Tulips were growing in the gardens of Turkish Sultans in the early 1500's. The name is derived from the flowers resemblance to upside down turbans known as tulibans. A flemish botanist took the bulbs to the Netherlands and they became a status symbol in the gardens of wealthy Dutch families.
They became so expensive, and the attempts to produce unusual varieties became so frantic, that the economy was inflated by this tulipmania. As a result breeders produced the many striped, feathered and marbled varieties that are included in the genus "tulipa" today.
Bulbs are planted in the fall for spring bloom and they like cold weather during winter and full or part sun when they flower. Tulips are magnificent the first spring after they are planted, but many are not reliably perennial in subsequent years.
The shorter varieties seem to come back more often than the tall Darwin or Triumph beauties. Look for bulbs of the small species tulips - popular ones are Tulipa "Kaufmanní" or water-lily tulips and Tulipa "Gregii" which has mottled foliage.
Use fertilizer that is not odiferous, because it will advertise exactly where you have your planted bulbs, and rodents will dig them up. It is also a sad fact, but deer find tulips delectable.