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How to grow snowdrops - Galanthus 'Mrs W. M. George'

How to grow snowdrops

All you need to know about growing snowdrops, in our practical Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does flower in January

Plant does flower in February

Plant does flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

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.

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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 bulbs in October and November. There’s no need to prune snowdrops 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

More on growing snowdrops:


Where to plant snowdrops

How to grow snowdrops - where to plant snowdrops
How to grow 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

How to grow snowdrops - planting snowdrops
How to grow snowdrops – planting 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 your 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

How to grow snowdrops - Galanthus nivalis
How to grow snowdrops – Galanthus nivalis

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

How to grow snowdrops - propagating snowdrops
How to grow snowdrops – propagating 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

How to grow snowdrops - Galanthus plicatus 'Trymlet'
How to grow snowdrops – Galanthus plicatus ‘Trymlet’

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.


Where to see snowdrops

Cyclamen coum with snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Cyclamen coum with snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

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

Snowdrop varieties to grow

1

Galanthis nivalis

Common snowdrop
Common snowdrop

The most commonly grown, and widely available snowdrop. Buy clumps of 25-100 bulbs ‘in the green’ to plant in spring for a display the following winter.


2

Galanthus elwesii

Galanthus elwesii
Galanthus elwesii

This large snowdrop is also known as ‘giant snowdrop’, as it towers above other species.


3

Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'. Getty Images.
Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’. Getty Images.

This double-flowered snowdrop makes a statement in pots and small border displays.


4

Galanthus elwesii ‘Abington Green’

Snowdrop 'Abington Green'
Snowdrop ‘Abington Green’

A good performer that increases well. The outer petals are broad and pure white, while the inside petals are marked with green.


5

Galanthus woronowii

Galanthus woronowii
Galanthus woronowii

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.


6

Galanthus plicatus ‘Augustus’

Snowdrop 'Augustus'
Snowdrop ‘Augustus’

Plantswoman Amy Doncaster named this for Edward Augustus Bowles. Broad leaves and slightly ‘seersucker’ outer petals. It multiplies well.


7

Galanthus ‘Armine’

Snowdrop 'Armine'
Snowdrop ‘Armine’

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.


8

Galanthus ‘Cordelia’

Snowdrop 'Cordelia'
Snowdrop ‘Cordelia’

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’.


9

Galanthus elwesii ‘Helen Tomlinson’

Snowdrop 'Helen Tomlinson'
Snowdrop ‘Helen Tomlinson’

A sturdy snowdrop with large, oblong leaves, it forms tight clumps. Inner petals are marked with an inverted ‘U’.


10

Galanthus ‘Jade’

Snowdrop 'Jade'
Snowdrop ‘Jade’

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.


11

Galanthus ‘Melanie Broughton’

Snowdrop 'Melanie Broughton'
Snowdrop ‘Melanie Broughton’

Erect though short, glaucous , blue-grey foliage with taller stems of beautiful rounded, almost globose flowers, creating splashes of pure white.


12

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’

Snowdrop 'S. Arnott'
Snowdrop ‘S. Arnott’

Always happy and healthy, Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ is celebrated for its most glorious honeyed scent.


13

Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’

Yellow snowdrop 'Primrose Warburg'
Yellow snowdrop ‘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.


14

Galanthus plicatus ‘Trymming’

Snowdrop 'Trymming'
Snowdrop ‘Trymming’

Found in a garden in Westbury-on-Trym’, this strange snowdrop has green-tipped outer petals that curl back as they get older.


15

Galanthus nivalis ‘Walrus’

Snowdrop 'Walrus'
Snowdrop ‘Walrus’

This double snowdrop gets its name from the three, elongated, tusk-like outer petals that stick out in odd directions.

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