Defy Winter with Drifts of Hardy Snowdrops

Galanthus

Snowdrop, or Galanthus, is a bulb perennial in the extensive Amaryllidaceae family that includes alliums, amaryllis, and daffodils.

Vertical closeup image of many snowdrops with white blooms and green leaves and stems, printed with green and white text.

Its snowy, nodding heads appear during the last frozen days of winter, often in the company of other early-bloomers like hellebores and crocuses, to herald the approach of spring.

Closeup of a snowdrop flower with white petals and a green stem, on a brown mottled background.

Snowdrop is a woodland flower suitable for planting in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7 that is native to Europe and Asia.

It thrives beneath trees and shrubs in full winter sun and the filtered rays of early spring. The ideal soil for this plant is organically rich, moist, and well-draining.

Vertical image of white snowdrop flowers with white petals in groupings of three and green leaves, growing in brown mulch-covered soil.

The white blossoms of this charmer have inner petals that are accented with what look like tiny green upside-down hearts. The kids in our family love to spot them in a snowy landscape.

Galanthus blooms with white petals and green foliage growing in the snow, with bare twigs.

Here’s what’s ahead in this article:

Growing Galanthus

This is an easy-care perennial, and planting bulbs in groups to encourage the formation of clumps is recommended. Over the years, they will naturalize to form large drifts of blossoms that breathe life into the wintry landscape.

A hand holds a snowdrop with more growing in a cluster in snow-covered earth, with white blossoms and green leaves.

I like to tuck a few handfuls in unlikely places, near a garden gate or the front steps, to surprise visitors to my home with an early sign of spring.

Oblique overhead shot of white Galanthus flowers with green leaves, growing in soil topped with brown leaf mulch.

Plant in the spring or fall. Work the soil to a crumbly consistency and make holes about three inches deep.

Place one bulb in each hole with the pointed top facing up. Allow about three inches between each, and sow in groups of 10 or more.

Purple crocus and white snowdrops growing in bright sunshine in earth topped with brown leaves.

Depending upon your soil conditions as determined by soil testing, you may incorporate some bone meal or your chosen fertilizer into the earth at this time. By the second year, maturity should bring blossoms. Be patient – it’s worth the wait!

Vertical image of white Galanthus flowers with green stems and leaves, growing in earth topped with brown, dry, dead leaves, in bright sunshine.

After blooming, allow the foliage to die off on its own. While it remains green, it will continue to provide the nourishment that ensures beautiful flowers next season. When it withers, you may remove it or let the other plants in the garden grow over it.

Cheery Indoor Containers

In addition to sowing in the garden, snowdrop grows well in containers with good drainage holes. Start in February to force bulbs to bloom indoors. Place them side by side, planted three inches deep with their points facing up, in potting medium mixed with a little bone meal or fertilizer.

Set your pot in a cool cellar or enclosed porch to mimic the chill of winter. Once you see foliage, bring it indoors and set it in a location that receives filtered, indirect sunlight. Keep the soil moist and wait for the blossoms!

Potted white snowdrops with gray-green leaves and stems growing in mulch-covered brown soil in a terracotta pot, in front of a stone wall and another plant container.

You may also try container cultivation outdoors, but remember that pots dry out and freeze at faster rates than the ground. Choose a sheltered southern or western location, and be vigilant about watering and drainage.

Bulbs that don’t get enough moisture may wither, and those that become saturated may rot. Also, pots that don’t drain well may fill with water, freeze, and crack.

Perennial Propagation

Galanthus naturalizes by two methods: dropping seed, and generating bulb offsets. You may divide bulb perennials as desired to thin them out, pot them up, or share with friends.

Closeup closely cropped vertical image of a person wearing khaki pants and a dark and light gray sweatshirt with light purple heather gloves holds a cluster of snowdrop bulbs with green leaves growing on top, with a green lawn in the background.

Use your trowel to dig straight down about five inches around the clump you wish to remove. Gently ease your trowel underneath to release its grip on the earth, and pull it up. Move this clump directly to a new location, or pot it up to share with friends.

Where to Buy

As a perennial, snowdrop is a sound investment that returns bigger and better each year. And with the ability to generate new clumps that may be relocated, you can enjoy an excellent bang for your buck.

The trick is to start with quality plants, so here are two you can count on:

Multiple clusters of Galanthus elwesii flowers growing in mulch-covered ground.

Galanthus Elwesii Bulbs

G. elwesii is available from Burpee. This variety boasts the largest, most fragrant blossoms. It has been known to reach a foot in height, and is hardy to zone 3. You’ll receive twenty-five deer- and rabbit-resistant bulbs per package.

Galanthus nivalis with white blossoms and green leaves, growing in brown soil.

Galanthus Nivalis Bulbs

G. nivalis is available from Burpee. This type has smaller blossoms, a light fragrance, and it will generally reach about six inches tall. It’s also hardy to zone 3, and each package contains 25 deer- and rabbit-resistant bulbs.

Chill-Defying Blooms

Are you ready to make snowdrop an integral part of your pre-spring landscape?

Snowdrops growing with other plants with red and green foliage in the garden.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

In addition to the fact that it’s pretty, hardy, rabbit and deer-resistant, and naturalizes readily, the Galanthus genus has a natural immunity to juglone toxicity. This means you’ve finally found a plant to grow beneath your black walnut trees!

Order your bulbs in time for fall or spring planting, and enjoy gardens full of life that defy the chill of winter.

White Galanthus flowers with green stems and leaves grow out of snow-covered ground in bright sunshine.

Are you eager to add this plant to your landscape? What are some of your other early-season favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

And don’t forget to check out our other articles on deer-resistant plants and gardening tips, including:

Photo by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock.

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About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

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