The Habitat
Share to PinterestGalanthus: the Perfect White Flower for Winter Gardens
GardenOrnamental Plants

Galanthus: the Perfect White Flower for Winter Gardens

By Jo Marshall
Share to PinterestGalanthus: the Perfect White Flower for Winter Gardens

Galanthus is a low-growing, perennial that blooms with an abundance of bell-shaped, snow-white flowers that earn it the nickname "snowdrop". These versatile, elegant plants are one of the first to blossom in the early spring, often before the snow melts. They are a perfect addition to rock, woodland, and moon gardens. Over time, Galanthus will multiply, spread, and naturalize in its new home as if it had been growing there all along.


Your Galanthus’ new home

Share to PinterestSnowdrop bulbs or Galanthus Nivalis bulbs on a table before planting

Galanthus plants most often start from bulbs, which you can purchase from local and online gardening retailers. You’ll find them in packages of 10 to 25 bulbs. Check each one for signs of mold or mildew. They should be firm to the touch. Store your bulbs in the refrigerator if you’re not planting them right away.

Growing the Galanthus from seed is possible, but it’s a challenging process best suited for experienced gardeners. Seed germination takes a year or more, and it'll be another 3 to 4 years before the first blooms appear.


Planting your Galanthus

Share to PinterestSingle snowdrops in a glazed pot
Photos by R A Kearton / Getty Images

Plant the bulbs in the early fall — two to four inches deep and three to four inches apart — in debris-free, somewhat moist, well-drained soil. If the soil is super heavy, add some sand to improve drainage. Water them thoroughly.

Galanthus plants are small, so arrange them in groups of 10 to 25 if you’re going for a showy display. In warmer areas, add some compost to the soil to keep the bulbs cooler.


A healthy start: sunlight

Share to PinterestBank of snowdrops in gentle sunlight.
itsabreeze photography / Getty Images

The particular Galanthus needs temperatures to drop below 20 degrees to grow and requires full sun to partial shade to thrive but is sensitive to heat and intense sunlight.

Plant bulbs along the shady sides of your home or under deciduous trees or shrubs so that they receive the full benefits of sunlight in the early spring. As the temperatures rise and the sun’s rays get hotter, the deciduous leaves will increase in number and protect the snowdrop from the heat. In the late spring into early summer, the Galanthus becomes dormant and rests quietly underground until the next year.


A healthy start: watering

Share to PinterestClose up of a group of fresh snowdrop flowers
northlightimages / Getty Images

Because this plant grows in the fall and winter, it’s important to water Galanthus during the cooler times of the year. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. Water the plant deeply each week to keep the soil moist, especially if your area receives less than two inches of rain per week.

Continue watering it throughout the growing season, until the foliage turns yellow. That sign in late spring or early summer indicates the plant is entering its dormant period.


A healthy start: special nutrients

Share to PinterestWhite snowdrops flower in sunny garden
swkunst / Getty Images

The Galanthus doesn’t need super fertile soil to thrive. Use a water-soluble fertilizer during the fall and winter months to help it develop new roots and nourish its top growth. Although the bulbs will grow perfectly well without extra nutrients, feeding your snowdrop will encourage larger and more plentiful blossoms and support a longer life.


USDA zone information

Share to Pinterestsnowdrop flowers with snow in the forest
Dovapi / Getty Images

These plants are hardy, resilient, and easy to grow, but they aren’t fond of hot climates like those in Southern California and Florida. They prefer USDA hardiness zones 3 through 7, with some varieties able to tolerate zone 8. Cooler climates provide the most favorable conditions.


Healthy growth: pruning your Galanthus

Share to PinterestClusters of snowdrops (Galanthus) growing naturally
Trudie Davidson / Getty Images

If you dream of a garden plant that grows without fuss and requires little care, the Galanthus is a perfect choice. Once the growing season is done and the leaves turn yellow and start to wither, remove the spent foliage.

Don’t prune off leaves while they’re still green; this interferes with the plant’s ability to nourish flowers for the next season and leads to smaller and fewer blooms.


Preparing your Galanthus for winter

Share to PinterestSnowdrop flowers blooming in winter
Muzka / Getty Images

Since the primary growing season for the galanthus occurs in the fall and winter, there are no winter season preparations to worry about. Snowdrops are perennial plants, which means you won’t need to dig them up and move them to a different spot during their dormant season.

Leave them in the ground through the spring and summer, making sure their soil never dries out.


Can I propagate my Galanthus?

Share to PinterestSnowdrops flowers in a pot
CBCK-Christine / Getty Images

Snowdrops produce offsets — tiny bulbs that clings to the mother bulb — that you can use to start new plants once the flowers fade, but while the foliage is still green and healthy.

Propagation is a simple, three-step process: lift, divide, and replant. Dig up the plant clumps, separate the offsets from the main bulb, and immediately replant them. Keep in mind that this is one plant that blooms best when things are a bit crowded. Prepare the soil in their new home before starting the propagation process to prevent the bulbs from drying out.


Common diseases

Share to PinterestSnowdrops, bulbs and potting soil
Westend61 / Getty Images

With snowdrops, you won’t need to worry about any serious plant diseases, though they can occasionally fall prey to snowdrop grey mold. This is a fungal disease that leaves a fuzzy, gray mold on the plant. Eventually, it will cause the flowers, leaves, and stems to die, then rot away. The disease is more prevalent during mild winters or abnormally damp weather.

Remove and destroy affected bulbs. Avoid the problem by changing out the soil every three to five years and making sure there’s good air movement between plants.


Common pests

Share to Pinterestsnowdrop flowers
Simotion / Getty Images

Unlike a long list of other flowering plants, the Galanthus is resistant to most pests, including the four-legged, furry kind. Snowdrops are deer, rabbit, mice, and chipmunk-resistant. Most gardeners say that the smell the Galanthus emits also repels squirrels, while others say that you should build a protective barrier around your plants to avoid damage from these mischievous critters.


Showing off your Galanthus

Share to PinterestBeautiful display of snowdrops and other spring flowers
David Miller / Getty Images

While this is a perfectly striking plant on its own, you can take your snowdrop floral display up several notches by planting companion species around them.

Crocus bulbs, available in orange, yellow, blue, white, purple, cream, and lavender are available in both fall-blooming and spring-blooming varieties. Hellebore shares the same flowering and growing conditions, erupting in apricot, yellow, green, red, or purple blooms just as the snowdrop is starting to bloom.


Similar plants

Share to PinterestSummer snowflake flowers
hsvrs / Getty Images

Many people confuse spring and summer snowflake bulbs with snowdrops. Both have grass-like foliage and drooping flowers that produce a light, fragrant scent. They may seem identical at first, but look closely and you’ll see that snowflakes have a green dot at the tip of each of their six petals. Most snowdrop varieties only have them on three.

Another difference is that snowflake bulbs bloom weeks after snowdrops.


Cautions and additional information

Share to Pinterestwoman holding fresh snowdrop bouquet in forest
Shinyfamily / Getty Images

Galanthus can cause mild stomach problems if ingested. If you have curious children or pets, it’s best to plant these flowers in a location that’s out of reach.

Some people experience skin irritation after touching a snowdrop plant. To be on the safe side, wear gardening gloves while planting the bulbs or propagating, then wash your hands thoroughly afterward.


Varieties of Galanthus

Share to PinterestSnowdrop 'S. Arnott'
TonyBaggett / Getty Images

If you're a new fan of the Galanthus, it may seem like all varieties look the same. Yet, despite the fact you’ll only find plants with white blooms, many options produce different-sized petals with an array of green markings, along with a few other subtle differences.

  • Galanthus nivalis "Walrus," features walrus tusk-shaped petals and a green rosette that grows out from the middle of the bloom.
  • Galanthus "S. Arnott" is a taller variety with blossoms that display green, V-shaped markings along the inner edge of the petals.



Scroll Down

for the Next Article