Snowdrops - Galanthus Nivalus

 

Buying your snowdrops

Simply put - always buy the largest bulbs that you can find. The flowering of snowdrops is controlled, amongst other things, by the diameter of the bulb. Unless bulbs are a sufficient width they won't flower. Many people find this disappointing when they find snowdrops at a good price and believe they are getting a bargain. Bulb size 5+ is normally the minimum flowering size.

 

Planting the bulbs

Snowdrops cannot compete well with vigorous pasture grasses. Depth seems relatively unimportant, bury the bulbs a few centimetres in a shaded moist area that does not dry out completely for the whole summer.

 


 

 

Splitting, dividing and repotting

Most bulbs increase vegetatively; producing baby bulbels around the parent and gradually increasing into a clump. Snowdrops are no exception. In time, the clump can be lifted, teased apart and the separate bulbs used as the start of a new clump, sold or given to friends.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of snowdrops clump up at a rate that can be described as modest, at best. Herein lies the reason for their high cost. If you desire a specific snowdrop, then someone has to own a clump that they are willing to lift and plunder. The number of surplus bulbs that can be taken from the clump will be small and the remainder of the clump can then be replanted. The reduced, replanted parent clump will carry on but it will probably be several years before a further harvesting of surplus bulbs can be carried out.

The increase in number of bulbs is probably maximised if clumps are lifted every few years. In this way they don't have a chance to become congested and probably get ample air, water, light and elbow room. The downside is that this coincides with them beginning to form an attractive natural clump and look their best in a garden setting.

It is impractical to lift and separate snowdrops being grown on a landscape scale. You will have to rely on moles and other small animals to spread them around for you.

When snowdrop clumps remain undisturbed over a long period, large congested clumps result. Many of the bulbs will be long and thin, squeezed by the numerous other bulbs in the clump. These narrow bulbs may be equivalent in weight to a normal bulb but are not wide enough to flower. Hence, large old clumps of snowdrops will have a preponderance of leaves and relatively few flowers.

 

Pot grown snowdrops

Pot grown snowdrops should be repotted every year, when dormant, into fresh compost. Snowdrops will extinguish the quality of the compost in a single season.