Places to see snowdrops
Seeing a swathe of snowdrops is one way to brighten the winter months. Despite the cold, these hardy little flowers can be found thriving in pastures, woods, ditches and orchards everywhere. After a long winter their brilliant white petals and green leaves are a welcome sight, signalling the growth of new life. Discover the best places to see these pretty white flowers near you.
Flowering between January and March, snowdrops are one of the first signs of life in gardens after the long winter months.
Our garden experts take great care of these delicate little blooms, and now they’re passing on some of their favourite facts and top tips so you can create your own mini carpets of snowdrops at home.
In this article:
First signs of spring
Perhaps the best known of the winter flowers, snowdrops are thought to have been introduced to British gardens in the late 15th century from mainland Europe. They flower between January and March.
There are 20 species of wild snowdrop, of which Galanthus nivalis is the most common. Over the years over 1,000 new varieties have been cultivated. New varieties are also created by cross-fertilisation.
Snowdrops aren’t native to the UK. Historians believe they were introduced from Europe in the late 15th century. Cultivated varieties became popular in Elizabethan gardens and were first recorded growing wild in the 1770s.
Tougher than they look
Their buds have a hard tip that helps them break through frozen soil. The sap also contains a type of antifreeze which helps to protects them from frost.
Homes for bees
Bees love snowdrops. They're a vital source of nectar early in the year when not many other plants are in flower. By planting snowdrops, you'll be building on the eco-system this vital species calls home.
Top tips from our gardeners
Common snowdrops are hardy and fairly easy to grow, so it’s not too difficult to create your own mini display at home. Here Jack Lindfield, Head Gardener at Ickworth gives some top tips for growing them:
- There are so many beautiful species of snowdrop, but if you're hoping to create an impressive swathe you can’t beat Galanthus nivalis. It's the most common species because it self-seeds and spreads very quickly, which means you’ll get to enjoy your snowy white display sooner.
- Always buy pots of snowdrops ‘in the green’ – this means once they’ve finished flowering but while the leaves are still intact. This could be any time from mid-January to early March, so keep an eye out at your local garden centre or National Trust plant shop.
- Once you get your flowers home, plant them out as soon as possible. The best location is somewhere with partial shade such as under a tree, and with moist but well-drained soil. It’s worth adding some leafmould or garden compost to the soil to ensure you’re giving the plants plenty of nutrients.
- Plant them at the same depth as they were previously grown - you can often see this where the leaf stalks change from white to green. If you can’t see the level clearly, then just plant the snowdrops around four inches deep, and if you bought multiple clumps then space them about six inches apart.
- Water the plants in, and then you can leave them alone – the foliage will die back and become food for the bulb, ready for next year’s display. Within a couple of years each clump will have grown to fill the gaps you left.
- As the years go by, you can help your snowdrops to spread by lifting and dividing any large clumps. Carefully dig up the clump and prize it apart with your hands into smaller chunks. Discard any diseased or dead bulbs, and then re-plant each new group six inches apart. Over time you’ll end up with a beautiful carpet of white flowers every spring.