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Will warm winter hurt plants?

There has been a lot of talk about the weather and how it might be affecting plants. If you have been on social media you may have seen photos of roses and other plants in bloom in December.

While this is not unusual, we are seeing more this season because of the extended warmer weather. And it’s not a cause for panic.

Trees and shrubs that have been blooming sporadically set their buds for this spring late last summer. Those buds that bloomed recently won’t bloom again but there is a good chance that you will still see ample bloom.

What I have observed is that it really depends on the specific location of the plant and the temperature. For instance, a friend of mine lives in the city and has had daffodils and tulips breaking through as well as roses still in bloom.

I live in the county and have a very open exposure and have no tulips and daffodils peeking through and nothing in bloom.

And again, I emphasize sporadic blooming. I haven’t seen photos of plants that are in full spring bloom; most of them have a few blossoms open.

Those flower buds that have opened won’t bloom again but hopefully there are still more buds on the plant for spring bloom.

Therefore, if you had a full show of blooms on any trees or shrubs this December, you likely won’t see much in the way of a spring show. But there is always the next year!

The good news has been in the vegetable gardens. Those who have kale, chard and other plants that tolerate cooler temperatures harvested through the holidays.

Spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils, crocus, and others come up early quite often, though we don’t usually see them this early.

Some want to mulch over them to protect the foliage but this actually keeps the soil warm and may encourage growth. Others want to cover and protect them from injury. This is a lot of work but it’s up to you!

I just leave mine alone and let Mother Nature take her course. If the foliage is damaged, it can be cut off so that the plants don’t appear ragged.

The major concern for plant damage is temperature extremes. Really cold temperatures following a really warm spell can cause damage to flower and foliage buds.

There are so many variables at play that it’s really hard to predict winter and cold injury.

The bottom line is that there is really nothing you can do to prevent what’s happening in the garden due to the weather. We may or we may not see plant damage due to the extended warm spell. We just have to wait and see.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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