Grow Snowdrops in the Green

A Late Winter and Early Spring Favourite

Part of our Spring Flowering Plants guide: By Daniel Woodley at DIY Gardening

Snowdrops are one of the earliest flowering bulbs and are more commonly associated with late winter, but we’ve included them in our list of spring plants too.

Majestic in how they push, gently at first, through a layer of snow before their stunning but delicate petals form, facing downwards and swaying gently in the wind, Snowdrops are a firm favourite here at DIY Gardening.

Plant details:

  • Sold as either bulbs or “in the green”.
  • A hardy perennial that will naturalise given the right conditions.
  • Divide established clumps every five years or so to gain new plants.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Perfect for woodland, shaded rockeries and with a little care, pots and containers too.

Size

Height: Up to 15cm (6in)

Spread: Up to 10cm (4in) 

Location

Shaded rockeries, under tree canopy, woodland, pots and containers if kept cool and moist

Sunlight

Ideally in dappled or partial shade. Will tolerate a shady spot that gets some winter brightness through bare trees

Hardiness

Hardy perennial US zone 3-8 and in most parts of the UK although may struggle in the warmer south-west

Water & Feed

No special watering or fertiliser requirements but they may struggle in hot, dry containers

Companions

Hellebores, tulips, daffodils, crocus, hosta

Planting

Plant bulbs in the winter and “in the green” plants in spring

Flowering

Expect growth and blooms from late January into March

Should You Choose Bulbs or Buy “In The Green” Snowdrops?

Snowdrops are sold as bulbs in the autumn or as established plants (aka “in the green”) in the spring.

Snowdrop bulbs are susceptible to dry conditions and are unlikely to survive for long periods out of the ground hence why most gardeners prefer to buy “in the green” plants, which are sold in bunches, often with flowers in full bloom.

If you have a small to medium garden, then “in the green” plants will be your best option, but to cover a vast area, you’ll find it cheaper to buy bulbs, just get them into the ground as soon as possible and assume some losses.

This guide explains how to grow “in the green” snowdrops, if you wish to purchase bulbs, give them a good soak in water overnight before planting.

Everything You Need to Know About Growing “In The Green” Snowdrops

How Do Snowdrop Plants Arrive?

“In the green” snowdrops will arrive in bunches, with the bulbs in loose soil, often wrapped in plastic.

They may or may not be in full bloom. These should arrive in the spring.

For autumn planting, you’ll need to buy bulbs that will arrive in a vented bag.

Where is the best place to plant "in the green" Snowdrops?

All snowdrops prefer dappled or partial shade, mimicking their natural woodland habitat.

Full winter sunlight through bare trees is acceptable, provided there is some summer cover to prevent the soil from drying out.

While snowdrops can be grown in rockeries, they are best suited to areas out of full summer sun.

Feel free to grow snowdrops in containers and even baskets, but be aware that the plant may not recover if the soil dries out in the summer.

Are Snowdrops hardy?

Snowdrops are winter hardy in all locations but may not survive warm hot summer where the soil dries.

They are hardy to US zones 3-8 and all parts of the UK except the far southwest.

How much sunlight do Snowdrops need?

Snowdrops prefer partial shade dappled sunlight or full winter sun, but they prefer some summer protection.

They can often be seen under tree canopies and in woodland.

Do Snowdrops require fertile soil?

Snowdrops grow natively in woodlands so rich but well-drained soil is best.

Sand, grit or organic matter can be added to improve drainage of heavy soils.

For potted snowdrops, consider adding bulb fibre compost.

How and when should Snowdrops be planted?

Bulbs should be planted in the autumn while “in the green” plants should be dug in in the spring.

Place bulbs to a depth 3-4 times their height.

“In the green” snowdrops should be planted so the bright part of the stem is just below ground level.

Clumps may form where the plants become established, they can be dug up in the spring and divided into separate plants.

Snowdrop pests and diseases

Squirrels often dig up snowdrop bulbs but beyond these, there are very few pests.

As snowdrops start growing so early in the season, it’s far too cold for most pests.

Grey mould may affect plants grown in damp, boggy locations.

When do Snowdrops bloom and how long for?

Snowdrops are early starters, and some are bred to start blooming in January, while most will put on a show in February and March.

Are there any water and fertiliser requirements?

Keep the soil moist if grown in containers during the summer months, also water rockeries that contain snowdrops.

There is no need to apply feed for water to snowdrops grown in woodland or in large shletered borders or beds.

Are Snowdrops toxic or harmful?

Snowdrop bulbs are toxic to dogs and other pets and the plant stem, leaves and blooms are mildly toxic.

Read more: Snowdrops toxicity in dogs.

Woodland bulbs® 100 x SINGLE SNOWDROPS BULBS - UK Grown Flowering Size Bulbs - Galanthus Nivalis - Plant With Bluebells & Aconites - Ready For Planting Now - Trusted UK Seller - (FREE UK P&P)
Humphreys Garden® Snowdrops Single Bulbs Size 5/6 (20)
Woodland bulbs® 100 x SINGLE SNOWDROPS BULBS - UK Grown Flowering Size Bulbs - Galanthus Nivalis - Plant With Bluebells & Aconites - Ready For Planting Now - Trusted UK Seller - (FREE UK P&P)
Humphreys Garden® Snowdrops Single Bulbs Size 5/6 (20)
Woodland bulbs® 100 x SINGLE SNOWDROPS BULBS - UK Grown Flowering Size Bulbs - Galanthus Nivalis - Plant With Bluebells & Aconites - Ready For Planting Now - Trusted UK Seller - (FREE UK P&P)
Woodland bulbs® 100 x SINGLE SNOWDROPS BULBS - UK Grown Flowering Size Bulbs - Galanthus Nivalis - Plant With Bluebells & Aconites - Ready For Planting Now - Trusted UK Seller - (FREE UK P&P)
Humphreys Garden® Snowdrops Single Bulbs Size 5/6 (20)
Humphreys Garden® Snowdrops Single Bulbs Size 5/6 (20)

How to Care For Snowdrops After Flowering

Snowdrops, including those purchased “in the green”, develop from bulbs, so to ensure that the bulb remains healthy and robust, the gardener should:

  • Avoid mowing over or cutting back the stems, leaves or blooms until they have faded and wilted as they’re needed to send energy to the bulb so it can survive the dormant period.
  • Dig up and separate large clumps of snowdrops; this can be done every 3-5 years or as needed. Failure to do so may result in a poor display of blooms.
  • Dig in well-rotted manure, leafmould or mushroom compost once per year if the soil quality is poor – snowdrops prefer rich soil.
  • Add drainage material if the soil is compacted and waterlogged.

Companion Plants For Snowdrops

These six spring-flowering plants go well with Snowdrops:

Daniel’s “In The Green” Snowdrop Growing Pro Tips

Snowdrops are best grown in swathes, drifts or clusters and can often be seen under tree canopies and large shrubs where there is enough winter sunlight but plenty of cover in the hot, dry summer months.

DIY Gardening recommends “in the green” Snowdrops for small and medium gardens and bulbs for larger areas. We suggest you avoid growing potted Snowdrops as these are the most expensive.

Grow with Hellebores, Crocus, early Daffodils and other late winter/early spring flowering plants.

Snowdrops are very winter hardy, but they are not drought tolerant.

Snowdrop bulbs can be added to winter hanging baskets and containers, but they may not survive long term due to the likelihood of drying out.

For maximum impact, choose a taller variety as short snowdrops can often be disappointing, especially if overwhelmed by other plants.

Snowdrops can multiply quickly so leave some space between each bulb for them to grow into if you don’t want to be digging them up and dividing them in a year or two.

More From Daniel Woodley:

This guide to growing winter and spring-flowering “in the green” Snowdrops was created by Daniel Woodley here at DIY Gardening and was last updated in January 2022.

Discover more spring-flowering bulbs and plants here.

Daniel is a keen amateur gardener who also manages a large residential landscape in addition to his own mid-size garden.

He also enjoys growing vegetables and fruits as well as his herbaceous border and container garden.

More About Daniel Woodley

Danny Woodley

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This Snowdrop growing guide was published by DIY Gardening

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