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Warm Weather Confusing Plants

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
February 22, 2017        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton, & Morrison Counties


Warm Weather Confusing Plants
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (02/22/17) — Apparently February didn’t know that the saying is “April showers bring May flowers” and the recent warm weather and rain have drastically changed our landscape.  This may cause some plants to be confused, and as a gardener there may be one thing we can do to help. 

If you have areas in your gardens that do not have any snow and mulch cover, take the time to cover them. Especially if you have spring bulbs like tulips or daffodils. The type of mulch isn’t that important; use wood chips, straw, hay, or even corn stalks. If still available, leaves or pine needles could also be used. The important thing is trying to get the soil temperatures to stay cool and consistent.  Areas that are exposed and receiving strong sunlight are likely to warm up too quickly and encourage plant growth. We are far from out of cold temperature danger and it is important to do what we can to stop those soil temperatures from warming.

Research trials done by Michigan Extension have found that 3-inches of wood chip mulch reduce midday soil temperatures by 18°F. These tests were done during the summer, but would still be applicable during this unseasonably warm February too.  Mulch is valuable at all times of the year, helping to keep moisture and soil temperatures cooler during the growing season, which plants prefer. Of course, mulch can also provide great winter protection to prevent temperatures from dipping too cold and causing plant damage. 

Spring temperatures seem to be coming early, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing for some of our plants that will want to get a jump start only to be damaged by cold temperatures later. Take the time to protect those areas in your garden before the soil temperatures rise too much and plant growth begins.


Photo source:


Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
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