Spring flowers in February? Just enjoy them, gardening expert says

Some people have reported seeing spring flowers already poking out of the ground, but one local garden centre owner says that's OK.

Wacky winter weather may have tricked some early spring bulbs into blooming

Crocuses are usually a sure sign of spring weather's arrival, but this year, they may be a bit earlier. (Geoff Smith)

It's still winter, but some people in Waterloo Region have reported seeing little pops of colour in their gardens as early spring plants have started to sprout.

While it might seem like the time to panic with temperatures going well below zero this weekend, gardening expert Charles Schachinger said the plants are likely going to be OK.

"If your crocuses come out and flower now, they come out and flower. The kinds of things that happen with most plants, you won't be aware of them happening until you see the results, which is crocuses in a warm spot getting a lot of heat, prematurely blooming," he said in an interview with CBC News.

"Once it happens, you're kind of going to look at the plant and go, 'Oh, is this going to kill the plant?' That's where it gets more interesting. It probably depends a lot on the type of plant. For most plants, no, it will not kill them."

Prune the plant

Schachinger, the owner of Meadow Acres Garden Centre in Petersburg, west of Kitchener, said the best thing people can do for spring bulbs that bloom early is to let them do their thing, then prune the plant in the spring when it is actively growing. Remove dead flowers and stems, because the plant will continue to try to feed the dead part.

"If you cut the dead off, all that means then is that it's just isn't as palatable to you because it's not flowering. The plant's fine with that, it doesn't care," he said.

He said then gardeners should be sure to fertilize the plant well and water when necessary to keep it healthy.

Water container plants

The rollercoaster weather in Waterloo Region this winter of freezing and thawing probably won't hurt plants that are in the ground, but Schachinger said those who keep perennials in outdoor containers, such as pots or raised gardens, may actually want to water their plants.

"The stuff at ground level is wet. If it's above ground level, such as in a pot, and it's thawed, the moisture seeps out of the pot and then it's in a situation where it's warmer than the stuff at ground level," he said.

Watering plants in the ground, though, is likely unnecessary before spring, he said.

Will only bloom once

Native plants tend to handle wacky winter weather better than non-native plants, Schachinger said.

If your flowers have burst through the ground in February, unfortunately, they will not bloom again in March, Schachinger said.

"If you go to that crocus in another month when it was supposed to look OK, the tips are all going to be brown and you're not going to get flowers, so cut those tips off. That's it. And just accept that this year you're just not going to have a plant that looks as good," he said.

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