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The snowdrop flower known as Galanthus [guh-LAN-thus] is a small genus of bulbous perennials containing about 20 species.
These plants belong to the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis) family and mostly come from Europe and the Middle East.
All species of Galanthus grow from bulbs and typically contain two leaves and produce downward-facing white flowers.
The pendulous growth of the flowers gives the genus the common name “snowdrop flower” and sometimes the common snowdrop.
These commonly grown garden plants are easy to cultivate and propagate, using the right methods and tips.
Popular Species Include:
- Galanthus elwesii (Giant Snowdrop)
- Galanthus nivalis [guh-LAN-thus, niv-VAL-us], is the best known of the species.
Snowdrop Flower Care
Size and Growth
Snow drops are bulb perennials. Most species produce two or three dark green leaves, measuring 4″ – 10″ inches tall.
The tips tend to form thick points, helping to protect the flower bud as the plant pushes through the soil.
Common snowdrops bulbs have two 4″ inch leaves which start to yellow after the bloom arrives.
By late spring, foliage disappears while the bulbs go dormant.
Flowering and Fragrance
Galanthus are not particularly showy, with each of the snowdrop bulbs producing a single pendant flower.
The flowers feature six petals, with three long white petals and three shorter petals with green tips.
The snowdrop blooms early, with blooms arriving in late February or early March in moderate and cool climates.
Light and Temperature
The snowdrops are best suited for cultivation in cooler climates.
Snowdrop bulbs are winter hardy to USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7.
In southern parts of North America and warmer regions, the bulbs lose vitality over time.
The bulbs become less likely to bloom.
In areas with extremely hot summers and mild winters, consider growing indoors.
The plant prefers partial shade to full sun.
Watering and Feeding
Water potted plants whenever the top inch of soil dries and water garden plants during periods of drought.
Use liquid plant fertilizer every other week when the blooms first arrive.
Stop using fertilizer after the flowers start to wilt.
Soil and Transplanting
Plant bulbs in the early fall to provide enough time for early spring bloom.
Most nurseries only carry these bulbs for a short period in the middle of the fall.
Grow Galanthus in regular soil with good drainage.
However, these low maintenance plants should thrive in most types of soil.
Plant bulbs 2″ – 3″ inches apart and 2″ – 3″ inches deep in groupings of two dozen bulbs.
Transplanting isn’t necessary, but it’s possible to store bulbs.
Store bulbs in the fall after the plants go dormant.
The flowers should wilt after the leaves fall.
Carefully remove the bulbs from the soil.
Store the bulbs in a dry, cool location.
Grooming isn’t necessary.
How To Propagate Galanthus
Propagate by seed or division using the offset bulbs.
It’s possible to harvest seeds from the flower pod or purchase packets of seeds.
However, nurseries typically sell the bulbs.
Growing from seed also takes longer, requiring about four years before the first bloom arrives.
The plant also produces offset bulbs.
Dig up the soil around these bulbs and cut the root connected to the mother plant.
Transplant the offsets into individual containers or different areas of the garden.
Galanthus Pest or Disease Problems
Most Galanthus don’t regularly suffer from pest or disease problems.
NOTE: Snowdrop plants are not only pest-free but also rabbit and deer resistant.
Spider Mite Infestations
- Potted plants grown indoors may occasionally suffer from attacks from spider mites.
- The spider mites tend to appear indoors due to the drier atmosphere.
- Take the plant outdoors and spray it with cold water from a garden hose.
- If the cold water doesn’t work, use a miticide or insecticide to stop the infestation.
- Misting the plants occasionally should help reduce the chance of another infestation.
Besides pests and diseases, watch out for pets or children.
The plant contains the alkaloid galantamine, which may cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested.
A synthesized version of galantamine is used in various medicines for treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but consuming the organic flower may cause vomiting or diarrhea.
Ingesting large amounts of Galanthus may lead to more extreme symptoms, including abdominal pain, reduced blood pressure, and slower heart rate.
Pets may also exhibit muscle spasms, lack of coordination, and excessive drooling.
Galanthus isn’t lethal, but ingesting parts of the plant may require additional fluids to avoid dehydration until the toxic compounds leave the body.
These plants are also invasive in certain parts of the world.
Galanthus produce offset bulbs, allowing growth to spread naturally in the wild.
However, the Galanthus plants rarely overtake other plants, and the offsets are easily removed and transplanted.
Suggested Snowdrop Flower Uses
Galanthus works well as a border plant near the front of a garden or naturalized in woodland areas.
As each bulb produces a single flower, consider growing a group of bulbs together to create a sea of white flowers in the early spring.
NOTE: It’s recommended you wear gloves while working with these plants, as it can cause skin irritation.