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Bulbs and Other Perennials Peek Through in Mild Weather

B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist

The recent warm spell has many a gardener wondering what to do about bulbs--and perhaps a few other plants poking their foliage through the soil.

This is the time of year when we normally expect temperatures to be cold enough to keep plants dormant. And for a brief while, it was cold enough to do just that. But the relatively mild weather now has some garden flowers that appeared to be all but dead poking some foliage through. A few plants may even sport a few blooms.

The longer the warm spell, the more plants have begun to sprout new growth rather than stay in their winter dormant condition. We're more used to seeing this happen later in winter during a February warm spell, for example, but this certainly isn't the first time that it has happened this early.

The longer the mild weather stays around, the more potential there is for damage when the weather returns to normal. Foliage that has popped up will be killed back, but the bulbs and storage roots of other perennials should remain undamaged underground. It is possible that next spring's display of flowers may be affected, but the plants themselves should be fine.

Of course, a lot depends on what the weather does following this warm spell. If temperatures plummet rapidly, without giving plants a chance to harden off properly, we could be in for more serious damage, especially to trees and shrubs. There isn't much we can do about the weather but sit back and wait to see what Mother Nature has in store for us this winter!

Click on the small image to view a larger image.

Daffodil Bulbs Sprouting in January
Daffodil Bulbs Sprouting in January Daffodil Bulbs Sprouting in January
Daffodil Bulbs Sprouting in January
(Photos by Karen Rane)

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Last updated: 29 January 2002/tlm.
The Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue University.