Bulbs Peek Through in Mild Weather - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Bulbs Peek Through in Mild Weather

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 signal the hardening-off period to plants. And for a brief while, it was cold enough to start that process.

The longer the warm spell, however, the more plants have begun to sprout new growth rather than head into 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 in the fall.

Some garden flowers that appeared to be all but dead may experience a bit of renewal during the mild weather. Both my annual and perennial verbena appear to be coming back to life, even to the point of sporting a few blooms. Other gardeners have commented that their mums have begun to perk back up, too.

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!

On the other hand, those of us who didn’t finish planting spring bulbs earlier this fall appreciate another opportunity to complete the job! Although it is awfully late in terms of giving the bulbs a chance to root before the dormant season really sets in, it still is likely a safer bet to plant the bulbs rather than try to store them indoors over winter.


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