Fall sprouting daffodil leaves. Photo: http://www.pennlive.com
Occasionally, the leaves of certain daffodils or narcissus (Narcissus spp.) start to grow in the fall, but only under fairly exceptional circumstances, usually when winter is slow to arrive. Such daffodils, exposed to cold but frost-free soil for an unusually long time, seem to “think” that spring has arrived and begin to sprout.
These are usually the earliest of the daffodils, the ones that bloom as early as Christmas in southern Europe in a particularly mild year, but in cold climates, things don’t reach that point. Instead, after the leaves put on a certain leaf development, the cold finally does come and stops them short. Any growth ceases and the plant usually just spends the winter with the tip of its leaves exposed. There usually isn’t even any damage. Maybe a burnt leaf tip or two, but nothing serious. When spring finally does come and the snow melts, up come the flower stalks and blooming goes on as if nothing had happened.
Moreover, it’s not only daffodils that do this. Sometimes garlic (Allium sativum) begins to sprout early in the fall under similar circumstances: just the leaf tips are visible. And it too stops growing with the arrival of seriously cold weather. And the common grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) does it every year (that’s just the way it grows!) and doesn’t suffer in the slightest from the experience.
Let Nature Take Its Course
So, if you see bulbs start producing leaves in the fall, not only is there no need to panic, but you don’t even have to do anything about it. Yes, some gardeners like to cover the leaves with a winter mulch, but even that really isn’t absolutely necessary.
In most climates, fall sprouting of daffodil leaves may be the exception rather than the rule, but it’s still quite normal.