Spring in December! What to do when the winter starts out WARM

Spring in December! What to do when the winter starts out WARM

All over the Northeast people are loving the unusually warm weather. Our plants, however, seem confused. Those on the Cape Cod Gardening Facebook Group have been commenting about plants breaking dormancy or blooming four and five months too soon. “What’s going to happen next spring?” they wonder.

In general we can say this: if a spring flowering tree comes into bloom now, it’s not likely to flower well again next April or May. These plants form their buds in the summer of the previous year so if those buds have opened before spring arrives the tree will not produce more flower buds before winter hits. Perennials that are in flower now might bloom again next spring depending on what happens between now and then.

Which brings us to the biggest problem for plants in such situations. Flowering is actually the least problematic situation for plants when the winter starts out so warm; extreme swings of temperatures are more difficult. It’s hardest on shrub and trees when the early winter is very warm and then suddenly the temperatures plunge in January. In the past when we’ve had such conditions we’ve seen dieback and death for heath, heather, butterfly bush and roses to name just a few.

Since we can’t know what type of weather we’ll be facing in January and February it’s impossible to predict how our plants will do this winter. But all the usual recommendations to help plants apply: dump a bag of composed manure around the base of roses, spray new or vulnerable broadleaf evergreens with Wilt-Pruf when temperatures are above 45 degrees, and wrapping  burlap around plants in exposed places that were damaged last year.

After that, hope for the best. The good news is that most plants are very resilient and they often survive even given extremes of weather.

A primrose in Sandwich thinks it's spring!

A primrose in Sandwich thinks it’s spring!


  1. justine on December 21, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    my lenten rose from last easter is blooming now in december!

  2. Anita on December 22, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Just want to thank you for all the great tips in your newsletters. I really enjoy reading them.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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