January 31st, 2012

When Bulbs Wake Up Too Early

We’re barely halfway through winter and already I see the tips of daffodils and hyacinths poking through the mulch. This weekend I even saw some crocuses in bloom. Do I need to do anything?

blog-dougDon’t underestimate the fortitude of bulbs that bloom in early spring. They’re used to nasty winter weather. As long as the flower buds stay safely belowground, the worst that can happen is the leaf tips will be singed. Daffodils with brown leaf tips may not be what you were hoping to see in spring, but the damage is superficial and won’t prevent the bulbs from flowering.

It’s not unusual for these tentative sprouts to appear long before the bulbs bloom. So long as the weather stays cold, the leaves grow no further. If you wish, you can add a layer of loose mulch to insulate the exposed shoots and protect them from winter burn.

But when warmer weather causes the flower buds to emerge—and especially once the buds show color or open—the potential for damage increases. Bulb flowers are more fragile than the leaves, more likely to be harmed by snow, wind, or just plain cold. Enjoy those crocuses while they last!  —Doug Hall

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