Tulipa (lily and fringed) trial 2024

Objectives and purpose of the trial

This trial focuses on fringed and lily-flowered tulip (Tulipa) cultivars. This follows on from the 2022 trial of early-flowering tulips. The trial will assess the performance of new cultivars alongside older selections. Those that perform best will be awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Tulips displayed in pots around the garden at RHS Wisley
A rainbow of tulip bulbs in bloom creates a carpet of colour

Plants and location

What was planted?

In November 2023, the Garden Team planted a total of 80 different cultivars of lily and fringed tulips at RHS Wisley. More specifically, there were 43 cultivars of lily tulips and 37 cultivars of fringed tulips. These were sourced from leading tulip suppliers in the UK who source their bulbs from growers and exporters in the Netherlands. Lily and fringed tulips have the following unique characteristics:

  • Fringed tulips are a relatively new introduction. Their petals are edged with finely cut fringes that can range from a simple, flat, pinked border to thickly clustered fingers that interlock to give a dense show of colour, which may contrast with the main flower colour
  • Lily-flowering tulips, sometimes known as fluted tulips, have long, narrow, single flowers with pointed petals that reflex to point outwards at the tip, giving them a shape like lily flowers

Where it was planted?

The bulbs were planted in the Trials Garden at RHS Wisley. They were planted into individual shallow trenches 10cm deep x 50cm wide x 100cm long. Here are some considerations for planting out tulips:

  • The best time to plant tulips is in November
  • Pick a sunny, free-draining site in the garden 
  • Alternatively, plant them in containers in peat-free compost that drains well

  • Remember to water them during the growing season
  • Both lily-flowered and fringed tulips flower in late spring

Tulip facts

Tulips are spring-flowering bulbs with large colourful flowers, upright stems and broad, tapered leaves. Although tulips are perennial plants, modern cultivars are known to flower well in their first year and less reliably in subsequent years. This leads many gardeners to regard them as annuals and start afresh with new bulbs each year.

Judges and criteria

Judges of the trial

The trial assessment forum is made up of nine invited experts, with backgrounds in plant nurseries, garden management, floral art and design and members of the RHS Bulb Plant Committee. The forum gathers at seven regular intervals between March and May of each season.

The judges concluded their weekly assessments of the tulips in early May. In mid-May the judges will independently vote for those tulips they believe are deserving of an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM). These results will be reviewed by the RHS Bulb Committee and announced in the autumn.

The 2024 tulip forum includes: Teresa Clements (RHS Bulb Committee Chair), Richard Wilford (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), Adam Taylor (Owner, Taylors Bulbs), Pollyanna Wilkinson (Garden Designer), Camilla Bassett-Smith (Television Presenter and writer), John Amand (Owner, Jacques Amand International), Matt Bishop (Snowdrops and Bulb specialist), Fergus Garrett (Great Dixter Head Gardener, Horticultural Educationalist), Tilly Clark (RHS Horticulturist).

Judging criteria

The following factors are all taken into consideration as part of the judging of the trial:

  • Overall appearance – proportions, sturdiness and foliage
  • Flower impact – colour, size and shape
  • Length of flowering period

  • Weather and pest resistance
  • Uniformity of height and colour

Plant portrait of Tulipa ‘Marilyn’
Vibrant plantings of tulips at RHS Wisley


Planting process

The tulip bulbs were planted in alphabetical order within each group of fringed and lily flowered. Each of the 80 bulb entries was planted 60cm apart and planted across two trial beds. The base of each tulip trench was filled with a layer of horticultural grit to aid drainage. Once planted, the trial beds were covered the strulch to supress weeds. An electric fence was erected around the exterior of the beds to prevent damage from badgers.

How we’re managing plant health

As part of the trial, we are looking out for tulip fire, which is a fungal disease of tulips caused by Botrytis tulipae. It produces brown spots and twisted, withered and distorted leaves. It is so named because in severe cases plants appear as if scorched by fire.

This year, the trial of lily-flowered and fringed tulips followed trials of early flowering tulips held in the previous two years. It was an opportunity to look out for something different, to choose your favourite and to enjoy the wonderful range of forms and colours.

Teresa Clements, Tulip Trial Chair and RHS Bulb Committee Chair.

Watch an aerial tour of the Tulipa trial at RHS Wisley

Suppliers to the trial

List of plants in the trial

View all the tulips on trial at RHS Wisley
  • Tulipa ‘Alexandrine’
  • Tulipa ‘Arc de Triomphe’
  • Tulipa ‘Barbados’
  • Tulipa ‘Burgundy Lace’
  • Tulipa ‘Burning Fire’
  • Tulipa ‘Burning Flame’
  • Tulipa ‘Calibra’
  • Tulipa ‘Canasta’
  • Tulipa ‘Carrousel’
  • Tulipa ‘Colour Fusion’
  • Tulipa ‘Cricko’
  • Tulipa ‘Crystal Star’
  • Tulipa ‘Cummins’
  • Tulipa ‘Curly Sue’
  • Tulipa ‘Davenport’
  • Tulipa ‘Eyelash’
  • Tulipa ‘Fabio’
  • Tulipa ‘Flamenco’
  • Tulipa ‘Fancy Frills’
  • Tulipa ‘Gorilla’
  • Tulipa ‘Honeymoon’
  • Tulipa ‘Huis Ten Bosch’
  • Tulipa ‘Labrador’
  • Tulipa ‘Lambada’
  • Tulipa ‘Louvre’
  • Tulipa ‘Louvre Orange’
  • Tulipa ‘Mercure’
  • Tulipa ‘New Santa’
  • Tulipa ‘Noordeinde’
  • Tulipa ‘Oviedo’
  • Tulipa ‘Party Clown’
  • Tulipa ‘Purple Circus’
  • Tulipa ‘Purple Crystal’
  • Tulipa ‘Queensland’
  • Tulipa ‘San Clemente’
  • Tulipa ‘Vincent Van Gogh’
  • Tulipa ‘Versaci’
  • Tulipa ‘Aladdin’
  • Tulipa ‘Ballade’
  • Tulipa ‘Ballerina’
  • Tulipa ‘Burgundy’
  • Tulipa ‘Claudia’
  • Tulipa ‘Doll’s Minuet’
  • Tulipa ‘Elegant Lady’
  • Tulipa ‘Fire Wings’
  • Tulipa ‘Firework’
  • Tulipa ‘Flashback’
  • Tulipa ‘Florijn Chic’
  • Tulipa ‘Fly Away’
  • Tulipa ‘Go Go Red’
  • Tulipa ‘Green Mile’
  • Tulipa ‘Greenstar’
  • Tulipa ‘Holland Chic’
  • Tulipa ‘Isaak Chic’
  • Tulipa ‘Istanbul’
  • Tulipa ‘Jennie Butchart’
  • Tulipa ‘Johan Cruyff’
  • Tulipa ‘La Perla’
  • Tulipa ‘Marianne’
  • Tulipa ‘Mariette’
  • Tulipa ‘Marilyn’
  • Tulipa ‘Merlot’
  • Tulipa ‘Moonblush’
  • Tulipa ‘Pieter de Leur’
  • Tulipa ‘Pretty Love’
  • Tulipa ‘Pretty Woman’
  • Tulipa ‘Purple Doll’
  • Tulipa ‘Yume no Murasakin’ (Purple Dream) 
  • Tulipa ‘Purple Heart’
  • Tulipa ‘Red Shine’
  • Tulipa ‘Royal Charm’
  • Tulipa ‘Sarah Raven’
  • Tulipa ‘Schiedam’
  • Tulipa ‘Sonnet’
  • Tulipa ‘Striking Match’
  • Tulipa ‘Synaeda Orange’
  • Tulipa ‘Très Chic’
  • Tulipa ‘West Point’
  • Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’
  • Tulipa ‘Karate’
RHS Award of Garden Merit logo
Buy AGM plants at RHSplants.co.uk

Choose from hundreds of specially-selected plants, bulbs, seeds and gardening products in our online shop.

Shop now

Handy tools and information

Get in touch

For more information on our RHS Plant Trials or to access older trial reports, please get in touch with our team via email at [email protected].

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.