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 leaves and a single flower scape (or stalk).

Photo by: Christiane / Pixabay.com.

Zones:

3-9, varies by species and cultivar.

Height/Spread:

Varieties range 6-12 inches tall.

Exposure:

Full sun to light shade.

Bloom Time:

February-April

Flower Color and Size:

Small, bell-shaped, fragrant, white flowers with green tips or markings. Each flower consists of two whorls of three lobes.

Other:

Attracts pollinators.

Photo by: Abramova Kseniya / Shutterstock.com.

When to plant:

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

Where to plant:

Snowdrops 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 snowdrops to grow well.

How to plant:

Plant snowdrop 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 snowdrops to avoid possible skin irritation.

Soil:

Moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.

Amendments & Fertilizer:

Wild-growing snowdrops 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.

Other:

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

Photo by: Assy / Pixabay.com.

DESIGNING WITH SNOWDROPS

Not sure how to use snowdrops 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.

TYPES OF SNOWDROPS

Here are the four most common species of snowdrops as well as a few cultivars good for American gardens:

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Nataliaova / Shutterstock.com.

Galanthus nivalis
Common snowdrop

Zones: 3-7

Height/Spread: 6-12 inches/4-6 inches

Bloom Time: February

Flower Color: White with single green V marking on inner segment of blossom.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


Has a delightful honey-scented fragrance.

Photo by: Andriy Nekrasov / Shutterstock.com.

Galanthus elwesii
Giant snowdrop

Zones: 4-7

Height/Spread: 6-12 inches

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with single green V marking on inner segment of blossom.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


Larger flowers, leaves, and overall size than G. nivalis. For more about giant snowdrops.

Photo by: Nick Pecker / Shutterstock.com.

Galanthus plicatus
Crimean snowdrop

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 7-12 inches

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with green upside-down heart marking on inside petals

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


Larger flower than G. nivalis.

Photo by: Elena Koromyslova / Shutterstock.com.

Galanthus woronowii
Green snowdrop

Zones: 3-9

Height/Spread: 6-8 inches

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with small dot of green at the base of the inner petals.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


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

Photo by: Todd Boland / Millette Photomedia.

Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’

Zones: 3-7

Height/Spread: 6-9 inches

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with green teardrop-shaped markings on inner petals.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


‘Flore Pleno’ features double nodding flowers.

Photo by: Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock.com.

Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’
Hybrid snowdrop

Zones: 3-9

Height/Spread: 8-10 inches

Bloom Time: February

Flower Color: White with an inverted heart-shaped marking on the inner segment.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


Tall and vigorous, this snowdrop 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

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with v-shaped green markings on inner petals.

Exposure: Full sun o part shade


Has a longer pedicel than most snowdrops.

Photo by: John Martin / Alamy Stock Photo.

Galanthus ‘Hippolyta’
Hybrid snowdrop

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 7 inches

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with inner petals that are heavily marked with green.

Exposure: Full sun to light shade


This double snowdrop 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

Bloom Time: February to March

Flower Color: White with inverted heart-shaped green marking on inner segments.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade


This variety produces more robust flowers than most snowdrops.

WHERE TO SEE SNOWDROPS

Snowdrops are most impressive on a grand scale. The following gardens have expansive plantings and a wide variety of snowdrops to see:

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