If you are craving the sights of blooms before the snow melts, Galanthus (snowdrops) is a good solution to your fall planting repertoire. With our days starting to get longer, we here in the PNW are getting excited with anticipation of a new season around the corner. While the Island and Lower Mainland are experiencing signs of spring, we will have to wait at least another month. In the meantime, we dream, plan our gardens and wait patiently with enthusiasm.
The word Galanthus comes from the Greek word ‘gala’, meaning milk, and ‘anthos’ meaning flower. Their milk white flowers come in the form of single or double flowers, and make a great choice for any woodland garden (best under deciduous trees) or in rock gardens.
These super hardy plants are one of the first to show their faces even with a blanket of snow on the ground. Don’t let their size or delicate nature fool you. They are tough little plants producing a beautiful white carpet of blooms in their second year; naturalizing well once established. These bulbs have a clumping habit, with narrow pointed leaves that give way to pendulous buds opening into snow-white bell shaped flowers, and range from 4”– 12” in height.
Although snowdrops take a full year to get well established blooms, they are worth the wait. For those of us who share our home with wildlife, you will be happy to know that they are also deer and rabbit resistant. Hardy to Zone 3 means they will grow almost anywhere in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
After years of admiring this gem of a plant in other gardens, I finally purchased them in the fall, and planned to force them in pots. Thinking that they were like the other forcing bulbs that can be chilled out of soil, I left them in the box chilling in my climate-controlled garage for 10 weeks. Big mistake!
Lesson #1 – Plant snowdrops right away as they will dry out if left out in ambient temperature for too long. I struck out again only to find out that even if I had planted them right away, I would not have seen much in my first year. So, patience is a virtue when it comes to these little beauties.
Lesson #2 – If you want to see blooms right away, try and find someone who can give you some in early spring that are ‘in the green’. This means that the flowers have bloomed but the leaves are still green. Planting them right away will give you a better chance of blooms the following year.
For those in warmer climates you may start to see them bloom around February, but for us here in the Pemberton Valley, depending on how much snow cover we have, we will likely see them in late March. Some varieties can bloom as early as October or as late as April. Good companion plant includes cyclamen, dwarf iris, winter aconite, and hellebores. Check their hardiness for your Zone.
If you fall in love with these gems as much as I have, I have listed some steps of how to plant them:
Planting outside in your beds:
- Plant the bulbs in well-drained soil in light to moderate shade. If your ground puddles after a hard rain for 5- 6 hours, it’s best to find another location or amend your soil to improve drainage.
- Bulbs should be placed pointy side up, 2 – 3” below the surface of the ground and 3” apart. They can be planted in early fall (remember…… as soon as you get them!).
- Water well and continue to provide moisture throughout the fall season. They will establish roots within the first couple of weeks and prepare themselves for the winter season.
Planting in pots:
- Use good quality well-drained potting soil in pots that have drainage holes. The bulbs should never sit in water.
- They can be planted closer together, about 1” apart, pointy side up, and 2 – 3” below the surface of the soil. Water well and keep in light to moderate shade.
- It’s not necessary to provide fertilizer to your bulbs, but if you are looking for larger and more flowers, choose an organic fertilizer with higher levels of phosphorus for root and bloom development.
Until you can purchase the bulbs this fall, I recommend you researching your favourite varieties from these resources:
Wishing you success in finding your favourite snowdrops – I know I have a found a few to add to my list!
Catherine – From The Garden Shed