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Managing Early Sprouting Bulbs

A break in the cold winter temperatures can be a welcome reprieve for gardeners, but not such a good thing for our spring flowering bulbs. 

As tulip, hyacinth and crocus begin peaking through the ground during a winter thaw, gardeners begin to panic.  Fortunately most bulbs will survive.  The leaf tips may be damaged, but as long as the flower buds are below ground your spring flower display will be fine.

Flowers from some early-blooming daffodils and tulips may be lost.  Just leave the plants in place and wait to enjoy their blooms the following spring.  Many of the early blooming minor bulbs like glory-of-the-snow, crocus and squills can tolerate the colder temperatures.  I’ve seen all survive below freezing temperatures and at other times come out of a week of snow cover looking great.

You can apply a winter mulch once the temperatures begin to drop.  A layer of straw or evergreen boughs can protect the exposed plants and keep the soil cold, reducing further sprouting.

A bit more information: Prevent the problem next spring by applying a winter mulch in fall after the ground freezes.  A layer of evergreen boughs or marsh hay will keep the soil cold during the winter thaw.  Further reduce the problem by not planting bulbs next to your home’s foundation, under dryer vents and in other areas subject to warmer than normal temperatures. 


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