The hard work is done: You’ve planted dozens of hardy spring-flowering daffodils, tulips and crocus all over the yard. The cold, snowy months ahead will give you plenty of “indoor time” to dream about these new additions to your garden. But what about those planted bulbs? Do they have any special needs before the snow flies?

Bulbs in snow

Bulbs that pop up too early can be surprised by late season snowstorms.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Squirrel nibbling

Beware of the mischievous squirrel. (He may look cute here, but your bulbs beg to differ.)

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Yes! You should pull up the covers around spring-flowering bulbs after the ground freezes. Why after a freeze? Glad you asked!

You want the soil to freeze (and stay that way) to give the bulbs a true sense of winter. Mulch that is applied too early (any time before the ground freezes) keeps the soil warm. Consider using 2-3 inches of mulch (evergreen boughs, wood chips, pine needles or compost make fine candidates) after the ground turns hard as a rock. This “insulation” protects bulbs from damage caused by alternate freezing and thawing. During thaws, check for any bulbs that have heaved. If so, carefully press them back into the soil.

Four-footed critters have been known to unearth many a tulip bulb. If mice and squirrels are potential problems in your garden, consider covering your newly planted areas with fine mesh wire, such as chicken wire or hardware cloth. (Then mulch over the wire after the ground freezes.) This prevents unwanted garden visitors from digging up your bulbs and ruining your dreams of that perfect spring landscape. Animal repellents, whether liquid or granular, can also offer some protection from intruders.

As your garden soil warms in late winter and spring, you’ll see the tips of your bulbs poking through the mulch. It’s very exciting, but don’t be too hasty! It’s best to gradually remove their mulch covers and allow the soil to warm. If you’ve used 2-3 inches of pine needles, compost or wood chips, there’s really no need to remove it. If you’ve used hay or pine boughs, remove half to allow the soil to warm. In a few weeks, the remainder can be taken off. There’s no “magic date” on the calendar for when this should be done. Good gardeners know to watch the long-term weather forecasts.

Bulbs that “push” too early can be surprised by late season snowstorms. Generally these plants are hardy enough to withstand the occasional late snowstorm attack, so there’s usually little, if any, cause for concern. Your bulbs will still provide you with a beautiful display of color come spring if you help take cover!