60217thumbClimate is what makes gardening so excellent here. It is just warm enough in summer for plants that like a bit of heat, but not too unbearably hot for too long. It is just cool enough in winter for plants that like a chill, but not cold enough for hard frost or heavy snow. The climate is also comfortable for us while out in the garden! Yet, even local climate is neither perfect nor predictable.

El Nino is still out there, and likely to deliver an abundance of rain. The rain last month was great while it lasted. This presently dry and warm weather in between has been excellent, but is likely to cause serious consequences. Some deciduous plants that are normally bare through winter are being deprived of adequate dormancy. Some are blooming prematurely, and may foliate soon.

When the rain resumes, it will ruin some of the premature bloom. This is generally harmless for most fruitless flowering trees like the various acacias, flowering plums and saucer magnolias, but compromises their most alluring feature. It can be more dangerous to flowering pears (including evergreen pear) and flowering crabapples, because wet blossoms can be infected with fire blight.

The more serious problem is that rain ruins blossoms and juvenile fruit of various deciduous fruit trees. Stone fruits such as almonds, apricots, cherries, plums, prunes, peaches and nectarines bloom first, and do so with delicate blossoms. If the blossoms do not get knocked off by rain, the juvenile fruit will rot if it stays damp too long. Many fruit trees are likely to lose all fruit this year.

Apple and pear trees should be safer because they bloom later, and bloom with more substantial flowers. (However, like their fruitless relatives, their wet blossoms are very susceptible to fire blight.) Persimmons and pomegranates bloom even later, and with even tougher flowers, so should be safe. Figs are in a league of their own, and should be fine if summer is warm.

Fortunately, destruction of bloom and fruit, although disappointing to us, is harmless to the affected trees.

12 thoughts on “Warm Weather Confuses Dormant Plants

    1. When there were still orchards here, there were a few, but not many different cultivars of fruit grown. It was best to grow a few different cultivars so that if one crop was unproductive, others would still be productive. However, selection was limited to the few that did best in the local climate. Now that there are not many fruit trees here, there are many more different cultivars, and many are unproductive, or minimally productive.


  1. Wow, I didn’t think this happened in California. It happens almost every year now here in Connecticut. We are getting more late snow after warm spells and our early blooming fruit trees (not to mention the saucer magnolias) are devastated.


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    1. Because orchards were the main industry of the Santa Clara Valley decades ago, cultivars that are adaptable to the climate were carefully selected. There was no point in growing cultivars that were regularly ruined by the weather. The orchards are gone, but the few fruit trees that grow in home gardens are more problematic, because there are so many cultivars that are not so well suited to the climate.


  2. Strangely, Texas peaches, pears, and plums made it through last year relatively unscathed, but it was rain that took out our local figs after the fruit had begun forming. Even people who got them found they were tasteless: perhaps because of standing in all that water for such a long time.

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      1. Oh — strange, because a variety of circumstances, particularly hard freezes at just the wrong time, should have done more damage than they did. The people I know who grow fruit are knowledgeable, but they still grin and say every year is a bit of a gamble, since the most predictable thing about our climate is its unpredictability.

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      2. Well, that is certainly true, even here in the mild climates of the Santa Clara Valley. We have it pretty good, but every once in a while, there is a surprise. We had the worst frost in recorded history back in December of 1990. There could have been less damage, but many of us did not bother protecting our crops (nursery stock) because nothing like that had happened before.

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  3. I think this has been happening to my Elephant Heart plums for two or three years now here in the North Bay. 😦 I only planted them, as quite large nursery trees, in 2015, and have seen exactly five plums since then. They haven’t bloomed yet, so I have hope…

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    1. The cultivars that were common in orchards decades ago were more carefully selected for the local climate. There is so much more selection for home gardening now, but many of the cultivars are not so well adapted to the local climate, or are likely to experience ‘off’ years.

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