Is cold weather to blame for my spring bulbs not blooming yet?


I want to ask if the cold weather we’ve been having could be impacting the reemergence of my tulips and early spring bulbs. Last year it was bursting with color – tulips, daffodils, etc. this year there is very little. I have not done anything differently. Could it be the weather? Is there still hope for a colorful show as we get in to May? What would cause the difference in bloom schedule? 


Lynne M. Holland, Horticulture and Social Media Professional

Weather can make a world of difference from year to year and it is not just the weather right now, but the weather last summer or even the winter temperatures as well. All the bulb plants you mentioned are dependent on the moisture and sunlight they received during the time after bloom last year when this year’s flowers were forming in the bulb.  A hot dry summer or a cold cloudy summer means those plants did not get to build enough stores to have a spectacular showing in the spring.  In the spring if it is cold and wet the bulbs will open later and more slowly.  Current weather can mean swings of several weeks either early or late.  Some bulbs, like tulips, naturally lose vitality over the years and need to be replaced.  Other bulbs, like daffodils, may naturalize and “move” around the garden.  Lastly, you may not have done anything different but the neighborhood wildlife may have been hungrier or not as hungry (fewer in number) from one year to the next.  All that affects when and what kind of show you will get.

That is a pretty cursory explanation but it is also the reason we suggest every gardener keep a journal/accounting about their garden, as you did with your pictures, so you can see and learn from differences in your garden year to year.  A recent interview article from Maine Homes where UMaine Extension Professor Marjorie Peronto talked about Maine gardens also gives some perspective as the growing season kicks off. Most plants rally eventually, after they are done blooming give those bulbs some attention and then let them do their thing until next spring.