A tree expert in the European Union has advised against planting spring flowers
Johnson City – Seriously, don’t plant these spring flowers yet.
That’s the advice from Travis Watson of East Tennessee State University, the school’s campus afforestation expert.
For gardeners across the South, the temptation is there. Temperatures have risen above normal, knocking down records that in some cases go back more than a century.
February 9, 72 at Tri-Cities Airport, the closest National Weather Service climate site, set a new one-day temperature record. Chattanooga hit 82 on February 23, an all-time new monthly record with data going back to 1879. The March 1 high in Johnson City was 76, which is just short of the record of 81 set in 1997.
As for when to plant those pretty spring flowers, Watson recommends sticking to this old-school gardening tip: Wait until Mother’s Day.
A late winter freeze can damage a group of non-native plants that sometimes flower early if given the chance.
There is some good news, Watson said. Much of the plants that call the Appalachian Highlands home are used to weather back and forth.
“Most of our native trees and shrubs are well adapted to cycles of hot weather followed by cold, and no significant damage is expected from the inevitable temperatures we will experience before spring comes,” he said.
ETSU experts predict higher-than-normal temperatures for the winter season, and the university includes the state’s official climatologist.
“Garden centers are filled with so many beautiful flowers, but unless you have a way to protect them from freezing temperatures, you have to wait until the first week of May to put them in their beds,” said Watson. “If you really want something right now and over the next couple of months, pansies and violas are cold-adapted and are great early-spring flowers. There are also many more cold-weather-tolerant perennials that can be planted early.”