2017 Bluebonnet Season Forecast : ‘Early and Long,’ Says Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Horticulturists at The University of Texas at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center released its 2017 wildflower forecast, and it looks like we are in for an early and longer wildflower season. Recent warm temperatures have even caused a few blooms to start popping up already. “Wildflower season is taking off faster than you expect,” said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Wildflower Center.

The Texas Hill Country saw an abundance of fall and winter rains. Wildflowers develop their root systems during these months, so sufficient precipitation is important. They start to bloom once average low temperatures begin to warm.

Warm temperatures in January and February are causing some plants to bloom early.

Young bluebonnets. Photo: Jason Weingart

The three-month forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for warmer than average temperatures for Central Texas. However, a strong cold front bringing a hard freeze to the area could be detrimental to some wildflower species. Thankfully, the forecast looks favorable.

Temperatures are forecast to be above average for the Texas Hill Country.

Three month temperature forecast from NOAA.Photo: NOAA

Bluebonnets are resistant to cold. “When a cold snap happens, bluebonnets are rarely damaged,” said DeLong-Amaya. “But when we have warm spells as we have, and plants such as mountain laurels bloom, they are vulnerable to damage during a late hard freeze. We’ve had freezes in late March and early April, and if things are blooming by then, we can lose a lot of flowers for the season.”

Will Indian Paintbrush have a banner year like they did in 2016?

Indian Paintbrush stole the show in 2016. Photo: Jason Weingart

Factors besides weather can also play a big part in how brilliant the wildflowers are in a given year. Bluebonnets tend to do best in locations that have been disturbed after they have dropped their seeds. While the seeds are often transported by water, activities such as grazing, gardening and mowing can also help them spread.

Bluebonnets are best not left alone.

Mules grazing in bluebonnets.Photo: Jason Weingart

“Generally speaking, spring-blooming annual wildflowers are encouraged by grazing and mowing because the competition from perennials and grasses is knocked back,” DeLong-Amaya said. “A fire or flood, or even vigorous gardening, can open up space and make it more conducive to annual wildflowers.”