Snowdrops

There are 75 different species and varieties of snowdrops. They are all white. Isn't that boring? This is probably why only two species are commonly cultivated. The first is Galanthus nivalis, usually known as the Garden Snowdrop.

Garden Snowdrop

The major benefit of planting Garden Snowdrops is their early arrival. They can show up weeks before crocuses do, and will often poke through a covering of snow. In the South, snowdrops may even bloom all winter long.

A snowdrop plant looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem. This accounts for the Latin name Galanthus which means "milk-white flowers".

Since they are small, you probably need to plant a large number to make a dramatic effect. However, in a rock garden, or planted among other early-blooming plants like Snow Crocuses, an odd number of snowdrops here and there can be just as effective.

Under the right circumstances (see Notes) snowdrops will naturalize very well, and a planting of them can last a lifetime. They are well worth the investment. As an added benefit, snowdrops (like other members of the Amaryllis family) are normally avoided by deer and rodents.

Flowering time:Very early spring
Plant height:4 - 6" (10 - 15 cm), although some cultivated varieties grow up to 10" (25 cm) tall
Minimum planting depth:3" (8 cm)
Hardiness zones:Suitable for zones 2 - 9, although they do best in zones 4 - 7
Colours: Clear milk white, usually with emerald green tipped inner segments
Shape/form: A single, nodding, bell-like flower, about 1" long with 3 lobes, and shorter inner segments, hanging from a stiff, slender, leafless stalk; 2 - 3 very narrow leaves grow from the base of the plant
Alternate names:Common Snowdrop, Milk Flower
Latin name: Galanthus nivalis
Notes:Good for rock gardens, under trees and shrubs, at the fronts of borders or in front of flowering shrubs, in lawns, or along woodland paths
Prefers moist, humus-rich soils, sun-dappled shade, and cooler climates, as in zones 4 - 7
Naturalizes both by self-seeding and bulb offsets
Example varieties:Garden Snowdrop (white), Flore Pleno (double white flowers), Viridapicis (green markings on tips of both outer and inner petal segments), Sam Arnott (larger flowers, with distinct heart-shaped green markings), Atkins Snowdrop (taller than most, with long, shapely petals)

Garden Snowdrop Viridapicis Flore Pleno


Giant Snowdrop Sam Arnott


Giant Snowdrop

If you're looking for an early bloomer, this is it. The Giant Snowdrop comes into flower even earlier than the Garden Snowdrop.

Although not a giant as flowers go, this species is taller than the Garden Snowdrop, and its blossoms and leaves are also larger. It's not quite as winter hardy, but it is somewhat more tolerant of heat, so it's a better choice for those who live in zones 8 and 9.

Flowering time: Extremely early spring
Normally flowers slightly earlier than the Garden Snowdrop
Plant height:5 - 12"
Minimum planting depth:3"
Hardiness zones:Suitable for zones 3 - 9, although does best in zones 5 - 9.
Colours: Clear milk white, with large spots of emerald green on inner segments
Shape/form: A single, nodding, bell-like flower, about 2" long with 3 lobes, and shorter inner segments with large green spots, hanging from a stiff, slender, leafless stalk
2 long bluish-green, strap-like leaves grow from the base of the plant
Alternate names:Latin name: Galanthus elwesii
Notes:Good for rock gardens, under trees and shrubs, at the fronts of borders or in front of flowering shrubs, in lawns, or along woodland paths


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Last modified: October 14, 2008