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How to Grow: Snowdrops
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Early spring in white or white and green colors
Mature Height x Spread
4 to 6 inches x 6 to 8 inches
Snowdrops are so named because they are one of the earliest bulbs to grow and flower in the landscape. They often are growing and flowering beneath or through banks of snow in late winter. I’ve been known to shovel snow off areas where I planted snowdrops to reveal flowering bulbs. These small dainty flowers are great harbingers of spring. The nodding white or pink colored single or double petaled flowers can have a magnificent scent and can be cut and brought indoors for the first fragrance of the season. The sword-like foliage will last for a few weeks after blooming, but by mid spring, snowdrops are pretty much finished. They are reliably hardy and clumps will slowly expand and spread over time.
Where, When and How to Plant
Snowdrops are hardy throughout New England. Purchase bulbs from a local garden center in fall and plant when you would other spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils. Snowdrops are small bulbs, so consider buying a larger quantity to have a stronger visual effect. Plant snowdrops in groups in wide, shallow holes in a part sun location on well-drained soil. Too much spring sunshine will cause the flowers to wither faster. They’re best planted under a shrub or tree for this reason. Space individual bulbs 3 inches apart in the holes planted 2 to 4 inches deeper. Plant bulbs on the shallower side on clay soils.
Water newly planted bulbs well. After flowering, let the foliage naturally dieback. It will disappear quickly in spring. Mark where the bulbs are and fertilize in fall with a bulb plant food. If the clumps get large and have few flowers, divide snowdrops after flowering, separating out the bulbs and replanting.
Regional Advice and Care
Few animals seem to like snowdrops. Squirrels may dig up newly planted bulbs in fall out of curiosity. Add some hot pepper flakes to the planting hole to discourage them. Not only will snowdrop clumps slowly expand over time, they will self sow and start popping up in other locations in your landscape. However, unlike Siberian squill, they will not spread quickly.
Companion Planting and Design
To appreciate these small flowers, plant close to walkways, on garden edges or under a favorite tree or shrub. Try to plant in areas that lose their snow quickly in spring so you can see the flowers when they are blooming. Snowdrops look great paired with other spring blooming bulbs, such as Siberian squill, crocus and glory-of-the-snow. They also look good planted under early blooming shrubs, such as forsythia and flowering quince.
‘Giant Snowdrop’ has white fragrant flowers on large, for snowdrops, plants. ‘Sam Arnott’ has white flowers and a strong, almost honey-like, fragrance. ‘Flore Pleni’ has ruffled, double petaled, green and white colored flowers.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.