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GALANTHUS nivalis

Image of Galanthus nivalis

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Amaryllidaceae

Botanical Name

GALANTHUS nivalis

Plant Common Name

Snowdrop

General Description

Blooming very early in the year, this long-time garden favorite is a small bulbous perennial found from the Iberian Peninsula to Ukraine. Nodding from a slender arching stem ("pedicel") atop an ankle-high scape, the white, solitary, honey-scented flower has six petal-like segments in two whorls. In cold weather the flower closes, indeed resembling a drop of snow. As the air warms the three spoon-shaped outer segments draw back to reveal the three much smaller inner segments, which form a tube-like structure. The inner segments have notched tips with a green v-shaped "mustache." The flower attaches at its base to a small, green, thimble-shaped ovary. Two slender, leaf-like spathes flank the pedicel. The bulb multiplies to produce a multi-flowered clump. The narrowly lance-shaped grayish-green leaves sometimes have a silvery-gray midstripe. The foliage emerges before the flowers, develops to full length during and after bloom, and neatly fades away in spring. Over the centuries hundreds of cultivars of common snowdrop have been introduced, including selections with green-marked outer segments (e.g., 'Viridapice'), double flowers (including 'Flore Pleno'), large wing-like spathes ('Scharlokii' and 'Bishop's Mitre'), or yellow ovaries (Sandersii Group).

Snowdrops couldn’t be easier or more rewarding to grow. Plant the bulbs in fall at a depth of two to three times their height in moist, well-drained soil with plenty of humus. They are best under deciduous trees where they receive full sun while in bloom but partial shade later on. They require at least 2 months of chill in winter to grow and flower well. Do not disturb the bulbs, but rather allow them to form large clumps. They also spread through self-sowing. Plant snowdrops in masses in lawns, under deciduous trees and shrubs, or in rock gardens, mixed borders, or containers. The fragrant flowers are lovely when cut and displayed in bud vases. All parts of this plant contain compounds that make them unpalatable to herbivores.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Bulb or Corm or Tuber

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    3"-7" / 7.6cm - 17.8cm

  • Width

    2"-4" / 5.1cm - 10.2cm

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Early Winter, Winter, Late Winter

  • Native To

    Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Turkey

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single, Double

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Alpine, Container, Cutflower, Feature Plant, Foundation, Lawns and Turf, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes