Grow Snowdrops in the Green
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Snowdrops are one of the earliest flowering bulbs and are more commonly associated with late winter, but I’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.
- I usually buy them as bulbs, but they are available “in the green”.
- A hardy perennial that I’ve seen naturalise in the right conditions.
- I 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.
- Bell-shaped flowers.
Height: Up to 15cm (6in)
Spread: Up to 10cm (4in)
Shaded rockeries, under tree canopy, woodland, pots and containers if kept cool and moist
Ideally in dappled or partial shade. Will tolerate a shady spot that gets some winter brightness through bare trees
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
Hellebores, tulips, daffodils, crocus, hosta
Plant bulbs in the winter and “in the green” plants in spring
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.
My guide explains how to grow “in the green” snowdrops, if you wish to purchase bulbs, I’ve learnt that if you give them a good soak in water overnight before planting, you’ll get better results.
Everything You Need to Know About Growing “In The Green” Snowdrops
I asked qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith to answer a few questions about 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, but the ones I purchased always arrived 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?
I’ve found that 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 too much.
While I have grown them in rockeries, they are best suited to areas out of full summer sun.
Feel free to grow snowdrops in containers and even baskets, but I’ve seen some fail to recover, which I suspect is due to the soil drying out too much 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.
I’ve seen them thrive under tree canopies and in woodland; their natural habitat.
Do Snowdrops require fertile soil?
Snowdrops grow natively in woodland so rich but well-drained soil is best.
I’ve added sand, grit and organic matter 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.
I usually place the bulbs to a depth 3-4 times their height.
I’ve always planted “in the green” snowdrops so the bright part of the stem is just below ground level.
I’ve seen snowdrops clump up where they’ve become established, and I’ve had success digging them up and dividing them.
Snowdrop pests and diseases
Squirrels often dig up snowdrop bulbs, but beyond these, I’ve never had any issues with pests.
As snowdrops start growing so early in the season, it’s far too cold for most pests.
I’ve witnessed grey mould affecting plants grown in damp, boggy locations, but this can be remedied by improving drainage.
When do Snowdrops bloom and how long for?
Snowdrops are early starters, and some are bred to start blooming in January, while most I’ve grown 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.
I’ve never felt the need to apply feed or water to snowdrops grown in woodland or large sheltered 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.
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
Through years of testing and experimenting, I believe that these six spring-flowering plants go well with Snowdrops:
Daniel’s “In The Green” Snowdrop Growing Pro Tips
Daniel, co-owner at DIY Gardening, added these tips:
Snowdrops are best grown in swathes, drifts or clusters, and I’ve seen them thrive under tree canopies and large shrubs where there is enough winter sunlight but plenty of cover in the hot, dry summer months.
I recommend “in the green” Snowdrops for small and medium gardens and bulbs for larger areas.
I’ve had success growing these with Hellebores, Crocus, early Daffodils and other late winter/early spring flowering plants.
Snowdrops are very winter hardy, but from experience, I know that they are not drought tolerant, so don’t forget to give them a winter splash if it’s been dry.
I have tried growing snowdrops in winter hanging baskets and containers, and while they look lovely, they dried out and didn’t come back in year two.
I’ve found that 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.
Explore related content from the team here at DIY Gardening:
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This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith.
Explore: Elizabeth's profile and qualifications.
Meet The Author: Hannah Miller
Hannah is a keen gardener who grows organic fruit and vegetables in her Surrey garden and is moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
She is also the proud grower of a dahlia and herb garden.
Hannah worked for the NHS for 12 years but also has a level 3 qualification in horticulture and is currently studying for her level 4.
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