Galanthus alpinus
Common Name: snowdrop
Type: Bulb
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: Caucasus
Zone: 5 to 7
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Bloom Time: February to March
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Black Walnut

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, humusy soils in part shade. Grows particularly well under deciduous trees where exposure to the sun is full in early spring but gradually changes to part shade as the trees leaf out. Snowdrops prefer cool climates, and are somewhat short lived when grown south of USDA Zone 7. Plant bulbs 3” deep and space 3-4” apart in fall. In optimum growing conditions, snowdrops naturalize well by both self-seeding and bulb offsets to form large colonies. If left alone, foliage disappears by late spring as bulbs go dormant. Allow foliage to yellow before removing it from garden areas.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Galanthus alpinus, commonly called snowdrop, is a bulbous perennial of the amaryllis family that blooms in February-March in the St. Louis area, often poking its flower heads up through snow cover. It is native to forested areas of the Caucasus Mountains. The common name refers to the purported resemblance of the flowers to drops of snow. Each bulb produces two or three erect, narrow (to 3/4” wide), linear, basal leaves (to 4” tall at flowering but elongating to 7” tall after bloom) and a leafless flower scape (to 6” tall) which is topped in late winter to early spring (February-March) with a single, nodding, waxy, bell-shaped, white flower (to 1 1/4” long). Each flower has six showy white petal-like tepals, with each of the three inner tepals (smaller than the three outer ones) being adorned with a showy green chevron-like mark straddling a notch in the tepal apex plus green striping on the inner tepal surface. Each seed has an attached fleshy structure (elaiosome) which is attractive to ants which in turn act as dispersal agents in distributing the seeds to other locations.

Galanthus caucasicus is a synonym.

Genus name comes from the Greek words gala meaning milk and anthos meaning flower in reference to the color of the flowers.

Specific epithet from Latin means from the high mountains above timberline.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Best massed in sweeping drifts in areas where they can naturalize, such as open woodland areas, woodland margins or in lawns under large deciduous trees. Also effective in groupings in rock gardens, border fronts, in front of flowering shrubs or along walks or paths. Mix with other early flowering bulbs such as Eranthis (winter aconite).