Snowdrops (Galanthus) are hardy perennial, winter-flowering plants that are often heralded as the first sign of spring. They flower whatever the weather – they will even push through frozen, snow-covered ground.
Although known for their small, white bell-shaped flowers there’s an incredible range of snowdrops to grow. Snowdrop fanatics will ‘collect’ different varieties, featuring flowers in different sizes and with different markings, colour changes and numbers of petals. To the amateur gardener, a snowdrop is a snowdrop, but to the expert each and every one is a collector’s item with a significant difference.
How to grow snowdrops
Grow snowdrops in moist but well-drained soil in partial shade. Dig up and divide congested clumps every few years.
More on growing snowdrops:
- Best snowdrops to grow
- Snowdrop pot display
- Three tips for growing snowdrops
- Best snowdrop planting combinations
Where to plant snowdrops
Grow snowdrops in moist but well-drained, hummus-rich soil in dappled shade. They do well at the foot of a deciduous hedge or under deciduous shrubs, and are often planted in grass, under deciduous shrubs, at the front of spring border displays, and in rock gardens. You can also grow them in pots. They suffer if grown in soil that dries out in summer.
How to plant snowdrops
Dry snowdrop bulbs can be planted in autumn but these are tricky to establish. Planting snowdrops ‘in the green’ is a much more successful planting method. Simply lift snowdrop plants just after flowering and before the foliage has turned yellow, and replant elsewhere. You can buy snowdrops ‘in the green’ from garden centres or online. Plant snowdrops at the same depth that they were before they were lifted – you should be able to find a soil mark. Water the snowdrops thoroughly and leave the foliage to die down naturally. Continue to water the snowdrops regularly if conditions are dry.
How to propagate snowdrops
Propagate snowdrops by lifting, dividing and replanting. Established clumps can be lifted and divided after flowering in March or April. With a hand fork carefully lift the bulb (with roots intact) and foliage still in place. Replant in the garden straight away. Water well. Don’t worry if the foliage looks a bit sorry, as by next winter they should be healthy and strong.
In this video guide, Monty digs up established clumps of snowdrops from his Spring Garden to replant in his Writing Garden. He explains how to divide clumps and offers tips on how to prevent the transplanted clumps from drying out:
Growing snowdrops: problem solving
When planting fresh bulbs in the autumn squirrels and mice will be on the hunt for food. Don’t be surprised if they dig up your newly planted bulbs. To prevent squirrels from feasting, make a wooden frame with chicken wire at the centre. Place the wire frame over the soil where you have planted the bulbs to allow them to establish. Remove once bulbs start to show signs of leaf growth.
Caring for snowdrops
Once snowdrops are established there’s no maintenance required. Leave them well alone. Allow foliage to die back naturally to ensure the nutrients from the leaves are returned to the bulbs. Divide established clumps every few years.
Snowdrop varieties to grow
- Galanthus nivalis – this is the common single snowdrop and is the best ‘starter’ snowdrop. If this one likes your soil, so will the others. Naturalises well. Flowers in February that reach 14cm
- Galanthus ‘S.Arnott’ – prized for its larger and scented February flowers. Reaches a height of 20cm
- Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ – the honey-scented flowers often appear as early as January. The smaller inner petals have a distinctive green marking. Reaches a height of 20cm
- Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’ – a reliable double form with the same growing habit as the common snowdrop.
- Galanthus plicatus – slightly silver tinge to the foliage. A good self-seeder. February flowers. Reaches a height of 20cm