When Daffodil Leaves Sprout in the Fall

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.

Grape hyacinth leaves always start to sprout in the fall. Photo: Photobucket

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.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “When Daffodil Leaves Sprout in the Fall

  1. It can happen in mild climates too. Even though they don’t get much rest, the weather may not stay cold enough to convince them that it is still winter.

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