A couple of weeks ago, when my snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) looked like they were about to bloom, I figured they wouldn’t last more than a couple of days. We were in the midst of a February heat spell and the temperature actually reach 70 F. Snowdrops can survive down to -40 F. – not that I have firsthand knowledge of that – but they drop their flowers quickly when the temperature remains warm.
Well, I needn’t have worried. early March is living up to its reputation as a lion and has dumped about 3 inches of snow on our thawing ground and nose numbing temperatures are predicted through next week. If anyone knows how to chill, it’s a snowdrop. So I will be able to enjoy them for a few more weeks.
I know a lot of folks don’t think it’s worth the effort to plant something so tiny and fleeting, but I disagree. Snowdrops let me know that even below the partially frozen ground, something has signaled these delicate bulbs that spring is imminent. When I see them poke their surprisingly sturdy stems above ground, I know we’re on the last leg of winter.
It doesn’t take much time, effort, or money to sprinkle your yard with snowdrops. The bulbs are pea-size, so you don’t have to dig a big hole. You can get a bag of 10-12 bulbs for less than $10. And they spread so quickly, you only need to start with a few and then be patient. Within 3-5 years, you’ll have them all over the yard.
You could even spread the seed yourself, although ants do a pretty good job of it for you. They like the elaiosome, a structure attached to the seed that is rich in fatty acids. They carry that home with them and drop the rest of the seed along the way.
There are dozens of snowdrop varieties and even more snowdrop enthusiasts who collect and grow them all, even though most people have a hard time telling the difference. The two most popularly sold are:
- Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) common snowdrop, with the nodding elongated cup flower
- Giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) Giant snowdrop, even though it’s only about 50% larger than the common snowdrop.
If you are going to plant snowdrops, put them within eye sight. I have mine outside the garage, where I see them whenever I pull in or out. By the door or sidewalk are two other good options.
Nothing blooms as early as snowdrops, but these two come close:
- Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) also handles snowy conditions with ease. It has buttercup-like flowers and a sweet scent.
- Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) is up and blooming when the rest of the garden is just about to sprout. Besides this brilliant blue, they come in white and pink.