"The Harbinger of Spring"
Common Name: snowdrop
Botanical Name: Galanthus nivalis
Form: upright arching
Genus: Galanthus (milk+flower)
Species: nivalis (of the snow)
Plant Type: spring flowering perennial bulb
Mature Size: up to 12 inches
Origin: Europe, Southwest Asia
Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7
Foliage: strap-like, glossy, deep green, emerge from the bulb with no stems
Flowers: blossoms Feb/March, white nodding, three outer tepals (petals joined together) in a whorl surrounding 3 inner tepals. The inner tepals bear a green V shaped marking.
Fruit: green pods that age to yellow with many tiny seeds
Exposure: sun to part shade
Soil: prefers moist, humusy well-drained
Uses: mass in edges of woodlands, mixed borders, along paths, rockeries, hedgerows, under deciduous trees, planters
Propagation: seeds and bulblets
Pruning: allow leaves to yellow, don’t cut them off when green
Problems: no diseases or insects, wear gloves when planting bulbs as they sometimes cause skin irritation, all parts are poisonous if ingested
This pretty and modest bulb is often touted as a harbinger to spring, and rightly so, as it is one of the earliest to flower. Their narrow, green, strap-like leaves emerge out of the ground as early as January in temperate locations, and by February they are in full flower often extending into March.
Like drops of snow, their pristine white flowers nod to protect their seemingly delicate blossoms. Flowers are comprised of three outer petals that are fused together and form a whorl surrounding the shorter inner tepal. The inner tepal bears a distinctive green V marking.
Galanthus nivalis is a versatile plant and it is suitable to plant under deciduous trees. In the early spring it enjoys the full sun under a leafless canopy. Then as the trees leaf out, they benefit from the partial shade. By summer, the leaves have yellowed and disappeared as the bulb goes into dormancy. It’s important not to remove their green leaves as they provide food for next year’s flowers.
Snowdrops procreate readily. They produce seeds and the bulbs produce offsets, called bulblets. They are not considered to be invasive despite their reproduction capabilities, however, they form large colonies and are perfect for naturalizing in woodlands, meadows and other non-formal plantings.
Galanthus nivalis are obviously cold hardy, however, when grown in ASDA growing zones higher than 7, it is short lived and does not naturalize.
For a pleasing display plant bulbs together in groups of 25. Space them 2 to 3 inches apart and 2 to 3 inches deep in autumn. Bulbs are sold in packages anywhere spring flowering bulbs are sold. Allow leaves to yellow naturally; do not remove them as it deprives them of food, which diminishes their health.