Snowdrops are one of spring’s first blooming flower bulbs. These little beauties have been known to peak out through the snow to happily announce the changing of the seasons.

Snowdrops are small flowering plants in the Galanthus genus. Growing only 4″-6″ tall, these plants have dark green grass-like leaves and dainty white flowers that hang down from the tops of the stems like teardrops. Snowdrop bulbs are planted in the fall and they bloom in very early spring (or even late winter). This lovely woodland flower is known for its ability to multiply and naturalize an area to cover the ground with gorgeous white spring blooms.

Read on to learn all about Snowdrops!

Snowdrop flower

Snowdrop basics

Snowdrops (Galanthus) are hardy perennial herbaceous bulbous plants in the Amaryllis family grown mainly for their attractive small white flowers. Native to Europe and the Middle East, these flowers are among the first to bloom in early spring. Snowdrop flowers stand at 4″-6″ tall and are typically shaped like a drooping teardrop, although there are now some more upright-flowering types and double-petal varieties.

Snowdrop bulbs can typically be ordered in the spring, summer, or fall (although they tend to sell out by summertime). Specialty bulb retailers grow the bulbs through the spring, lift them in summer, and wait until fall to ship them to gardeners.

Here are some popular Snowdrop bulb varieties:

  • Classic Early Snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii)
  • Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Double Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’)

Snowdrops can be grown in Zones 2-9, which is a very wide range of climates. If you don’t know your local climate zone, check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Snowdrops growing in the snow

When to plant snowdrops

Snowdrop bulbs should be planted in the fall. Plant your snowdrop bulbs in September-November, depending upon your local climate. Cooler areas (Zones 2-5) typically plant snowdrops in September while warmer areas (Zones 6-9) tend to plant in October. Bulb companies generally ship Snowdrop bulbs to gardeners at the correct time of fall planting for your ZIP code. Plant your Snowdrops as soon as you received them in the fall from the bulb company.

Snowdrop bulbs can be planted as late as November. While some types of bulbs can be planted anytime before the ground freezes (if applicable), Snowdrops do best if planted earlier in the spring as they take quite a while to root into the ground. If fall planting is delayed, the first spring bloom may not include many flowers (but the plants will quickly catch up by the following spring).

If you receive your Snowdrop bulbs before you can plant them, store them in a cool spot out of direct sunlight with good air ventilation. A cold room or garage in the range of 45°-55°F (7°-13°C) is a good option as long as air circulation is permitted. They can also be stored in the refrigerator (as long as there is no fresh fruit in the fridge, as this can damage the bulbs).

Snowdrops naturalized over a woodland area in early spring

Where to plant snowdrops

Snowdrops grow wonderfully in woodland gardens, under deciduous trees and shrubs, in a perennial flower border garden, in the lawn, or along a pathway or sidewalk. These tiny bulbs are excellent at naturalizing a space as they multiply easily underground over the years. Snowdrops are also deer-resistant, making them a great choice for natural areas where deer may target other garden plants.

Snowdrops should be planted in a location with well-drained soil and ample sunlight. While Snowdrops are tolerant of partial shade, they will bloom best when the leaves receive 4-6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Because this flower blooms so early, it can be planted under deciduous trees where it can receive full sun throughout the day in springtime before the tree grows its leaves.

Snowdrops grow best in soil that is not too heavy but not overly sandy. Sandy loam is best, but clay soil can be amended with sand and/or leaf mold to loosen it up and overly sandy soil can also be amended with leaf mold. A garden soil test can give you detailed information about the composition of your soil.


How to plant snowdrops

Plant snowdrops either by digging small individual 3″ deep holes or by excavating a wider planting area by about 3″ down. Snowdrop bulbs are about 1″ tall, so there should be about 2″ of soil over the top of them after planting.

If digging individual planting holes, use a bulb planter for the easiest digging. Each hole should be 3″ deep (many bulb trowels and planters have depth rulers printed right on them). In nutrient-poor soils, a high-quality bulb fertilizer can be sprinkled in the bottom of the hole. Place a Snowdrop bulb into the hole with the pointy end facing upwards. Backfill the hole gently with the soil that came out of the hole. Water the area thoroughly after planting.

If excavating a wider area, remove the top layer of soil down to 3″ deep. A bulb fertilizer can be sprinkled on the ground and mixed into the soil if desired. Carefully place each Snowdrop bulb onto the excavated planting bed with the pointy ends up. Once all the bulbs are placed, fill the soil in around them and over them until there is about 2″ of soil on top of the bulbs. Water the whole planting bed deeply after planting.

Snowdrops growing in the snow and ice in late winter

How to grow snowdrops

Snowdrops are easy to grow once they have been planted and established their roots in the soil. Some gardeners like to feed their plants annually with fertilizers while others are happy to leave them to their own devices.

Snowdrops can be fertilized in late winter or early spring as the ground thaws and the flower stems start to emerge from the soil. Use a bulb fertilizer and follow the application instructions on the specific product you choose. Water the area after applying fertilizer, taking care to wash any stray plant food off the green sprouts.

Snowdrops typically do not need to be watered in wet climates where spring rainfall is over 1″ per week. In drier areas, or during dry spells, water your Snowdrops deeply once a week while the plants are actively growing for best results.

When do snowdrops bloom?

Snowdrops typically bloom in very early spring. This can happen as early as January-February in warmer climates (Zones 7-9), but Snowdrops typically bloom in March. Snowdrops can bloom as late as April in the coldest zones.

Plant care for snowdrops after blooming

Snowdrop flowers do not need to be deadheaded when the blooms fade. Continue watering the plants every week or two if there is little rainfall. Consistent watering, along with 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day, will help the foliage create energy via photosynthesis so the Snowdrop bulbs can multiply underground. Stop watering as the foliage starts to yellow in late spring.

Do not cut off Snowdrop leaves until they have turned yellow on their own and died back to the ground naturally. This is especially important if your Snowdrops are planted on a lawn or a meadow area. Wait until the foliage dies back prior to the first spring mowing.

Snowdrop bulbs do not need to be dug up and stored during the summer unless you intend to divide the bulbs up and replant them in the fall over a larger area. Snowdrops typically do best if left alone in the ground to multiply and naturalize on their own.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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