Snowdrops (Galanthus) are hardy perennial, winter-flowering plants that are often heralded as the first sign of spring. Snowdrops bloom as early as January and February 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. Plant snowdrops in the green in February and March or as dry snowdrop bulbs in October and November. There’s no need to prune plants but you may want to deadhead spent blooms to concentrate energy back to the bulb for a better display the following year. Dig up and divide congested clumps every few years.
Growing snowdrops: jump links
- Planting snowdrops
- Caring for snowdrops
- Propagating snowdrops
- Growing snowdrops: problem solving
- Where to see snowdrops
- Where to buy snowdrops
- 15 snowdrops to grow
More on growing snowdrops:
Where to plant snowdrops
Grow snowdrops in moist but well-drained, hummus-rich soil in dappled shade.
Try growing snowdrops beneath deciduous shrubs, such as Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, or along the front of borders where herbaceous plants can provide ground cover when the snowdrops are dormant. They also do well at the foot of a deciduous hedge, and are often planted in grass, at the front of spring border displays, and in rock gardens.
Snowdrops do well in pots, but they suffer if grown in soil that dries out in summer and will need repotting annually.
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.
Snowdrops do best in a well-drained soil in light shade, similar to their native woodland habitat. If you are planting snowdrop bulbs in heavy soil, add a little sharp sand or grit to the planting hole to improve drainage.
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.
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.
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 snowdrop bulbs in autumn squirrels and mice may dig them up to eat them. 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.
Where to see snowdrops
- Snowdrop Valley, Somerset
- Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
- Rode Hall, Congleton
- Painswick Rococo Garden, Gloucestershire
- Gatton Gardens, Surrey
- Cambo Estate, Scotland
- Hodsock Priory, Nottinghamshire
- Bank Hall, Bretherton
Growing snowdrops: buying advice
- Make sure you have the right growing conditions for snowdrops, they can suffer in soil that dries out in summer
- Specialist snowdrops are highly sought after and can be very expensive – treat yourself to one or two bulbs per year to build up your collection
- Snowdrops are available from garden centres and nurseries, but you’ll find rarer varieties at specialist growers
Where to buy snowdrops in the green
Snowdrop varieties to grow
The most commonly grown, and widely available variety. Buy clumps of 25-100 snowdrops in the green to plant in spring for a display the following winter.
- Buy Galanthus nivalis from Thompson & Morgan
This large snowdrop is also known as ‘giant snowdrop’, as it towers above other species.
- Buy Galanthus elwesii from Farmer Gracy
Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’
This double-flowered snowdrop makes a statement in pots and small border displays.
- Buy Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’ from Thompson & Morgan
Galanthus elwesii ‘Abington Green’
A good performer that increases well. The outer petals are broad and pure white, while the inside petals are marked with green.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Abington Green’ from Harveys Garden Plants
A short snowdrop at 15cm tall with small flowers, a neat compact habit and glossy dark green leaves, plus a unique green hoof-like mark on the inner petals.
- Buy Galanthus woronowii from Crocus
Galanthus plicatus ‘Augustus’
Plantswoman Amy Doncaster named this for Edward Augustus Bowles. Broad leaves and slightly ‘seersucker’ outer petals. It multiplies well.
- Buy Galanthus plicatus ‘Augustus’ from Hoo House Nursery
Easy to increase, this elegant snowdrop has long, slender outer petals of pure white. It’s taller than many varieties and substantial in flower and leaf.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Armine’ from Galanthus
One of the Greatorex doubles hybridised in the 1940’s and 1950’s, it has very even petals forming a neat rosette, each petal marked with an inverted ‘V’.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Cordelia’ from Harveys Garden Plants
Galanthus elwesii ‘Helen Tomlinson’
A sturdy snowdrop with large, oblong leaves, it forms tight clumps. Inner petals are marked with an inverted ‘U’.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Helen Tomlinson’ from Judy’s Snowdrops
Highly sought after for the wash of green on its outside petals and habit of curling its scape (flower stalk) almost back on itself. The amount of green can vary.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Jade’ from Snowdrops
Galanthus ‘Melanie Broughton’
Erect though short, glaucous , blue-grey foliage with taller stems of beautiful rounded, almost globose flowers, creating splashes of pure white.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Melanie Broughton’ from Ashwood Nurseries
Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’
Always happy and healthy, Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ is celebrated for its most glorious honeyed scent.
- Buy Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ from Crocus
Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’
Named after the great galanthophile and found in her garden after her death, this is one of the yellow varieties that have become highly sought after.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ from Avon Bulbs
Galanthus plicatus ‘Trymming’
Found in a garden in Westbury-on-Trym’, this strange snowdrop has green-tipped outer petals that curl back as they get older.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Trymming’ from Judy’s Snowdrops
Galanthus nivalis ‘Walrus’
This double snowdrop gets its name from the three, elongated, tusk-like outer petals that stick out in odd directions.
- Buy Galanthus ‘Walrus’ from Judy’s Snowdrops