In cold climates, Snowdrops (Galanthus) are often the first flowers to bloom – and a welcome sight they are. Their tiny, drooping flowers and grass-like foliage give the plant the appearance of delicacy. Still, Snowdrops are hardy plants, often poking up and blooming despite the snow remaining on the ground.
Snowdrops may take a while to naturalize in your garden or yard, but eventually, you'll see them popping up in places you're sure you never planted them. They can hybridize between species, so expect surprises.
Light: Full sun to partial shade. The heat will shorten their bloom period and will cause them to wilt and go into dormancy.
Water: Water well and keep watering weekly, until the ground has frozen. They won't sprout until next spring, but they are growing roots.
Hardiness Zone: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 – 8, depending on species.
Soil: Snowdrops like a neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH and a rich but well-draining soil.
Fertilizer: If your soil is lean, you may want to consider a bulb fertilizer after flowering.
Snowdrops can be started from seed, but since they hybridize easily, they won't come true from seed.
Plant the bulbs point up, about 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm) apart and about 2 inches (5 cm) deep, in heavy soil; 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in sandy soil. Actually, if you dig a wide hole, you can just scatter the bulbs, or scatter them on the surface and poke them in, if the soil is soft enough. Try not to crowd them too much, or you'll be dividing them sooner.
Pests and Diseases
Luckily there aren't a lot of pest out when snowdrops bloom. However, snails and slugs will eat their leaves later in the spring. The good news is Snowdrops are resistant to deer, rabbits ad even groundhogs.
Snowdrops can also be prone to fungal diseases, especially gray mold (botrytis). Good air circulation and well-draining soil will usually prevent problems.
Snowdrops need some sunlight to bloom, but too much sun will 'melt' them – cause them to wither away. The dappled shade of a deciduous tree, before it has leafed out in the early spring, is perfect.
Purchased Snowdrops are planted in the fall, but if a friend lifts some for you in the spring, before the leaves have started to decline, they should take fine, too. Either way, plant them immediately.
After flowering in the spring, let the foliage die back naturally. Snowdrops don't linger long, like daffodils or tulips. They'll disappear before you know it. Mark the area, so you don't accidentally dig the bulbs when planting something else, later in the season. In dry seasons, water periodically throughout the summer. For the most part, Snowdrops will take care of themselves.
Large, established clumps may eventually have fewer blooms. At that point, you should consider digging them and dividing the clumps. Do this after flowering. The bulbs are small, but plump, and will break apart easily. Replant immediately.
It is possible to grow your Snowdrops in containers. You can squeeze them in quite close, but they'll still need to be at least 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) deep. In USDA Zones 5 – 6, your containers may need some winter protection.
Since Snowdrops take a few years to become established, they are not often recommended for forcing.
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