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I live in southern New Hampshire and I planted a bunch of spring bulbs in late September after it finally cooled down. However, we've had quite a warm fall since then. Today I noticed that I've got a lot of shoots coming up from the flower bed and I'm wondering if I should do anything to the bulbs to ensure that they will come up in the spring.

I couldn't find much of anything on the internet as it all seemed to be january/february thaw and was hoping to get some insight into this wonderful phenomenon.

The bed contains dutch iris, daffodils, tulips, and crocus. I think it's the daffodils or tulips coming up.

  • Where are you located? – NadjaCS Nov 16 '15 at 1:36
  • Updated post with location -- Southern New Hampshire – Brian Nov 16 '15 at 11:53
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There's nothing you can do - we're in the same boat here in the UK, lots of people saying their new bulb plantings are showing growth already, although more mature plantings aren't. The cause is fluctuating weather conditions - cooler weather when planted, with warmer weather arriving a few weeks later, which starts the growth cycle. Usually its the daffodils that do this, but they just sit tight, not moving, once the weather gets colder and continue growing in spring. If it stays very mild or warm, they may actually produce a flower or two now, but that's really quite unusual. A bit of snow cover helps to protect them, but don't cover them with anything yourself - this will only keep the soil warmer and may encourage further growth.

  • Excellent, that's what I was worried about -- most of the posts I encountered on the internet for an early spring (not a late fall) indicated that I should use a leaf mulch or similar to help protect them. I certainly didn't think I wanted to encourage them. – Brian Nov 16 '15 at 11:54
  • With the temperatures you get, a few leaves over the top might be useful, but I wouldn't be laying a thick layer of leaf mulch - here, dead leaves tend to accumulate around growth protruding from the soil naturally, so I wouldn't be removing those, but leaving them, or even adding them to the area in hopes they 'stick' round the tops of the bulbs. Snow cover is good, but we don't get much of that here... – Bamboo Nov 16 '15 at 14:43
  • Last year we got crushed and we usually have consistent cover from early december to february. Might throw some of the fine mulched leaves from the lawn on for nutrients anyhow then. – Brian Nov 17 '15 at 0:57
  • There is really nothing to do. However I'm surprised they came up and had enough cooling. Perhaps you purchased pre-chilled bulbs - or put them in the fridge? You don't want to do this. Also planting them deeper or mulching will help. Except: Irises - don't mulch, and they can sprout a bit. They are actually best planted in July anyway. – Eric Deloak Nov 22 '15 at 17:17
  • Is this happening in established beds too - not planting this year? Like others said though, bulbs are resilient and they will likely still be fine in the Spring. – Eric Deloak Nov 22 '15 at 17:25
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I'm in Massachusetts, and have gone through this many times over the years. I'm always concerned, especially because I so look forward to those harbingers of spring, and don't want them having nothing left to bloom at the proper time! In general I agree with the advice you've already been given, and have learned from experience that the bulbs will go dormant again on their own when the ground gets colder. However, since most of mine are in the sun, I can slow them down, or prevent new growth, by giving them some shade during the height of the warm sunny days. Both of the following methods work for me:

  • I have a sturdy small plastic stool which I use for my gardening. Stand it over the the affected bulbs. The sides are open enough to allow for airflow, but not enough to let in a lot of sun. It weighs very little, so I can easily move it around, then put it away for the winter once the problem is resolved.

  • You can turn a large planting pot upside down and gently place it over your active bulbs. Depending on your situation, one large or a few small pots will do. If it's windy, just put a rock on top. Only do this in extreme situations, and for very short periods of time. Anything that holds in heat may keep the ground warm enough to encourage more growth, which is exactly what you're trying to avoid!

Bulbs are wonderfully resilient. As you said, we in New England got crushed last year! When we had three feet of snow on the ground until far into April, I figured my bulbs would skip the whole season. Happily, the flowers just showed up late, none the worse for wear!

  • Thanks for the tips. I was thinking something like this might help but I wasn't really sure and didn't want to roll the dice with a newly broken in bed. Hopefully the cold will settle in and the shorter days will ease them back into dormancy. – Brian Nov 23 '15 at 15:59
  • I appreciate the support! It's colder here today, and, according to the forecast, I think our friends should be going to sleep soon. Obviously we hope to keep seeing you here on a regular basis, but I'd also appreciate an update on this next spring. Hopefully you'll have good news to share! Thanks! – Sue Nov 23 '15 at 18:49

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