Dead daffodils: Freezing temps bring Kansas City’s early spring to an abrupt end

After warm February and early March, Kansas City’s early spring came to a chilling end after succession of nights where temperatures dropped below freezing.
After warm February and early March, Kansas City’s early spring came to a chilling end after succession of nights where temperatures dropped below freezing. The Star

Goodbye daffodils. So long peach crop. Don’t even think of plums.

Kansas City’s early spring has come to an abrupt end — done in by a succession of nights where temperatures dropped well below freezing for several hours.

And with lows Tuesday night to fall into the teens or lower 20s, the hard freeze could kill any remaining vegetation left unprotected that saw an early bloom, according to the National Weather Service in Kansas City.

“This was our worst-case fear that we would have the early springlike weather and then drop into the mid- to low 20s,” said Dennis Patton, a horticulture agent for the Johnson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office in Olathe. “That’s exactly what has happened.”

Patton had warned a few weeks ago that Kansas City’s early spring could lead to damaged plants if a late frost or freeze struck. The warm weather allowed allergy season to start early in Kansas City.

Plants have been at risk for several days now and the effects of the cold are starting to come to light.

“How we are noticing it is a couple of different ways,” Patton said. “A lot of the new tender growth is being killed back.”

Also, the blooms of some of the flowering trees and shrubs are taking on a dirty appearance.

“The whites are not as white,” Patton said. “The yellows are not as clear. They definitely have some frost or freeze injury.”

Flowers like daffodils have gone limp with their blooms laid over on to the ground. The stems and petals have pretty much frozen.

And the blooms on fruit trees like peaches and plums have been damaged too.

“It’s hard to predict, but we are probably looking at a total loss on peach and plum crop for this year,” Patton said. Apple trees still had a tight bud, so they might not have been damaged.

Of course that will vary on the stage and development of the bloom and the micro-climates where the trees are located.

“These low 20s are not good on a plant that is in full bloom,” Patton said.

If people haven’t done anything yet to protect their plants, it might be too late.

“My recommendation has been to roll with the punches with what Mother Nature throws at us,” Patton said.

The good news is plants for the most part are fairly resilient, he said. If some of the new growth has been damaged, there should be secondary buds or shoots that develop when Kansas City’s normal spring arrives. But for a flower that only blooms once, it’s gone.

“There won’t be a second flush of flowers or fruit that result from flowers,” he said.

Foliage for the most part should return.

If in doubt whether a plant survived or died, Patton suggested to not get into a rush. Let the plant try to recover. Be patient, wait and see what happens with new growth.

“I think a gardener has to be an eternal optimist,” he said. “For a gardener, there’s always another spring. There’s a second a chance for a lot of things.”

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb