What Happens If Trees Bud Too Early?

What Happens If Trees Bud Too Early?

As the thermostat inches up to springtime temperatures and the snow disappears, you might be wondering if it’s really still winter.

And Mother Nature’s mixed messages aren’t just throwing you for a loop. Your trees are likely just as confused. In fact, you may have noticed trees budding or even blooming because the “winter” weather seems so much like spring.

Is it bad if trees start budding when it’s technically still winter?

Everything You Want to Know about Trees Budding in Winter

Why do trees bud in winter?

Every year, trees maintain a set growth cycle, and they rely on the weather to keep them on track. Certain trees need to rest in cool temperatures before they can safely produce new growth in spring.

When the dormant season is interrupted by unseasonal elements, trees begin to grow as though spring has arrived. They start sprouting leaves, flowers and fruits–no matter how short the resting period was.

What’s the problem with trees budding too early?

Early blooming can be extremely stressful for trees, especially if temperatures are mild one day then plunge the next. When this happens, new growth is shocked by the sudden freeze and could be damaged.

Fruit and flower buds are especially vulnerable. If they’re hit by cold temperatures after flowering, they may not be able to bloom again later in the year because they’ve already exerted their energy.

Leaf buds are more likely to bounce back. But they may experience less growth or leaf problems, like leaf drop or browning.

If the temperature doesn’t drop again, your tree's growth should be okay! Though, be on the lookout for pests that skated through winter without cold weather killing them off. Give your tree a full inspection for early pest symptoms.

What can I do if my tree is budding in winter?

With a little TLC, trees can merge back into their typical growth pattern.

Use these tips to help your trees cope and survive the onset of early temperatures in winter:

Have more questions about your tree’s early bloom time? Comment below.

  • The Tree Doctor May 15, 2018 >Hi Cara, If new foliage gets frozen off by a late freeze, it may take extra time for new buds to form and push out new growth. Usually, the tree can withstand this type of injury unless it was initially in poor condition. There isn’t much you can do other than wait to see if it produces new growth. I have seen trees not leaf out until well into June in the upper Midwest. If the twigs are still green, do not give up hope. If they begin to fade toward tan or brown, those twigs are likely dead. If this happens, I would recommend contacting a certified arborist in your area and have them come out to take a look. Unfortunately, Davey does not service your area, otherwise, I would have one of our arborists come out. Here is a resource that you may find helpful in selecting a certified arborist or tree service provider: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Good luck to you and hopefully this helps! Here if you have any more questions, Cara.
  • Cara Tahsequah May 13, 2018 >I have a very large tree it budded early then we had a freeze. This was in March. It’s May now and all other trees have leaves. This one does not. Is it dead?
  • The Tree Doctor February 26, 2018 >Hi Alisa. Based on your description, it does sound like your flower buds were burned by the recent freeze. Flower buds are much more susceptible to damage once they begin to show color. Because leaves are produced from different buds than the flowers, they were likely not affected. New, tender shoots are also susceptible to freeze damage should a hard frost occur just as they begin to leaf out. Hope this helps, Alisa. Here if you have any other questions.
  • The Tree Doctor February 26, 2018 >Hi Jacqueline. You can prune your fruit trees even if it looks like they are beginning to “wake up.” As long as they are in otherwise good condition, pruning now will not cause any harm or result in any fruit loss. Hope this helps, Jacqueline.
  • Alisa Eicher February 25, 2018 >We have had an unseasonably warm winter and so the ornamental pear trees have budded our early. The buds were very white, most of them were tight but several of them had started to open slightly. (They are usually completely flowering by the end of March/beginning of April here in Portland Oregon). Then we had freezing temperatures and snow. Now the buds are shrunken looking and starting to brown. I assume this means that the trees won’t flower this year? Or will they drop these buds and sprout a new set ? Will the leafing of the tree be affected ? Thank you in advance :-)
  • Jacqueline Perez February 24, 2018 >It seems spring has (once again) come early in NC. If the fruit trees (mainly pear) are already budding, it is too late to prune them? I am sure it will freeze again, but only briefly. Will that stress plus pruning cause low fruit yield?
  • The Tree Doctor January 30, 2018 >Hi there, Cathy. It depends on future weather events and how far along the dormancy breaks have been developed. But, even if this happens, the trees and shrubs usually are able to develop new shoots from buds still dormant. Sometimes it just takes the shoots a little longer than normal to develop. This is a fairly common occurrence for trees. Hope this helps, Cathy.
  • Cathy Rhynearson January 27, 2018 >I was concerned about my trees/ bushes they are budding and it’s only the end of Jan . If the cold weather kills them will they come back ?
  • The Tree Doctor November 21, 2017 >Hi Peter. To give you the best answer, we would need to know the type of trees you are looking at. You can send your response to blog@davey.com. Talk soon, Peter!
  • Peter Anderson November 16, 2017 >I was in gosforth park, newcastle yesterday and noticed many of the trees there have started budding already. Its november and although most would say the weather is getting colder the afternoons are still pretty warm. I work outside so im really noticing the difference. Forget budding during winter, its happening before winters even settled in. Is this dangerous?
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