published Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Will weekend freeze harm blooming plants?

By Pat Lea

Q: Is there any chance I can save the daffodils in full bloom in my yard from upcoming cold temperatures? What about the ones just coming up?

A: You may have to race out and do something immediately. Recent unseasonably warm temperatures have created an early display by our crocuses and daffodils, and many are now in full bloom.

The crocuses often appear early, and they may be almost done blooming for this year. You can cover their green foliage with a light layer of pine needles to help the green leaves survive a freeze if one is predicted for your area. We want the foliage to survive to enable the bulbs to store energy for next year. You can purchase freeze cloth at many nursery shops. Use this light layer to help hold soil heat in and around the plants.

The tall foliage of daffodils can be protected by covering with cardboard boxes, black plastic nursery pots or old clay pots. Any item that you have that can cover the plant without squashing it will do. Search your cupboards for possibilities.

You can surround the base of daffodil foliage with a light layer of pine needles to support the foliage and then cover the area with freeze cloth or a fabric sheet. Your objective is to create a protective layer and capture the warmth of the soil.

If a hard freeze is predicted, you can enjoy your daffodils indoors. Cut the flowers that are in full bloom, and use them in arrangements. They are often too tender to survive, and you will have to cut them away to clean up the plant anyway.

As you may have noticed with partly open flowers, when frost gets to the plant, the stems collapse and the flowers never open. Better to enjoy them, so cut and allow them to open indoors.

The foliage clumps that are barely emerging from the soil for late-blooming daffodils or tulips can be covered with fabric, cardboard or pots. Try to create a little greenhouse effect for each tuft. Try not to squash the foliage since it may recover to full height.

If cold temperatures do produce major problems for your daffodils or other bulbs, fertilize whatever remains as you would usually do. They may be unsightly, but they need the nutrients for the health of the bulb.

Also consider planting some of the early frost-resistant plants such as the trusty and tough hellebores. Their flowers stand up to a frost, and so will the flowers of the early Galanthus nivalis or Snowdrops. These dainty white flowers naturalize well, will pop through a snow cover and are a dainty but tough reminder that spring is around the corner.

Email Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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