Plants & Gardens Blog

Early Bloomers

Seeing the hyacinths emerge in the springtime is exciting. Seeing them in January, as we are now due to this winter’s exceptionally mild weather, is a little bit alarming, especially now that the forecast is calling for temperatures to dip into the 20s over the next few days. There is one bright side, though. Any holiday greenery still on hand is the perfect material to protect spring bulbs from biting cold and bitter wind. That’s what BBG this week did for the hyacinths, irises, and fritillaria that have sprouted in Annual Border, says curator Cayleb Long. “Christmas tree boughs are really helpful for protecting what’s above ground right now. Even a little extra protection will go a long way,” he says.

Home gardeners can do the same for any of their own spring bulbs that may be confused about what month this is, Long says. “Hopefully, you’ll have already mulched, which will help. Then, if you’ve got Christmas tree boughs, you can place them on top. If not, you can use fallen leaves, straw, or hay—anything loose and organic like that.” Any buds that are starting to form should be pinched off, which may allow the plant to produce another flower when the time is right.

With luck, all will be well come spring, says Long. “It will vary some from species to species and cultivar to cultivar, but most bulbs should still perform just fine. A few may be a little weaker, because they each respond differently to different levels and periods of cold temperature, but others will be fine. All of my tulips, for example, are still in the ground.”

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.


  • Hortense Noble January 25, 2012

    Dear BBG, Thank you so very much for this timely tip…I was fretting as I watched my container of hyacinths on the terrace starting to pop up. I do have some greenery on hand, so I shall get to work in covering them today. Thanks again for all you do.

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