Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Bulbs Emerge Too Soon

This is a conversation I'm witness to every fall and winter:

"Oh no! My bulbs are coming up! It's not time!"
"Mine are too! This can't be good. What's going to happen to them when spring gets here?"

I learned several years ago that certain bulbs will make an appearance in the fall as a normal and expected occurrence. Grape hyacinths do it. So do most bulbs in the Allium family, including garlic. As a fellow gardener once told me, "It's their way of saying, 'Don't dig here!'" as you're looking for yet another place to put fall-planted bulbs.

Most of us would agree that this has been an unusual weather year. Here in Ohio, we had way too much rain in May, which delayed planting for both the farmers and the home gardeners. Then in June, it was as if someone turned the faucet off and didn't turn it back on until August. Someone turned the thermostat up too, as we experienced above normal temperatures for much of the summer.

The fall season was beautiful. It stayed warmer longer than usual. We got a nice amount of rain and the gardens perked up. Then there were a couple bouts with winter. Just two weeks ago, we had night temperatures in the low to mid-teens. 13°F is br-r-r cold. Last week, it was 53°F at midnight. While fickle weather is characteristic of the Midwest, this is not really normal.

Our gardens are a little bit confused too. With bulbs relying on temperatures to regulate their growth and blooming schedules, some of them just don't know whether to sleep or leap. My snow crocus are up about two inches all over the gardens. I took notice and though it's unusual for the crocus to do this, I didn't get too worried until I took a closer look.

16 December 2011
Daffodils (Narcissus bulbocodium) on the left, crocus on the right

Not only is the foliage well out of the ground, the crocuses have got buds. Not good.

I did a little research online and found that this isn't unusual when warm winters happen in cold climates. Yes, spring bloom can be affected and that's something that only time will tell. But just about the only thing you can do is add some mulch to the early emergers and hope for the best.

They'll either make it okay through the winter and bloom as spring is springing, or they won't. I'll be disappointed if our warm fall weather robs us of the marvelous burst of color these and other spring bulbs bring, just when we think we can't take another wintry day.

Some years are like that.


Lona said...

Mine are coming up too I saw today.I thought they would rot this year from all of this rain.LOL!

Kylee Baumle said...

Lona ~ Yes, there's that, too. Wet + warm = Rot!

Fairegarden said...

They are up more and buds are showing. I like your attitude of they will or they won't. They, meaning Nature, knows much more than we do. I am hoping for some early flowers. The Hellebores are showing buds, as well.

Kylee Baumle said...

Frances ~ The problem is, with those buds showing and the worst weather to come (below zero, for sure) and a lot of it, this isn't ideal. If this kind of weather or even just below freezing continued for the rest of the winter, I wouldn't be concerned.

No worries on the alliums, because they always do this, but I've never seen crocus do it. My Dutch irises are about a foot tall, too! No buds on those though. (Keeping fingers crossed!)

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post! Mine are coming up, as well, here in East Tennessee. Luckily, I've got mulch. we'll try that and hope for the best.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have seen bulbs up around here too Kylee. It doesn't bode well for the true spring. A little scary really.

Lea's Menagerie said...

Your Ohio summer sounds just like what we had here in Mississippi. And the winter as well, though not as cold. Today is in the 60's and raining. A few days ago we had 40 degrees as the daytime high, and just below freezing weather at night!
Well, the constantly changing weather adds a bit of challenge and suspense to gardening.
Merry Christmas!

Gary K. said...

Hi Kylee;
Will this early sprout of the spring bulbs cause them any permanent harm? I planted a bunch of bulbs this fall in my wife's garden, a first for me... Anyway they too are popping up all over the place, in reading your post I get the feeling I may not see as much nice flowering next spring as I had expected, but do you know if it will hurt them for the future as well? I live in central Ohio so we get pretty much the same weather you do up in northern Ohio.
Thank you, Kylee I have learned so much and been very encouraged by your posts.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Brooklyn, NY and we've had similar situations here with regard to weather. I haven't seen any of my bulbs emerging yet, thankfully, and I waited until 3 days ago to plant the new bulbs I'm adding - didn't want to take any chances!

My garlic, however is already shooting up several inches. I planted it in late October. I'm curious to see what will happen in spring/ summer since it's already sending up shoots now. Yikes.

I have a friend who says the same thing of several plants, including Larkspur and Grape Hyacinths - they send up some green in fall to alert you to their presence so that you won't dig them up. Kind of a nice reminder, actually! Good luck with your bulbs!

Kylee Baumle said...

WeldrBrat ~ Merry Christmas to you, too! :-)

Lisa ~ We've seen bulbs emerge in fall like this before, but like I said, never the crocus. I'm sure it's happened before, but this is a first for me. Other than mulching, there isn't a lot to be done about it! Spring will tell the story.

Lea ~ I never paid nearly as much attention to the weather before I became a gardener! Merry Christmas to you!

Gary ~ Thank you for your kind comments! No, I don't think this will cause permanent damage. I've got some bulbs that have been here for over 30 years and they come up faithfully every year (and bloom). This might affect next spring's bloom, but they should be back to normal when the weather gets back to normal in another year, too. Merry Christmas!

Aimee ~ Your garlic will be fine. As I said, this is normal for plants in the Allium family. Mine does that every year, too. No worries! :-) Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I heard a couple of guys talking about this in the New York subway so I looked it up online and found your page. Thanks. I thought I was right and you confirmed my thoughts. Thanks for the work you've put into this. I'd love to save this and share with my friends.

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