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.
‘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 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.
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 them
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 them 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.
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 plants, the surface of the compost should be level with the soil.
Snowdrops are a doddle to look after. All you need to after planting is keep them watered until established and remove any weeds that appear. Large colonies can be shy to flower, so every few years lift congested clumps with a garden fork and divide into smaller portions.