Photo by: Christiane / Pixabay.com.

The sight of snowdrop shoots poking up through snow-covered ground is one of the first signs that spring is near. It was once thought that their leaves were thermogenic, producing their own heat in order to melt through the snow. However, it is more likely a thermal effect of sunlight heating the tips of the leaves warmer than the surrounding snow. Each bulb produces 2-3 narrow, green leaves and a single flower scape (or stalk).

On this page: Basics | Planting | Care and Maintenance | Pictures | Design Ideas | Where to See Snowdrops

On this page:

BASICS

Plant type:

Bulbous perennial

Zones:

3-9, varies by species and cultivar.

Height/Spread:

Varieties range 6-12 inches tall

Exposure:

Full sun to part shade

Bloom time:

February to March

Flowers:

Small, bell-shaped, fragrant, flowers with white outer petals and green tips or markings on the inner segments. Each snowdrop flower consists of two whorls of three lobes.

Other:

Attracts pollinators.

PLANTING SNOWDROPS

Photo by: Abramova Kseniya / Shutterstock.

When to plant:

Plant dormant bulbs in fall. Planting in the green can be done in the spring after flowering.

Where to plant:

They do well under late-leafing deciduous trees that allow sunlight to the snowdrop’s leaves while they are growing in early spring. Evergreens do not allow enough spring sunlight through for them to grow well.

How to plant:

Plant bulbs 2-3 inches deep, approximately 3 inches apart, with their points up. Water well to settle the soil.

Other:

It is recommended to wear gloves when planting to avoid possible skin irritation.

For more on how to plant bulbs:

Bulbs 101: Planting and Storing Bulbs

SNOWDROPS CARE

Soil:

Moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.

Amendments & Fertilizer:

Wild-growing Galanthus fend for themselves quite well, but if they are growing in planter beds or containers, they will benefit from a potassium-rich fertilizer. This should be applied every 7-10 days from the time foliage appears until it begins to yellow and wilt. A mulch of compost in autumn can also help nourish the growing bulbs.

Watering:

Light to moderate water. Soil should remain moist throughout the growing season.

Propagation:

Snowdrop bulbs will multiply and naturalize if left in an area undisturbed. They are easily dug up, divided and transplanted. Dig them up any time after the foliage has died back in mid-to-late spring until early autumn.

Galanthus bulbs tend to dry out if left out of the ground, so re-plant immediately. By mid-autumn, they will have started growing again and shouldn’t be disturbed until after blooming.

Diseases and Pests:

There are no serious disease or pest problems. Snowdrops are also deer resistant.

After blooming:

Allow the leaves to remain in place to gather and store energy for next year. They will take a year to get established. In their second year, they will produce more flowers and begin to multiply and spread.

TYPES OF SNOWDROPS

Here are the four most common species, as well as a few other cultivars:

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Nataliaova / Shutterstock.

Common snowdrop
Galanthus nivalis

Zones: 3-7
Height/Spread: 6-12 inches/4-6 inches
Flower Color: White with single green V marking on inner segment of blossom.

Has a delightful honey-scented fragrance.

Photo by: Andriy Nekrasov / Shutterstock.

Giant snowdrop
Galanthus elwesii

Zones: 4-7
Height/Spread: 6-12 inches
Flower Color: White with single green V marking on inner segment of blossom.

Larger flowers, leaves, and overall size than G. nivalis.

Read more about giant snowdrops.

Photo by: Nick Pecker / Shutterstock.

Crimean snowdrop
Galanthus plicatus

Zones: 3-8
Height/Spread: 7-12 inches
Flower Color: White with green upside-down heart marking on inside petals

Larger flower than G. nivalis.

Photo by: Elena Koromyslova / Shutterstock.

Green snowdrop
Galanthus woronowii

Zones: 3-9
Height/Spread: 6-8 inches
Flower Color: White with small dot of green at the base of the inner petals.

Named after Russian botanist Georg Woronow and has broader foliage than other varieties.

Photo by: Todd Boland / Millette Photomedia.

Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’

Zones: 3-7
Height/Spread: 6-9 inches
Flower Color: White with green teardrop-shaped markings on inner petals.

‘Flore Pleno’ features double nodding flowers.

Photo by: Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock.

Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’
Hybrid snowdrop

Zones: 3-9
Height/Spread: 8-10 inches
Flower Color: White with an inverted heart-shaped marking on the inner segment.

Tall and vigorous, this cultivar was a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Photo by: Martin Auger / Millette Photomedia.

Galanthus ‘Magnet’
Hybrid snowdrop

Zones: 3-8
Height/Spread: 6 inches
Flower Color: White with v-shaped green markings on inner petals.

Has a longer pedicel than most others.

Photo by: John Martin / Alamy Stock Photo.

Galanthus ‘Hippolyta’
Hybrid snowdrop

Zones: 3-8
Height/Spread: 7 inches
Flower Color: White with inner petals that are heavily marked with green.

This double flowering cultivar has bowl-shaped blossoms.

Photo by: katewarn images / Alamy Stock Photo.

Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’
Hybrid snowdrop

Zones: 3-8
Height/Spread: 7 to 12 inches
Flower Color: White with inverted heart-shaped green marking on inner segments.

This variety produces more robust flowers than most others.

GARDEN DESIGN WITH SNOWDROPS

Photo by: Assy / Pixabay.com.

Not sure how to use them in your garden? Here are some ideas:

  • For best effect, plant in groups of at least 25 bulbs.
  • Snowdrops are suitable for rock gardens, fronts of borders, in front of flowering shrubs, and along walkways.
  • In areas where they can naturalize, such as woodland margins, they are effective when left alone and allowed to multiply and spread.

WHERE TO SEE SNOWDROPS

The following gardens have expansive plantings and a wide variety to see:


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Loving Giant Snowdrops
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