In the Grow

Bulbs can overcome way-too-early sprouting

January 7, 2020


Fluctuating temperatures in fall and winter can fool bulbs, but in most cases, they will bloom as normal.

Q: In December’s mild weather, I found several bulbs sprouting in my garden. Then it got really cold again. Will my bulbs bloom this spring?

A: It’s not unusual for Indiana weather to have trouble deciding what season it is. Warm spells during the dormant period often lead to bulbs poking their foliage through the soil. Though we’re more used to seeing this happen during February warm spells, our frigid temperatures arrived a bit early in fall 2019.

Indiana temperatures widely fluctuated in November and December, with the low temperature at the Purdue ACRE Farm (West Lafayette) of 25º F on November 7, 3º F on November 14, and 41º F on November 21! Correspondingly, soil temperatures also fluctuated, from 63º on November 7, 36º on November 14, and 45º on November 27. And the alternating pattern of below and above freezing continued through December.

There’s not much you can do about bulbs that have sprouted, but the good news is that in most cases, the bulb itself should still be well protected and should bloom as normal. The tips of the leaves may be brown from the freeze damage.