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Snowdrops are often the very first signs of spring in the garden, dainty white bells poking though frigid soil and sometimes emerging through snow. Also known as Galanthus, these little plants are very popular in Europe where they are widely grown and generously shared. Snowdrops naturalize well and create drifts in moist shady locations. These small darlings are among the most welcome of pass-along plants to be gifted to neighbors and friends.
Choose a site with dappled or partial shade. As snowdrops are active in the spring and slip into dormancy by late April or May, areas near/under open-branched or limbed up deciduous trees often offer enough early season light to work well. In warmer regions, a protection from afternoon sun is needed. Choose a site where the soil does not become dry and parched in summer.
Look for a site that drains well. Snowdrops are happy in average garden soil, and as with most bulbs, good drainage helps avoid bulb rot. If your soil is heavy (clay or compacted) consider digging in generous amounts of soil amendments such as a mix of course sand and compost, leaf mold or well-rotten manure. Note: we do not recommend using bone meal as it encourages pets and pests to dig up the bulbs you just planted.
Plant in the fall, when soil in your area has started to cool. Typically, snowdrops can be planted right up until the soil freezes in cold regions, although earlier planting provides more time for bulb roots to grow. Note that the roots on winter hardy bulbs continue to grow, albeit more slowly, when soils are quite chilly but not yet frozen.
Dig holes 4” deep and blend a handful or two of compost into the soil you removed. Add a bit of the amended soil back into the holes and plant your snowdrop bulbs about 2-3” below the soil line. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end facing up, fill the hole with soil, pat to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. While there won’t be any visible growth in the fall, the bulb’s roots will be growing and creating a network for absorbing nutrients and moisture.
Plant 8 to 10 snowdrop bulbs per square foot.
Snowdrops need about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two.
After flowering, your snowdrop leaves will photosynthesize and create food for next year’s show. Then the bulbs will slip into dormancy and sleep through the summer. The bulbs stay hydrated with just average moisture during the summer; they don't need supplemental water. When fall temperatures cool, the bulbs will develop new roots and then wait for spring rains and warmth to prompt the next cycle of growth and blooms.
Light: Dappled or partial shade
Soil: Average, well drained
Depth: Plant 2-3 inches deep
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Beds, borders, meadows, naturalized areas
Tip: Plant with blue chionodoxa. Then leave undisturbed and watch them spread over time.
They Start Out Looking Like This:
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