What happens to daffodils showing green in cold weather?

There is a bit of green peaking up from the ground that is causing some gardeners alarm. Calls and questions are rolling in regarding spring bulbs showing and growing in the landscape.

This is not unusual in January and February and occurs almost every year to some degree. The warm winter days promote foliage growth and out pops the leaves of daffodils.

The good news is that weather like this won’t harm the flowers. The buds for flowers are still tucked deep inside the foliage that is in the ground and won’t appear until closer to spring or their normal bloom time.

It’s not really bad news as long as the blooms show up in the spring. I am not too concerned about the foliage.

The foliage showing right now may get burned by freezing temperatures. I emphasize MAY. It depends on the growing conditions in the days before a freeze as well as the growth of the foliage.

As you can see right now, they are withstanding cooler temperatures. However, if we have several warm days followed by an extreme drop in temperatures, there will likely be damage.

In addition, if there is a snow cover, the foliage is protected. Daffodil foliage can tolerate snow – the blooms, not so much.

But remember, the damage is only to the exposed foliage. Foliage that continues to emerge will be green.

The bottom line is this – don’t worry about the foliage. When the blooms come out you will completely forget about the yellowish foliage.

The time I worry about my daffodils is when they are in full bloom, it’s been warm and we get a freeze. The blooms won’t tolerate this, and they end up drooping and die.

If this is predicted, I end up having quite a few nice bouquets around the house. I hate to lose them.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my colleagues and friends in Tennessee and the cold snap they had before Christmas. They had warm days followed by a dramatic drop in temperatures.

I am hearing about some of the plants that took a beating. Nandina, leucothoe, hellebores, and more lost all their foliage and some of the woody plants had dead stems.

I have some of these plants in my landscape and they still look great. But remember, we had cold temperatures leading to the severe drop right before Christmas.

I am following this story as it will be interesting to compare these plants and to see what happens to mine when it comes spring. They still aren’t out of the woods yet. Some of them may look good but didn’t survive the extreme cold.

Predicting winter, cold and freeze damage is always a guess. There are many variables in play and plants of course, don’t always do what they are supposed to do.

All we can do is wait and see what happens in the spring. And speaking of spring, I can’t wait.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at bennett.27@osu.edu.

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