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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.