the term ‘bollen’ (bulbs).


Introduction of the tulip variety ‘Couleur Cardinal’ [still cultivated today on 23 hectares in the Netherlands; it has also produced a number of mutants such as ‘Arma’ (44 ha) and ‘Prinses Irene’ (72 ha)].


J.B. van der Schoot is the first ‘bollenreiziger’ (travelling bulb salesman) to go to the United States. Bulbs were sold to the U.S. from Holland as early as the 18th century.


Introduction of the fragrant tulip ‘Prins van Oostenrijk’ and the double early tulip, ‘Murillo’.


The discovery of T. greigii takes place via P.L. Graeber. Bulbs are sent to C.G. van Tubergen who ensures that the tulips are introduced.


E.A. Regal described Tulips kaufmanniana.


Introduction of Darwin tulips. Introduction of ‘Bartigon’ in 1898. These tulips would turn out to be the most commonly cultivated tulips.


First ‘Classified List of Tulip Names’. Included in how the flowers were arranged were: flowering period, shape and the degree of ‘bloembreking’ (the striping and splashing of colours within the flower).


Establishment of the Hortus Bulborum Limmen.


First professional publication about viruses which affect tulips, complete with clinical pictures.


As a result of crossing, D.W.Lefeber develops enormous red tulips which are known as Darwin Hybrids. The most famous one is ‘Apeldoorn’.


A trip by carriage from Turkey to the Netherlands to commemorate the existence of tulips in western Europe for 400 years.


Introduction of ‘ice tulips’ tulips held in sustained coolness to delay forcing beyond normal time period to extend the availability of cut tulip flowers into ‘down months’ when they were previously not available.