Little Beauty

'Little Beauty'
Dwarf Botanical Tulip

"Yes, a tulip screamed at me today!
It was my favorite, the one I call Blanche.
She puckered up her petals & screamed 'Avalanche!'
Yes, a tulip saved my life today."

-Paul Lynde,


Tulipa hageri 'Little Beauty' is a dwarf species tulip, believed by some to be a garden form of T. humilis so that 'Little Beauty' is sometimes listed under that species. Others have expressed the opinion that T. hageri is synonymous with T. orphanidea, the latter having sundry color variants, clones, or natural hybrids that could be mistakenly regarded as distinct species.

Little Beauty budsI have not encountered anything resembling a definitive article clarifying this debate, but one way it has been dealt with is to regard several similar dwarf tulips to be parts of a so-called "Orphanides Complex," while preserving their individual species names.

It's a multi-colored dwarf four to six inches tall, with slate-blue or cornflower-blue center, a zone of white around the blue, & starry petals tipped with the bright fuchsia, & cherry-red on the outside.

They can start their season more to the pastel side of coloration, deepening as the flowers age. We've another cultivar of this species which does not have the red color, so that 'Alba Coerules Oculata' is white-petalled with the slate-blue heart intact.

'Little Beauty' has large pink buds by late March, each bulb producing two to five buds, so that each individual bulb can end up seeming like its own bouquet. The flowers are fully opened on sunny April days, but will reclose at night, or not open at all on overcast days.

It naturalizes fairly easily if grown in plenty of sun with moist well draining soil in spring, dryish conditions for summer dormancy. They can do with a very small amount of shade which helps maximize the length of time the blooms will last, but with too much shade they may not flower or buds the flowers may remain closed most of the time.

Little BeautyWe planted ours along the alley in a large drift of dwarf tulips that also includes 'Alba Coerules Oculata' & the multicolored 'Little Princess,' with no large perennials near enough to hide or overwhelm their small dainty presence.

They are more cold-hardy than heat hardy, suitable for zones 3-8. Their spring presence is over with well before summer heat can bother them, but if the bulbs are planted too close to the surface in sun-baked soil, they may end up cooked in summer.

So in spite of the smallness of the bulbs, it is recommended to place them eight inches deep. This would also permit a layer of crocuses to be planted above them at three to four inches depth, selecting a very early-flowering snowcrocus which will be finished flowering when 'Little Princess' is ready to flower.

If 'Little Beauty' is to have other bulbs mixed with them, this could include the hardy wild "tommy" crocuses, or the smallest varieties of muscaris or scillas. But anything taller than they are will hide them, & even some other short tulips, such as greigiis or kaufmaniannas, will have leaves so broad as to hide T. hageri or humilis entirely.

They can tolerate crowding & form a veritable blanket of slim leaves & bright flowers, but if not overly crowded, they will not need to be lifted for years & years even as they increase.


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