Weird weather leaves plants confused, causing early bloom

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After an extremely mild start to 2020, it’s finally starting to feel like winter. While it may be difficult for us to adjust to the up and down temperatures, plants are feeling the same way.

According to experts there isn’t going to be tons of damage, but there will definitely be some loss.

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The National Phenology Network says the spring ‘leaf out’ has arrived more than three weeks early. Specifically, 22 days early in Wilmington.

But the weather has gotten colder, stunting the growth of certain crops.

Pender County Co-operative Director Mark Seitz says it’s too early to tell how much damage has been done.



“There will be loss because we can’t frost protect berries in January,” Seitz said. “It’s too expensive and too difficult.”

Seitz says strawberries are tougher than blueberries. Once a blueberry plant blooms, they won’t bloom again. This means there will be a loss in this crop. However, strawberries have the ability to re-bloom.

New Hanover County Arboretum Director Lloyd Singleton says this could impact spring growth.

“Some plants that are spending their energy now blooming, may not bloom again and if they do, it may be a less showy bloom,” Singleton said.

He says if trees have started blooming, their leaves could turn brown and remain brown all year if the cold damages them.

“It may affect the overall aesthetics of the plants for the next year, but I think that’s going to be rare,” Singleton said. “That would only be in some very early blooming trees like red buds.”

As for Wilmington’s crown jewel?

Singleton says, so far, the azaleas seem to be okay. As long as temperatures remain mild and don’t get too warm–

“We’ll head into our spring and have a normal azalea bloom,” he said. “I hope!”

The experts say if you have plants at home, you can protect them by keeping them covered at night. A light fabric would suffice, but never plastic. It won’t guarantee they’ll be safe, but it gives them more protection than leaving them exposed.