While the name “snowdrops” may be one that you are not familiar with, the name says it all. These little beauties break through the snow with a promise that spring is just right around the corner. Yes, the blooms are white supported on little green stems. For many years, people thought that this little plant produced its own heat and this was the explanation as to how it was able to break through the snow. Today, it is believed that the sun warms the leaves and in doing so makes the snow around the area softer so that the flower stalk can push its way through the snow without breaking.
When it comes to this flower, it is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. But this also depends on the variety that you are going. It requires full sun but can tolerate light shade. The mature height of this plant is 6 to 12 inches.
Now that you have the basics on the snowdrop, let’s learn how to grow them. The bulb of this flower can be planted when the plant is dominant, which is the early fall. Another approach is to plant the bulb shortly after it has finished flowering in the early spring. This is called “planting in the green.”
As with any bulb, you want to plant them in a soil that is well-draining. In the case of this flowering bulb, you also need to consider what is around the area by which you would like to plant. The ideal location is an open area with no other plants around or up during the time that they would emerge but in most landscape designs that is not possible. The next best area is under deciduous trees that leaf out late. Why would the leafing time matter to the snowdrop, you may wonder. With the timing of the emergence of the snowdrop, having a tree that leafs out early would block the sun from the flowering plant. In doing so, a tree leafed out could possibly prevent it from properly going through photosynthesis and being able to store food for next year.
For this same reason, your snowdrops should not be planted near or under an evergreen. In a nutshell, if you cannot plant your flower bulbs in the open, opt for planting them around trees that leaf out late in the season.
Now that you understand where not to plant and why, let’s learn how to plant them in your landscape. First, the snowdrop is not one that can really show its true beauty with just a few planted here and there. The best design technique for this bulb is to plant them in clusters of 25 or more. Why so many? Well, to be frank the plants are small with small flowers that are bell-shaped with two whorls that consist of three petals each. There are no showy leaves for additional texture so their powerful display comes from planting in numbers.
The second thing you need to keep in mind is to always wear gloves when handling this bulb. Some people get a skin irritation from just handling them. So prior to initially planting or dividing, go to the garden shed and pull out the gloves.
After the garden space has been prepared, begin the planting process by marking off with powdered milk the proper spacing for this bulb. In this case, you will need three inches between each bulb. Once that is completed, dig a hole that is two to three inches deep. Place one bulb in the hole with the pointed end up and fill in. After all the bulbs have been planted in the area, water in so that the soil can settle around the bulbs.
Begin to fertilize your snowdrops after you see foliage. The fertilizer should be one that is high in potassium, which is the last number in a fertilizer formulation. This feeding should be scheduled so that it occurs every 7 to 10 days from the time the plant breaks ground until the leaves begin to yellow and wilt. You can also add a mulch of well-seasoned compost in the fall in place of the fertilizer schedule.
How do you get more snowdrops? Well, these bulbs form new bulbs easily and this is especially true when allowed to naturalize an area. You can divide them anytime after the foliage has died back, which includes late-spring to early autumn.
When it comes to dividing this bulb, it is easy and begins with digging up the bulbs. Next, separate the bulbs and replant.
Now that you know how to plant and care for your snowdrops, there does exist one more issue that may concern you. Many gardeners have felt that they have done something wrong when they plant their snowdrops and they do not bloom the first year. This is very common. If you think about it you too need some time to settle into your new home and bulbs are no different.
Indoor Use of Snowdrops
While this bulb is not one of the common ones you think about when it comes to bulb forcing, they do make a beautiful display plus they smell wonderful.
To begin the forcing process, there is a question to ask. Should one plant and then chill or chill and then plant? Frankly, I have used both approaches and the results ended the same. In doing so, the question of planted or not depends on the space you have. I normally chill my bulbs in the refrigerator since I have no basement or garage but……when using this approach make sure not to have any fruits or vegetables in the fridge at the same time. The gas from the ripening food will kill the bulb.
Now, I know what you are thinking. A week or so of this would be fine but long-term there is no way. In the case of the snowdrops, this means 12 weeks of cold storage. To solve my chilling problem and also be able to have a healthy diet, I store my bulbs in a small college type refrigerator.
Once they have chilled for the 12 weeks, I bring them out and plant them if they have not been planted. When doing this process, keep in mind that the container needs to be deep, have a drainage hole, and be sterilized. After sterilization has occurred, place drainage material in the bottom of the pot and fill with an all-purpose potting soil. Next, place your snowdrop bulbs on top of the planting medium and continue to fill with soil until you reach the neck of the bulbs. Water your bulbs in at this point until water comes out the bottom of the container.
Gradually expose your planted bulbs to warmer temperatures and a little bit of sunlight. As the green leaves begin to appear, move them to a sunny location. Always keep the soil evenly moist along with rotating the container so that all the bulbs get an equal chance at the sun’s rays. In about two weeks, you will be greeted with signs of spring even if it is still snowing outside.