What Do Tulips Do in the Rain?

Tulips, even the fancy hybrids, will close to protect their pollen when it is going to rain. These tulips were a gift from a good friend, who fell in love with their changing colors and thought I would enjoy them too. I do! They go through shades of yellow and orange as they age.

This tulip, most likely Sunrise, not only closes up, but it leans over in the rain. They are not stretching towards the sun; these live on the south side of the house in full sunlight. Photographed on April 17, 2024.

This was an early morning shower. Everything dried out by afternoon, so they stood up straight and opened. If you look carefully at the stamens, you can see the pollen they were protecting from rain.

The same two tulips, later in the day. Photographed on April 17, 2024.

Another colorful tulip that is much closer to its wild origins is Tulipa clusiana, which has narrow blue-green leaves and narrow flowers that have scarlet petals with white edges, at least when they are closed. They close when they are expecting rain.

A patch of Tulipa clusiana, just after a spring shower, with the flowers still tightly closed. Photographed on April 19, 2024.

The rain stopped and the sun came out, so these tulips started to open. The species is supposed to be a creamy white inside. The outer petals (I think these are actually sepals) are scarlet on the outside only; the insides and both sides of the inner petals veer towards summer butter rather than light cream. It makes a very colorful display when they are opening after rain.

Tulip clusiana opening when the sun came out after the rain. Photographed on April 19, 2024.

When they are fully open, the scarlet is not obvious, although you will see flashes of it. The flowers give quite a different impression.

Tulipa clusiana, with rather buttery interior coloration, enjoying a sunny day. Photographed on April 22, 2024.

Tulipa tarda, another species tulip, also closes in the rain and opens in the sun. They are definitely yellow, even closed, but the outer petals have a green streak up the middle and touches of a dusky pink near the tips. These are opening in the early morning.

Tulipa tarda in early morning light. Photographed on April 15, 2024.

They are spectacular massed and very nice in smaller groups like this. The interiors are a deep yellow, shading  to a lighter yellow on the petals’ edges. 

Tulipa tarda opening in a sunbeam. Photographed on April 15, 2024.

These are reaching the end of their bloom period, and I will allow them to set seed. They spread nicely with the slight encouragement of scattering their seeds where I would like them to appear.