There’s nothing like catching the first glimpse of a spring season’s flowers peek above a fresh blanket of snow, towards the end of winter. These flashes of color in a desaturated landscape can be a godsend, counting down the days until spring’s warmth, as the flowers grow inch by inch. But how do perennial bulbs grow in the volatile conditions of early spring, when one day can be warm then the next bringing snow? As it turns out, snow is great for these bulbs’ health and a deep freeze over winter will ensure that these bulbs bloom as much as they can.
A thick blanket of snow creates a layer of insulation to protect bulbs from the freezes of winter. During the worst of winter, you should hope that there is snow on the ground, as frost can penetrate several inches below the surface of soil, potentially harming your bulbs. A thick blanket will be your best defense from this frost, while also ensuring that your bulbs get reach a cold enough temperature to kickstart spring’s growth.
Even if snow falls after your flowers have begun to peek through the top layer of soil and mulch, that’s still okay. The blanket of a late spring snow will provide your newly emerging flowers protection from fluctuating temperatures and late night freezing. This happens because the Earth radiates heat, which is then trapped by the layer of snow, protecting your flowers. When this snow melts, your flowers will benefit with bountiful blooms.
Melting snow provides a flush of moisture after the dryness of winter, hydrating the soil during the spring, providing water to perennial bulbs. A steady supply of winter snow will result in prolific springtime blooms. An additional benefit to all of this new hydration in the soil, is that bulbs will have an easier time pushing their way through topsoil, when an influx of water makes the soil much softer than its frozen state.
While it may be too late to consider planting spring blooming bulbs in your landscape, garden or containers, this is an excellent time of the year to take stock of your yard, and plan where you’d like to see springtime color emerge. When your landscape is barren during winter, notice where perennial shrubs occupy space and where there may be space to plant some less winter hardy plant material. Do you have a large terra cotta pot that isn’t utilized until the summer? Maybe plant bulbs in it next year. Is there an open space underneath a tree that can be made into a bed of spring blooms? Plan ahead and try your hand at bulbs next year.
Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center is a full service landscape center and nursery located in Cary, Illinois. Stop in today to schedule a Spring 2022 cleanup. (Updated: 1/10/22)