How to Grow Snowdrops
Tips on how to grow snowdrops, including advice on planting them ‘in the green,’ preferred growing conditions, and how to create a drift of snowdrops.
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At a time of the year when trees are bare and temperatures chilly, snowdrops welcome us with pure white and green-tinged petals that bob in the breeze. One of the best public places to view them on the Isle of Man is the Milntown estate in Ramsey. I visited this week and asked their head gardener for some tips on how to grow snowdrops at home. There’s a video below with the full interview.
How to Grow Snowdrops
Juan Quane has been gardening at Milntown for seven years, and during that time, he’s seen snowdrops migrate from the front lawn to various places in the woodland garden. His tips on growing and situating clumps of these lovely springtime flowers include:
- Plant snowdrops ‘in the green,’ meaning the plant still has green leaves. Planting from bulbs can result in lower success rates.
- Try to get your snowdrops from garden centres or friends. You can dig them up and replant them while they’re still flowering.
- A new clump of snowdrops will double in size every two years.
- To create a drift of snowdrops, plant small clumps about six inches apart and wait for the space between to fill up naturally.
- Alternatively, divide a clump up into individual plants, then cast them out as a handful across the area you wish to plant. Dig each one in on the space they land upon.
- Don’t mow the green leaves of snowdrops until they’ve completely turned brown. The bulbs need to retract all the nutrients from the leaves before they go dormant for the season.
Snowdrops are Both Delicate and Hardy
I met Juan Wednesday afternoon, and we had a chatty walk around the Milntown garden and woods (also one of the spookiest places to visit on the Isle of Man). Though it’s late winter, there were early camellias in bloom, and I was also shown some surprisingly tender plants that can survive our mild winters without much damage. Scented geraniums and aloe vera, a succulent from the desert, flourished in the February cold; they apparently even had bananas overwintering outdoors.
Soon we were in the woodland garden and walking among the scatterings of tiny white flowers that emerge this time of the year. Snowdrops – both delicate and hardy, they are an early source of nectar for bees and a delight for everyone wanting a little cheer in otherwise wet and dormant gardens.
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Snowdrops Prefer Woodland Conditions
Snowdrops love growing in the same types of places as bluebells and wild garlic, so if you have either growing in your garden, you’ll know you have the right habitat. Saying that, a lawn can be an ideal place too. They grow well in both of these places at Milntown but have spread into areas of the walled garden where they find warmth and protection. We even spotted a cheeky clump of them growing at the base of a fig tree in the kitchen garden.
Plant Snowdrops ‘In the Green’
Usually planted in clumps, snowdrops will, over time, create carpets of blooms. It’s really easy to spread them around the garden by digging them up and transplanting. It’s best to dig them when they’re ‘in the green,’ meaning they still have green leaves. Separate these larger clumps into individuals or smaller clumps and then replant.
These flowers also come in various types, with some having larger blossoms or ruffled petals. Milntown have just discovered a new variety growing in their garden in the past couple of years. It could be a unique hybrid, but they suspect that it might be ‘Galanthus flore pleno’, a known variety that can be found in garden centres.
A Fairy Ring of Snowdrops
The oldest planting of snowdrops at Milntown is a circular fairy ring on the front lawn. Interesting story — some time ago, a garden designer decided that the snowdrops weren’t quite right there. He had them dug up and replanted elsewhere but years on the circle is still there. That’s because even a single bulb can regrow and repopulate the same area. The circle is nearly complete again now, and the bulbs relocated from the circle are all over the woodland garden. You can see them popping up through the leaf litter in late February.