How to plant and grow snowdrops

How to Grow Snowdrops

snow drop close up
Snow drop with White birch

Snowdrops look lovely in a natural setting and the ideal growing conditions are part shade in moist but well drained soil. Snowdrops are a woodland plant,  which makes them tolerant of partial shade and suitable for under planting.  The bulbs need to be planted about 10 cms deep, which is a little over 3 x the bulb depth which is the rule of thumb, but it is important Snowdrop bulbs do not dry out in the summer. Planting them deeper will help to prevent this.

Snowdrops look at their best planted in drifts to form clumps and in the illustration right they were planted to great effect with a Birch which has white bark. The most popular varieties  of   Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, the Himalayan Birch, which have the RHS award of garden merit are: 'Doorenbos' 'Jermyns' 'Silver Shadow' and 'Grayswood Ghost '

Snow drops can be planted at different times of the year.

In the autumn the dry bulbs can be planted and this is the cheapest method but not always the easiest; snow drops bulbs seem to be harder to get going then other bulbs. Few suppliers will be unable to give an assurance that the bulbs are freshly lifted. Bulbs which have been in garden centres for a long time will dry out, which does make them more difficult to grow from which is why buying "in the green" can be more successful, although more expensive.

Snowdrops are sold in pots during the winter and then can be taken out and potted up into the garden and  this is a good way of getting them going.

The snow drop plants can be planted in the spring, which is called "in the green" which is usually after flowering but whilst still in leaf which is another cheaper option.  If planting either established plants or in the green, plant to the same depth. This means planting so that the white  part of the stem is underground. This is a good way of establishing Snowdrops. Given that they flower during January - March the best time to buy plants (available at this time on line and mail order) "in the green" is April and plant out straight away.   

Dormant bulbs can be planted in the summer, bulbs are always cheaper than plants but less reliable.  The risk with bulbs, and for snowdrops, is drying out and so a moist soil and a mulch of leaf mould is a good growing medium. In addition, squirrels like the snowdrop bulbs as well.

Snow drops are not that happy in containers although  many are sold that way it is best to plant up as soon as you can. Snowdrops are fully hardy as you may expect, but surprisingly if kept in pots the container can freeze and the snowdrop may not survive. 

Like Hellebores, Snowdrops hang down and it can sometimes be hard to see the lovely flower markings inside. For this reason they are ideal for planting in a wall, or a bank so that the flowers are well displayed.

    Where to see snowdrops 

In February when winter takes a small step back it is great to get out for a walk and see some snowdrops . There are many gardens around the country which have impressive displays and a good starting point to find a garden near you is the National Gardens Scheme Snowdrops list; the National Trust top spots for snowdrops  and the lovely image top right of snow drops and the clear white bark of the birch is to be found at Dunham Massey in Cheshire in the winter park.