What's the latest time to plant tulips, Daffodils, etc in De, Pa?

HighlanderNorthDecember 4, 2011

I ordered about 50 double and fancy tulips, Alliums, Fritillaria, Daffodils, etc. just yesterday. They should be in by next Friday or so. That will be Dec 9th.

The weather around here has been very warm for the last 5-6 weeks, and again today it's about 57 degrees. We've only had 1-2 light frosts so far, and the average low temps in Nov were 42-52 degrees! It has gotten down into the mid-high 30's in the last 2 nights.

So, if they were planted 4-6 weeks ago, they would've been pretty warm anyway, and wouldn't have 'wintered' very much anyway. I did plant about 15 Daffodils I bought at Lowes 15 days ago or so, as I bought them 1.5 months ago and didnt get around to planting them til 15 days ago.

So, is it OK to plant bulbs in early to mid December in this area, or is that too late, and they wont bloom next year?

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There are really no absolutes. By moving the planting date later, you increase your risk of problems but do not guarantee problems - they could very well grow and bloom fine, there may be minor issues, or they could fail. The greatest likelihood is that there will be minor issues.

To my knowledge, your greatest risk is that the plants won't be able to grow roots in time for the soil to freeze (most spring bulbs - all varieties that you listed - begin growing roots in fall when the soil is still warm, and are normally well-rooted by now).

That means that in the spring they will be trying to put up flowers in conditions that look like drought even if the soil isn't dry. When it comes to tulips that means "dwarf" plants - they resemble a mature full-sized tulip, but are smaller in all ways, especially in height. When it comes to narcissus it's a full-sized flower that blooms 2-3 inches above the soil line, much shorter than the leaves, which are also a bit shorter than they would be.

An additional risk is that bulbs are more susceptible to rotting if they don't have developed root systems before the temperature plummets. So although the plants would have a harder time absorbing water, you do NOT want to over-water to compensate. Water them the same amount that you would in both winter and spring.

Do water them well as you plant them to kick-start the rooting process (additionally, moist soil holds more latent heat and resists freezing). Also, do plant them deep enough - or even plant them 1-2 inches deeper than the package says as long as drainage won't be a problem. This will give them a little more time to root as the frost slowly advances downward. By planting them deeper you may even get them to be below the farthest extent of frost, which will allow them to continue rooting all winter.

The problems I mentioned could happen, but they may not. There is a risk that you could deal with flowers that fail to develop, but I think this risk is pretty low because as you pointed out, they'll still get a cold period. They don't have to freeze to chill and 40-45 degrees is fine.

You'll also get flowers 2-3 weeks later than usual, unless you put them in a particularly warm, sunny spot.

As for your alliums, they will probably be fine because they are summer-blooming plants and have more time to develop in the spring.

As for your narcissus, I think it's pretty likely that they'll grow and bloom a little shorter than the package says they'll be - but maybe not noticeably so; it's hit or miss.

Your tulips are your biggest risk of problems because they're pickier plants; they're the most likely to rot if the soil is too wet, and the variety you picked doesn't perennialize well. However, in my experience of planting tulips very late, they do come up in spring, and the "dwarf" sized leaves continue to expand in size after the blooms die so have a good opportunity to photosynthesize for next year if you do hope for perennialization.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 11:13PM
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Watch out for your daffodils
they don't make roots if the soil temperature goes under +7 degrees Celcius
A little trick works for small quantities
Plant them in little pots with your garden soil
keep them two weeks warm (they start making roots)
and then plant them in the garden

Once they have a few roots they continue growing


    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 3:58AM
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