For most people, tulips evoke images of springtime gardens and beautiful bouquets. You can find tulips of all shapes, sizes, and colors thanks to hybridization and selective breeding.
One variety that has recently captured the attention of gardeners is the ice cream tulip.
What are ice cream tulips? Ice cream tulips are a variety of double late tulips that feature deep pink petals on the bottom and white petals on top, resembling a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cone. They bloom in late spring, are hardy in Zones 3-8, and require the same basic care as other tulip varieties.
The ice cream effect is most prominent when the bloom first opens up.
Most ice cream tulips will open up even further, with the white petals fanning out like a peony. You get two different looks from a single flower. Let’s take a closer look at this stunning tulip.
Ice Cream Tulips
When you first see photos of ice cream tulips, it is hard to believe that they are real. While their look is unique among flowers, tulips have been bred to create a wide range of styles and shapes.
Are Ice Cream Tulips Real?
Ice cream tulips are very real. They were created by a flower breeding company, Vertuco BV, in 1999. The botanical name for these flowers is Tulipa ‘Ice Cream’.
The ice-cream-cone look was not intentionally created, but it was a happy surprise. The outer or “cone” petals are deep pink and green.
The inner petals are white as they first emerge up and out of the “cone.” As the “vanilla” petals open up, you’ll see that they have light pink-and-yellow shading near the bases.
The original color combination of white and deep pink is not the only one. You can now find Tulipa ‘Ice Cream Banana’, which has bright yellow “ice cream” petals over the same deep pink base.
A newer variety, Tulipa ‘Ice Cream Strawberry’ has the same shape as the other ice cream tulips, but it has bright pink petals on top.
Ice Cream Tulip Care
As with other double late tulip varieties, ice cream tulips bloom in late spring. They are hardy in Grow Zones 3-8.
Most gardeners plant these flowers as annuals because they do not reliably come back after the first year.
When To Plant Ice Cream Tulips
Plant ice cream tulips bulbs in the fall. At the latest, the bulbs should be in the soil before the ground freezes. This variety needs a period of cold to bloom once it warms up in the spring.
How To Plant Ice Cream Cone Tulips
Choose a location that receives full sun to plant your bulbs. Space the bulbs 3 to 6 inches apart and bury them 6 to 12 inches deep. The pointed end of the bulb should be facing up.
Best Soil for Ice Cream Tulips
The best soil for ice cream tulips is one that drains well and has a pH of 6.0-6.5. If your soil is heavy clay, add peat moss to increase drainage.
Ice Cream Tulip Lighting Requirements
At minimum, ice cream tulips should receive a half day of full sun. However, many gardeners have reported that many of their plants did not bloom unless they were planted in full sun locations.
Ice Cream Tulips Watering and Fertilization
When you first plant your bulbs, moisten the soil. You will not need to add additional water throughout the dormant period of the winter.
Come spring, water the plants as necessary. Spring rain often provides plenty of water for the ice cream tulips.
Fertilize your ice cream tulips in the fall after planting. Apply a slow-release fertilizer, ideally one designed for bulbs, to the top of the soil.
Never apply the fertilizer into the hole when you plant a bulb – the high concentration can burn the bulb and new roots.
What To Do After Ice Cream Tulips Bloom
Most people grow ice cream tulips as annuals because they do not reliably come back after the first year. In that case, you can remove the plant and bulb whenever you would like.
If you are going to try to overwinter the bulbs and see if they bloom again the following year, remove the flower stalk but allow the foliage to die back on its own.
This will allow the bulb to conserve energy for the following year. Once the plant has died back, cover the area with at least 2 inches of mulch to protect the bulb over the winter.
How Many Types of Ice Cream Tulips Are There?
There are three varieties of ice cream tulips: Tulipa ‘Ice Cream’ (the original), Tulipa ‘Ice Cream Banana’ (yellow petals), and Tulipa ‘Ice Cream Strawberry’ (pink petals).
In addition, there are a number of varieties of tulips that have a similar structure to ice cream tulips, but they do not create the same visual effect of a scoop of ice cream.
What Is a Double Peony Tulip Ice Cream?
This is another name for an ice cream tulip. “Double” comes from the two-toned inner and outer petals. “Peony” references the peony-like look that the inner petals create as they open up.
What Is a Double Scoop Ice Cream Tulip?
This is another name for an ice cream tulip. Some believe that the flower looks like two scoops of ice cream – vanilla on top and strawberry on the bottom.
When Do Ice Cream Tulips Bloom?
Ice cream tulips bloom in the late spring, usually April or May.
Where Do Ice Cream Tulips Grow?
Ice cream tulips are hardy in Zones 3-8. It gets too cold in northern zones for the bulbs to survive the winter, but they could be overwintered in a greenhouse.
Southern zones usually do not get cold enough to trigger the bulb to grow and bloom in the spring.
Can You Force Ice Cream Tulips?
Double late tulips, including ice cream tulips, generally do not respond well to forcing.
Gardeners have reported mixed results, with some being able to force their ice cream tulips when they did not plant them before the ground froze.
Can You Grow Ice Cream Tulips in Pots?
You can grow ice cream tulips in pots as long as they receive full sun and the pot is deep enough for the bulbs.
Potted plants tend to lose moisture quicker than plants in the ground, so be mindful of the moisture level during the growing season.
Do Ice Cream Tulips Come Back Every Year?
Most of the time, ice cream tulips do not come back after the first year. It is not impossible, but it is better to treat these flowers as annuals to guarantee a full garden.
Are Ice Cream Tulips Perennial?
Technically, these tulips can be perennials because they can survive the winter and bloom again in the spring. However, ice cream tulips generally do not come back after their first year.
Do Ice Cream Tulips Multiply?
Since these flowers do not generally survive past the first year, they do not multiply.
How Tall Are Ice Cream Tulips?
Ice cream tulips typically grow up to 14 inches tall.
Where Can I Buy Ice Cream Tulips?
Now that you learned about these delicious-looking florals, how to grow them, and where to buy them, you can grow some sweet ice cream tulips of your own!
Just be prepared to become the envy of your neighbor come springtime!