Master gardener says no need to fret about early emerging spring bulbs

Provided photos: These hyacinth leaves poke through the winter soil.

Posted 20 February 2023 at 6:37 pm

Contributed by Lydia Fernandez, Orleans County CCE Master Gardener

In many yards, daffodils and other spring-blooming bulbs have already started poking through the soil. Usually, they begin coming up in March or April, but our recent warm weather has woken them a little early.

Not to worry though. Spring-blooming bulbs are very hardy can handle our inevitable return to freezing temperatures.  Even if the leaves are damaged by the cold, it should not affect the bulb’s ability to flower. As long as the flower buds stay beneath the soil in freezing weather, they should still bloom when spring actually arrives.

Spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and crocuses spend the winter in dormancy. This resting period comes after months of developing strong roots and making and storing food to produce flowers for the next year.

The leaves and flower buds form at the center of the bulb, where the plant stores its food. Warming soil signals the bulbs to start sending up the leaves and eventually the flower buds. A return of colder weather slows this process until conditions are right again.  If the flower buds come up too soon and are damaged by cold, they will not produce a bloom. However, the leaves will continue to produce food to store in the bulb. Let that foliage grow until it dies back naturally, and flowers will likely return next year.

If you get fewer flowers than expected in the spring, it may not be because of erratic winter weather. It could be a sign that you need to divide your bulbs. Bulbs reproduce by forming new bulbs, called offsets, at their base, and when they get overcrowded, they don’t produce as many flowers.

Fewer flowers could also mean that the bulbs were not able to store enough food last year, either because the plant didn’t getting enough sun or because the leaves were removed too soon. Consider relocating your bulbs if they are in too much shade, and wherever they are, be sure to allow the leaves to mature, turn yellow and die back, before removing them.

Spring is officially less than five weeks away, so we won’t have long to wait for these flowers to emerge.

In the meantime, if you have questions about your yard or gardens, call or email Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County at 585-798-4265 or email



Dwarf Iris bulbs have been fooled by the warmer temps. They will pause active growth when temps dip and resume growing when conditions are right.