Celebrating the Canadian Tulip Festival with Some Facts About Tulips

This year, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa runs until May 23. In the spirit of celebration, we thought we’d offer up some facts about the flower beautiful enough to have an entire festival in its honour.

The Story Behind the Festival

After the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis, Princess Juliana of the Dutch Royal Family sought safe harbour in Canada, settling in Ottawa. On January 19, 1943, while in exile, Princess Juliana gave birth to a daughter, Princess Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The Government of Canada temporarily declared the hospital extraterritorial so that the infant Princess could hold exclusively Dutch nationality.

In 1945, Princess Juliana and her kids were able to return to the liberated area of the Netherlands. To show her gratitude to Canadians for her stay (and to honour the Canadian soldiers who helped liberate her homeland), the Princess gifted Canada, among other things, 100,000 tulip bulbs. Juliana became Queen of the Netherlands in 1948 and continued to send her gift of tulips annually.

In 1953, the Canadian Tulip Festival was created as a way to celebrate the beginning of spring in our Nation’s capital, and, according to the Tulip Festival website, “a commemoration of the tulip and its wartime connection to Canada.”

tulip fest parliament

Varieties and Colours

There are about 150 species of tulips in existence today, and over 3,000 varieties in almost every colour you could think of except classic blue; the blue varieties generally have a purplish tone. Queen of the Night tulips are a dark purple and can appear almost black.

tulip queen of the night

While tulips in general are symbolic of love and the arrival of spring, the tulip’s many colours also have meaning. White tulips are a great way to apologize, and purple stands for royalty. Read more about the meaning of tulip colours here.


Tulips are almost perfectly symmetrical – a great flower for the perfectionist in your life! They have three petals and three sepals, which have the same size and shape as the petals, giving them the appearance of a six-petaled flower.

tulip symmetrical

Tulip Soup, Anyone?

Did you know tulips are edible? They can be used to replace onions in many recipes, and can even be used in making wine.

Another Connection to the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters of tulips in the world, with 3 billion bulbs exported last year. The area is one of the few places on the globe where tulips can grow best!

tulip netherlands

Tulip Mania

In the 1600s in the Netherlands, there was a period of time when prices of tulip bulbs reached extraordinarily high levels (think: a single bulb for more than 10 times the annual salary of a skilled craftsman). They’re beautiful flowers, but that seems a bit excessive, don’t you think?




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