Snowdrops (Galanthus) – The Complete Guide

They venture out of hiding when the garden is still in deep winter sleep. Snowdrops (Galanthus) spread a romantic spring mood without requiring extensive care.

Planting Snowdrops Properly

The time window for planting snowdrops is open from the end of August to the end of October.

The early bloomers develop their optimum in a protected, half-shaded place in normal garden soil.

Arrange the bulbs in small groups with 5 specimens. Set these 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) deep in the soil, 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Important to note is the upward-pointing tip of the bulb.

By the way, long-suffering amateur gardeners plant their snowdrops in a vole basket. For this purpose, dig a hole 6 inches (15 cm) deep, insert the wire basket and cover the bottom with sand to a height of 2 inches (5 cm).

Only then plant the snowdrop bulbs in the then filled loose soil enriched with compost and water carefully.

Care Tips

The care protocol of snowdrops includes only these few measures:

  • Water them only ifthe natural rainfall is insufficient.
  • Do not fertilize them in the bed.
  • Cut off withered flower stems first, withered leaves later.
  • Planting them in a vole basket prevents feeding damage.

Do not mow snowdrop groups in the lawn until the foliage has completely yellowed. For the most part, the early bloomers are spared from diseases.

Which Location is Suitable for Snowdrops?

A look at the location in the wild reveals where snowdrops feel at home. They thrive in the shelter of tall deciduous trees, at the edge of the forest, and anywhere where they do not come under blazing sunlight.

The perfect location in the garden should be like this:

  • Partial shade to shady light conditions.
  • Fresh-moist soil, rich in humus.
  • Soil with excellent water drainage.

Snowdrops do not like acid pH and waterlogged soil.

What is the Best Time for Planting Snowdrops?

Planting time for snowdrops extends from the end of August to the end of October.

In addition, if the weather is mild, there is nothing against planting the bulbs as late as November.

When is Flowering Time for Snowdrops?

If you skillfully combine the different species and varieties of snowdrops, you can extend the flowering period by several weeks.

Some of the most popular snowdrops present their white florets at these times:

  • Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis): January to March
  • Lake Riza snowdrop (Galanthus rizehensis): Late January to early April
  • Caucasian snowdrops (Galanthus alpinus): February to May

The wild species Queen Olga’s snowdrop (Galanthus reginae-olgae) trumps its peers with a never-ending blooming season from October through March.

Pruning Snowdrops Properly

Pruning snowdrops happens in two stages. First, cut off the withered flower stalks so that the flower does not invest all its energy in the growth of seed heads.

The leaves remain on the flower for some time, so that the bulb can absorb the remaining nutrients. Only then you will want to use scissors.

Fertilizing Snowdrops Properly

Snowdrops are among the typical self-supporters in the bed. The addition of fertilizer is counterproductive here because it results in a fattening growth of the leaves at the expense of the flower.

In the limited substrate volume of pots and window boxes, on the other hand, fertilizing twice is advantageous.

At the beginning and end of the flowering period, the snowdrop is happy to receive a portion of compost, guano, or horn shavings.

Propagating Snowdrops

Since a single snowdrop does not yet summon spring, the desire for uncomplicated propagation is understandable.

How fortunate that the flower makes an important contribution by providing abundant offspring in the form of daughter bulbs.

Following flowering, dig up several bulbs, separate the brood bulbs with a sharp knife and plant them in the new location.

In contrast, sowing the seeds proves to be laborious and lengthy. As cold germinators, the seeds first undergo stratification, where they are exposed to a cold stimulus for several weeks.

It can take up to 5 years for a seedling to develop into a magnificent flowering snowdrop.

How to Transplant Snowdrops Properly?

Transplanting snowdrops is especially recommended during the flowering period.

When the early bloomers are in full bloom, they can handle the stress better than when they are at the end of their blooming season.

Here’s how to do it right:

  • Don’t cut back the bloomers.
  • Lift them out of the ground with a digging fork.
  • Plant them 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) deep in their new, semi-shaded location.

In group plantings, a planting distance of at least 2 inches (5 cm) is considered appropriate.

Snowdrops in a Pot

Snowdrops in pots can decorate semi-shady to shady places on the balcony, terrace, or in the entrance to the house.

In order for these early bloomers to develop their perfect beauty in a planter, follow these steps:

  • Use a good compost-based potting soil as a substrate.
  • Create drainage above the water drainage holes with gravel or shards of clay.
  • Insert the bulbs in the fall in small groups 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) deep.
  • Point the tops of the bulbs upward, with a planting distance of 2 inches (5 cm).

Keep snowdrops in a pot constantly moist. Fertilize them with a little liquid fertilizer at the beginning and end of flowering.

Are Snowdrops Poisonous?

Snowdrops are classified as slightly poisonous flowers, as all parts of the plant contain alkaloids that are harmful to health. This is especially true for the bulbs.

If small children are exploring the garden, they should be made aware of the consequences of eating snowdrops. There is a risk of severe nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.

For pets, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits, the early blossoms pose a serious threat. For dogs, for example, the critical dose is 2-3 bulbs.

Symptoms of poisoning occur, such as vomiting, paralysis, and even cardiac arrest.


This factsheet provides a condensed overview of the snowdrop, packed with valuable information for successful cultivation in beds and pots.

The following facts stand out particularly prominently:

  • Plant family: amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae).
  • Perennial, hardy bulbous flower
  • 20-25 known species with more than 2,000 varieties
  • Flowering time from January to May, depending on the species
  • Height of growth 1 to 10 inches (3 to 25 cm)
  • Special feature: slightly poisonous in all parts

The Peculiarities of the Snowdrop

Snowdrops arouse a great passion for collecting. Every year, devotees of the popular early bloomer gather for large snowdrop festivals all over Europe, hunting for unique specimens.

This is hardly surprising, given the individual characteristics:

  • Snowdrops are protected by law in many countries
  • Snowdrops can even break through a blanket of snow effortlessly
  • The bulbs generate their own heat
  • With daughter bulbs they provide themselves for offspring
  • The light poison content keeps away predators

The Bulbs of the Snowdrop

The graceful flowers of a snowdrop spring from an underground survival organ in the form of a bulb. Properly placed, snowdrop bulbs repeat the small miracle of their spring bloom for many years.

This is how it succeeds in an exemplary manner:

  • Dig small planting pits of 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) deep.
  • Enrich the excavation with compost and a little sand.
  • Place the bulbs in small tuffs of 5 each so that they do not touch each other.
  • The tip of a snowdrop bulb should always point to the sky.

We recommend placing a vole basket in the pit before planting, as the bulbs are high on many pests’ menus.

Planting Snowdrop Bulbs

To set snowdrop bulbs in an exemplary manner, no extensive prior knowledge is required. It is as simple as this:

  • The planting pit should be 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) deep.
  • Insert the bulbs with the tip skyward in small groups.
  • The planting distance should be 2 inches (5 cm).

Finally, press the soil with your hands and water with a fine spray.

The Flowering of the Snowdrop

Snowdrops are quite easy to identify, not only because of their early bloom. In order to identify the flowers in the wild, the flower itself serves as a visual identifier:

  • 3 white petals enclose 3 smaller, greenish-white petals.
  • It has a drop-like shape in all snowdrop species and varieties.
  • There are 2 groups of 3 cone-shaped stamens each.

Sowing Snowdrop Seeds

A snowdrop after flowering invests all its energy in the growth of capsule fruits. In them, there are up to 36 seeds for the continuation of the genus.

You can let nature take its course or harvest the seeds and sow them yourself.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Put the washed seeds in a plastic bag with moist sand.
  • Place them tightly sealed in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for 4-6 weeks.
  • Sow germinating seeds in growing pots with peat sand.
  • Sprinkle them with substrate and moisten them with fine spray.

At a temperature of 59 to 64 °F (15 to 18 °C), keep the seedlings constantly moist in a semi-shaded location. In the fall, plant the young snowdrops in the bed.

It may take 3 to 5 years until the first flowering.

The Difference Between Snowdrops and Lily of the Valley

At first glance, the snowdrop and the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) look confusingly similar. However, a closer look reveals these differences:

  • Snowdrops bloom as early as January/February, while the lily of the valley blooms only in May.
  • Snowdrops bear a single, teardrop-shaped flower on each stem.
  • The lily of the valley thrives with 10 and more wide-bell-shaped flower clusters.

The variation in the leaves is unmistakable. While the foliage of snowdrops appears lanceolate and narrow, the leaves of the lily of the valley develop up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide.

The Snowdrop Species

The snowdrop genus is populated with more than 20 pretty species. In addition to the widespread common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), the greater snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) and the pleated snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus) often thrive in our gardens.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Greater snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii): The greater snowdrop blooms as one of the first snowdrop varieties.
  • Flore Pleno: Enchants with lush double flowers and a wonderful fragrance from February to March.
  • Sam Arnott: A gem among the snowdrop varieties with especially large flowers.
  • Viridapice: Characterized by long white petals with green tip.
  • Hippolyta: Captivates with double bell-shaped flowers of white bracts tinged with pale green.
  • Anglesey Abbey: A rare variety with petals of equal length.
  • Wendy Gold: Valuable collector’s variety with white bracts and yellow corolla.
  • Titania: Romantic snowdrop with white frilled flowers.