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For the past few years now the bulbs in my garden (mostly variants of tulips and daffodils) start shooting far to early in the year (December/January), which means that when the coldest part of the year happens late January or February they take a big hit and most don't flower at all before the whole cycle repeats again next year.

What can I do to try and break this cycle and encourage them to start shooting later in the year so they flower better?

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    planting tulips deeper, up to one foot deep, helps keep them dormant – kevinsky Jan 13 at 13:51
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You don't say what part of the world you're in, but this is more of a problem than it once was in many parts of the northern hemisphere, and there is little you can do about it. It's because of climate change - temperatures fluctuate in parts of the northern hemisphere quite naturally during winter, but that fluctation is now greater and less predictable than it once was, even in the UK. I believe this year some daffodils were out before Christmas and have now finished in the west of the UK, for instance, and some trees are already beginning to blossom two months early here in the south of the UK. I also know of summer flowering lillies here in the south which are currently nearly two feet high with the flower buds showing; sudden cold for those will, unfortunately, mean they will not recover. The growing season here now starts more than two weeks earlier and finishes over two weeks later than it did 30 years ago, and that is due to climate change.

Often, bulbs do appear above ground well before they're due to flower; this is usually triggered by a cold snap followed by much milder weather, tricking the bulbs into thinking spring is here. But when the weather turns cold again, most spring bulbs just stop and sit there until conditions improve later on and flower then, if they did not actually flower during the milder spell; they are perfectly adapted to sudden cold weather whilst still in the green, not having flowered.

If, in the last two years, your spring bulbs grew but did not actually flower in winter, then did not produce much bloom at the right time (known as 'blind' bulbs), that's more likely to be due to the bulbs not receiving any fertilizer or possibly (but less likely) sufficient water in the previous late spring; bulbs in the ground should be given a balanced fertilizer after they have flowered, but whilst the leaves are still present, usually a period of 6-8 weeks. This period of time when the leaves are still green is when the bulb is gathering nutrients to store in the bulb in order to flower the following year; that is also why the leaves of bulbs should not be removed, cut nor tied into a bunch for a minimum of six weeks after flowering, to enable maximum photosynthesis to take place. That is particularly helpful for daffodils, but tulips are a somewhat different matter - many varieties of tulips don't do well after their first year, often not producing a good show of flowers or even growing again, regardless of the weather conditions.

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