March 21, 2015

1 - Daffodil plants need winter water for their flower scapes to develop properly.

2 - Even though New Mexico springs warm early, tempting gardeners to plant too early, choose wisely what you will plant early and wait to plant the warm season crops.

Yard and Garden March 21, 2015

Q. #1

My daffodil plants are blooming now, but the flowers are almost touching the ground. The flower stalks used to be much taller, now they are very short. We recently converted our landscape to xeriscape. Could that have harmed the daffodils?

A. #1

Daffodil and other spring flowering bulbs need adequate winter moisture to develop their flower scapes (flower stalks). In New Mexico the past winter was relatively moist in many places, but there may not have been enough moisture for proper development of the flower scapes. This would be especially true of the bulbs are planted on the south side of a wall where the soil dries very quickly, even in the winter.

Plant cells are like small water balloons. In order for the cells to enlarge to full size, they need adequate water to fill up these little water balloons. The soil around spring flowering bulbs should be watered in January in central and southern New Mexico and in February in northern New Mexico and high elevation locations to allow proper development of the flowers and scapes.

Other factors that could lead to shorter flower scapes are decline in the bulbs due to crowding, shading by other plants, early removal of the leaves before they have finished feeding the bulbs in the late spring, and inadequate nutrition. Replanting the bulbs in newly prepared and fertilized soils and allowing the leaves to die back fully after flowering can help with this problem.

Q. #2

The weather has been quite warm and I am anxious to plant my garden. I live in Albuquerque. Can I plant my garden now?

A. #2

New Mexico's springs are difficult to predict and often deceptive. In much of the Albuquerque area the expected last frost (based on averages) is from mid-April to about the second week of May. It is possible that we will have an early spring, but it is also very possible that after a period of warm weather a sudden cold snap will kill warm season plants in the garden. Cool season plants such as radishes, collards, kale, cabbage, peas, and perhaps lettuce may survive these late freezes, especially if the plants are covered on cold nights. Warm season plants such as tomatoes, chiles, beans, corn, cucumbers, and squash will be damaged or killed when the cold weather comes even if they are covered. If you are willing to risk having to replant your garden, you can start warm season plants early. Otherwise, plant the cool season plants and wait a little longer for the warm season crops.

If you want to get a head start with the warm season plants, put them in large pots that may be taken to a warm location on cold nights and placed outdoors on warm days. When the weather permits, these potted plants may be planted in the garden, or grown in the container as a container garden crop.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

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