Winter in Kansas City is always unpredictable. The last couple of years we’ve had very little snow (and we’re still in a drought) but the years before we had to dig ourselves out repeatedly. We’ve had 65 degree days followed by 8 degrees followed by 50 degrees.
So it’s not a surprise that our spring flowering bulbs peek out early, sometimes very early, fooled by the warm temps. You’ll see little green stems and even flower tips as early as February and makes us wonder if this means disaster for our gardens.
Bulbs like tulips and daffodils can withstand some pretty low temperatures but are susceptible to a hard frost if they produce too much growth too soon.
This exposed foliage will be fine when temperatures go as low as about 29 degrees but lower than this and you may lose the blooms for the season. Extreme cold may even kill the bulbs entirely so when you choose bulbs in the fall pay close attention to their cold rating. Flowers such as paper whites, while related to daffodils, can’t endure intense cold which is why they are sold primarily as indoor forcing plants. Which, by the way, you should purchase to bring a little spring inside the house.
If you do spy early growth of bulbs in winter you can place temporary covers over your beds to prevent frost damage such as blackening and wilting. It’s very possible to prevent damage with quick action.
A blanket or canvas tarp laid over your plants can provide insulation and protection, be sure to weight down with rocks or weed barrier spikes. Straw or hay can also be used if piled lightly over the beds although it’s harder to remove if left too long. Mulch can also be added if growth is small. When temps warm up remove the cover to allow sunlight to stimulate growth. You may find yourself layering and removing several times before spring finally arrives.
An extreme cold spell may damage bulbs no matter how much protection you offer them so be prepared to lose flowers if Mother Nature plays dirty in the winter. It’s always possible that bulbs that have worked themselves lower into the ground will be less ready to poke their heads out early and you may yet see some color come Spring.
Olympic Lawn and Landscape loves bulbs, plants, shrubs and trees. If you’d like some help planning your garden, beautifying or renewing your lawn give us a call for a consultation. We can team up and produce a stunning landscape and green space that will keep you outside all summer long.