Gardening Q&A: why have my Peach Blossom dwarf tulips changed colour?

Horticultural advice from the experts at the RHS
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Question: In September 2009 I bought some Peach Blossom dwarf tulips for my garden in Ashford, Kent. The soil in the front garden is extremely sandy and the drainage was further sharpened by the addition of grit, specifically to be a herb garden. This meant that the tulips survived unscathed each winter. They were a fabulous show of double ice cream pink each year since.

This year, they have reappeared as before but now the flowers are cream with green tips when in bud, with only a trace of pink inside. They are also nowhere near as double as before. Is this simply deterioration due to age, or the bitterly cold winter and early spring we've had? Or could this be a tulip virus?

Answer: Plants appearing with flowers of a colour you weren’t expecting is not uncommon and can sometimes be due to viruses, genetic mutations or genetic variation when plants seed themselves.

Genetic mutations sometimes cause plants to produce what botanists call sports. These produce flowers of differing colour or number of petals, on a branch or through reproducing new bulbs or other vegetative growth.

Tulipa ‘Peach Blossom’ is a sport of ‘Murillo’ which has produced hundreds of sports since its introduction in the 1860’s. Yours may well be another one of these and may change again in the future. The results can be interesting or have novelty value, but if it’s Tulipa ‘Peach Blossom’ you need in this spot, it would be best to replant.

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