When Daffodil Leaves Sprout in the Fall

Fall sprouting daffodil leaves. Photo: 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.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “When Daffodil Leaves Sprout in the Fall

  1. I had spring cheer daffodils sprout in the Fall last year here in KY and then put on flower stalks. The cold came and killed the blooms on the stalk. I didn’t have flowers from those plants in the Spring. Snip the flower stalk if it happens again? I am already seeing growth from those plants.

  2. 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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