Galanthus elwesii

Overall plant
Common Name: snowdrop 
Type: Bulb
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: Western Asia, eastern Europe
Zone: 4 to 7
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 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
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Black Walnut


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. Giant 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, giant snowdrops naturalize well by both self-seeding and bulb offsets. Allow foliage to yellow before removing it from garden areas. If left alone, foliage disappears by late spring as bulbs go dormant.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Galanthus elwesii, commonly called giant snowdrop, has larger flowers, leaves and size than the similar common snowdrop (G. nivalis). Snowdrops bloom in February-March in the St. Louis area, often poking their flower heads up through snow cover if present. The common name refers to the supposed resemblance of the flowers to drops of snow. Each bulb produces two-three narrow (to 1 1/4” wide), linear, basal leaves (to 4” long at flowering) and a leafless flower scape (to 6-10” tall) which is topped with a single, nodding, white, waxy, bell-shaped flower (to 2” long). Each flower has green markings at the base and apex. Leaves will elongate after bloom.

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

Specific epithet honors Henry John Elwes (1846-1922), English entomologist, botanist and naturalist who reportedly introduced the plant into cultivation. Species plants are native to mountain areas of western Turkey.


No serious insect or disease problems.


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).