Growing snowdrops 'in the green'

By Martyn Cox, Wednesday 15 February 2012
Reviewed: Wednesday 11 February 2015

Plant your favourite snowdrops during late winter and early spring in pots, troughs, beds, borders or naturalise on lawns
SnowdropsSnowdrops are best bought 'in the green' instead of as bulbs

They may be small but, planted en-masse, the nodding flowers of snowdrops make a big impression early in the year and are perfect for chasing away the winter blues.

If you don't have the space to grow them, then you can go and visit one of the country's many snowdrop gardens. Read our suggestions for the best snowdrop gardens to visit in the UK.

Planting snowdrops ‘In the green’

Snowdrops are best bought and planted while actively growing – growers call this planting ‘in the green’. Plants are lifted from the soil just after they have finished flowering, bundled together and wrapped in paper or another material that will keep the roots damp until they can be planted in the soil.

Alternatively, you can buy pot-grown snowdrop plants, but expect to pay for more to establish a colony of plants.

Avoid buying dried bulbs in the autumn as these can be difficult to establish.

Best varieties of snowdrops

There are hundreds of different snowdrops, but unless you’re a galanthophile (a snowdrop fanatic, named after the plant’s botanical name, galanthus) you’ll find it hard to tell the difference between plants. Therefore, there’s only a handful that are worth going out of your way to find.

Galanthus ‘S.Arnott’ is a robust plant with big flower heads, G.plicatus has wider leaves than most and G.elwesii boasts honey-scented flowers. G. nivalis Sandersii Group has yellowish stems and similar coloured markings on the inner petals, while Galanthus nivalis ‘Margery Fish’ is a distinctive snowdrop with green stripes on its outer petals.

Where to grow snowdrops

Most snowdrops prefer a spot in dappled shade and will thrive if you improve the soil with leaf mould or garden compost prior to planting to ensure it doesn’t dry out in summer.

Plant snowdrops at the foot of trees, deciduous shrubs or team with other plants to make some attractive combinations.

They look particularly good emerging through black ophiopogon grass, rubbing shoulders with hellebores or winter flowering aconites, or planted as clumps between dogwoods, ornamental bramble and viburnum.

Snowdrop planting tips

If you are planting snowdrops ‘in the green’, ensure they are planted at the same depth as they were growing before they were lifted from the ground – the point where the green leaves start to turn yellow should be level with the soil surface.

With pot-grown snowdrop plants, the surface of the compost should be level with the soil.

Read our tips for creating a beautiful winter garden.

Snowdrop aftercare

Snowdrops are a doddle to look after. All you need to do after planting snowdrops is keep them watered until established and remove any weeds that appear.

Large colonies of snowdrops can be shy to flower, so every few years lift congested clumps with a garden fork and divide into smaller portions.

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  • Muriel Fleming

    Posted: Wednesday 28 January 2015

    28th January 2015 Lots of snowdrops in my garden(Co Antrim which is not sheltered in any way.Not very tall yet but growing fastinates me that they flower almost as soon as they emerge .Mine are a work in progress I have access to a very old garden ,every year I divide some clumps ,one third of clump back into original hole ,one third further up the paddock ,one third into my own garden which is new on field site.Can anyone tell me is there any advantage in feeding after flowering?

  • David McGrath

    Posted: Saturday 30 March 2013

    I thought that many of my snowdrops had failed this year, however they have all appeared now. I think that their growing season was a bit later this year.

  • Sylvia Brooke

    Posted: Saturday 23 February 2013

    I would be interested to know whether anyone else has seen a drastic fall in the number of snowdrops in their garden this spring.

    I have had a really good shows for many years, but this year is a real disappointment. I wondered if the awful wet winter has rotted the bulbs? It will be interesting to see which other bulbs/plants have succumbed to the weather as the seasons unfold, if that is what has happened to the snowdrops.


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