Why Does The Netherlands Grow Tulips?

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Have you ever wondered why the Netherlands is so closely associated with growing tulips? It’s a common question with a not-so-well-known answer.

Discover why The Netherlands is known for its tulips

As a lifelong Dutch resident, I’ve explored the significant role tulips play in our country and culture.

There are 3 reasons why The Netherlands grows tulips:

  1. The Netherlands’ maritime climate and geology are perfect for the cultivation of tulips.
  2. The Netherlands exports 2 billion tulip bulbs annually, generating €300 million and showcasing the economic value of tulips.
  3. Tulips are also cultivated to boost tourism, attracting millions of foreign visitors to the Keukenhof Garden and the blooming fields each year.

Let’s explore this story and discover the origins of the Dutch tulip tradition.

The Netherlands exports 2 billion tulip bulbs annually

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Why Does The Netherlands Grow Tulips?

First and foremost, The Netherlands’ maritime climate and geology, especially within 75 km (50 miles) of the North Sea coast, are optimal for tulip farming.

Favored sandy-clay soils are found in South and North Holland, Flevoland, and Noordoostpolder. The country’s 52nd latitude and near-sea-level position ensure mild winters and summers, with December to April temperatures averaging 2-4°C (35-40°F), meeting tulips’ cold needs.

The annual Dutch temperature is an ideal 9.8°C (48°F), with sufficient spring rainfall of 60-80mm (2.5-3.5 inches) and irrigation from canals during dry spells.

The image of The Netherlands as a tulip country is carefully cultivated because tulips are a fantastic tourist attraction that draws many tourists to our country.

The Keukenhof, a world-renowned flower garden in The Netherlands, is our most popular tourist attraction in the Netherlands when it welcomes 1,5 million visitors in the eight weeks that it is open.

More than 2 billion tulips are grown annually in the Netherlands, and tulip bulbs have become a mass product. Almost all of the tulip bulbs are exported, and the Netherlands earns more than €300 mln annually from the export of tulip bulbs.

Therefore, tulip bulbs are affordable, at around €0.60 each

Of course, growing 2 billion tulips can no longer be done only in the Bulb Region, so more regions of the Netherlands have become home to our tulips.

Where Did Tulips Come From?

Many online stories incorrectly state that tulips originated in Turkey, but in fact, Turkey was just a layover in their journey to Holland.

Tulips originally grew in the mountainous regions of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. Tulips need cold nights and cold winters, a climate found in those mountainous regions.

How Did Tulips Get To The Netherlands?

The tulips made their way to the Netherlands from Central Asia through a series of steps.

Tulips traveled from Central Asia to the Netherlands through Turkey, Vienna, and Antwerp. Carolus Clusius brought tulips to the Netherlands in the late 1500s, where they thrived in the local climate.

During their 16th-century campaigns in Central Asia, the Turks discovered tulips and brought the bulbs back to Turkey for cultivation.

The tulip’s name comes from the Persian ‘Tulipan,’ meaning turban, due to the flower’s resemblance to the headwear.

The Turkish sultan sometimes gave tulip bulbs to notable figures, including the Austrian emperor’s envoy, Ogier Gisleen van Busbeke.

Ogier Gisleen van Busbeke later passed some tulip bulbs to Carolus Clusius, the head of the Austrian emperor’s gardens in Vienna.

In 1593, Carolus Clusius joined the University of Leiden as a professor, founded the Hortus Botanicus, and started cultivating tulips in the Netherlands.

The Bulb Region, near Leiden, has the perfect climate for large-scale bulb cultivation.

Tulips: From Status symbol to commodity

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the rarity of tulips, bred on a small scale, made them a symbol of status.

Consequently, tulip bulbs’ prices soared, leading to the tulip mania of 1634-1637 when their costs hit record levels. At the height of tulip mania, a single bulb could be as costly as a coveted canal house in Amsterdam, which was pricy even then.

Eventually, the government intervened to burst the tulip bubble. Yet, tulip cultivation persisted as the flowers remained in high demand overseas and became a key trade item.

Dutch traders traveled globally, trading long-lasting tulip bulbs, which helped make the Netherlands famous for these flowers.

Where Does The Netherlands Grow Tulips?

There are several regions in the Netherlands where tulips grow.

The six tulip regions in The Netherlands where tulips grow are:

  1. Bollenstreek (Keukenhof)
  2. Noordoostpolder
  3. North Holland North
  4. West Friesland
  5. Beemster polder
  6. Zeeuws-Vlaanderen

In another article on this website, I have described the six tulip regions in the Netherlands, including the best times to visit them and how to avoid heavy traffic and large tourist crowds.

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Pim Tijburg
Pim has lived his entire life in The Netherlands and he enjoys writing this blog about his home country. His mission is to make you like The Netherlands as much as he does.