How To Split and Plant Snowdrops In The Green

A Guide to Splitting Snowdrops

As the last traces of winter linger and the promise of spring teases us with its approach, like all gardeners we eagerly anticipate the emergence of delicate snowdrops around the cottage garden. These enchanting flowers, with their pristine white petals and subtle hints of green, symbolise hope and renewal after the long winter months. To cultivate a thriving display of snowdrops and ensure their continued beauty in your garden, knowing how to split, propagate and plant them is essential. In this guide, we'll delve into the art of splitting snowdrops, allowing you to multiply their presence and spread their magic throughout your garden.

Understanding Snowdrops:

Snowdrops (Galanthus) are resilient and low-maintenance plants that typically bloom in late winter to early spring. Originating from Europe these perennial bulbs have become beloved fixtures in gardens worldwide. Snowdrops thrive in cool, moist environments and are often found naturalised in English woodlands, meadows, and gardens. They are among the earliest flowering plants, often poking through the snow to herald the arrival of spring as early as just after new Year in some milder parts of the UK like Norfolk.

Why Split Snowdrops?

Splitting snowdrops, also known as dividing, is a simple yet effective method for propagating these lovely flowers. Dividing snowdrops not only allows you to expand your garden's snowdrop population but also rejuvenates overcrowded clumps, ensuring healthier growth and more abundant blooms the next year.

Additionally, sharing divided snowdrops with fellow gardeners is a wonderful way to spread the joy of these charming flowers. This is how i acquired my first snowdrops many years ago from a lovely lady gardener on a WI market in Southwell in Nottinghamshire. She dug a huge clump up from her garden and gave me very detailed instructions on how to divide the clump and split the snowdrops up into small clumps, and plant them in my own garden. That one huge clump contained several hundred bulbs, and I have been growing snodrops ever since.

We have moved house since then, and with each house move I have brought a clump of snowdrops with me . I have been propagating snowdrops very year now for over 20 years and spreading them around the gardening and sharing them with friends. It truly has been a joy. 

When to Split Snowdrops

The ideal time to split snowdrops is while they are in the green either during flowering, or just after they have finished flowering in early spring. This timing allows the bulbs to recover and establish themselves before the onset of warmer weather. Aim to split snowdrops immediately after flowering, while the foliage is still green. I personally prefer to split them while they are flowering as this gives them time to reestablish themselves and helps me remember which variety of snowdrop it is so i can group similar ones together. Avoid the temptation to split them at other times of year as they do not do well and do not buy dry bulbs in the autumn as this is rarely successful. Snowdrops need to be planted in the green.

How to split snowdrops

Here is our Step-by-Step Guide to Splitting Snowdrops that we have used for the last 20 years with great success:

  1. Prepare the site: Choose a location in your garden that receives partial to full shade and has well-drained soil. Snowdrops prefer soil that is rich in organic matter and slightly acidic to neutral pH.
  2. Lift the clumps of snowdrops: Using a garden fork or trowel, carefully lift the clumps of snowdrops from the ground, taking care not to damage the bulbs or roots. Gently shake off any excess soil to reveal the individual bulbs.
  3. Separate the bulbs: Inspect the clumps and identify individual bulbs that have formed offsets or small bulblets attached to them. Using your hands or a sharp knife, gently separate these offsets from the parent bulbs, ensuring that each division has its own roots attached. Split them into clumps of 3-5 bulbs. Remove any tree rotts or weed roots from around the bulbs. I do this by gently knowing the clump on side of a bucket.
  4. Replant the divisions: Plant the divided bulbs immediately into prepared holes in the garden bed or where you are naturalising them, spacing the clumps a few inches apart to allow room for future growth. Ensure that the bulbs are planted at the same depth as they were previously, with the tips just below the soil surface.
  5. Water and mulch if its dry: After planting, water the newly divided snowdrops thoroughly to help settle the soil around the bulbs. You could apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded leaves or compost, to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth if the soil is poor or very dry. Our soil is moist and humus rich so we do not usually need to do this. If the ground is wet or rain is expected you may not need to water them in. We are having a very wet spring this year, which means I've not had to water any of the snowdrops that I've split this year, which has saved me some time.
  6. Care and maintenance: Continue to water the snowdrops regularly during the growing season, especially during dry spells or if they look wilted. Once the foliage begins to die back in late spring or early summer, you can stop watering. Avoid disturbing the bulbs while they are dormant, as this can disrupt their growth and flowering. Each year split the largest clumps to increase your snowdrop stock. Soon you will have a garden full of snowdrops and spare bulbs to give away to friends and family.

How deep to plant snowdrop bulbs 

Snowdrop bulbs should be planted at a depth of about 2-3 inches (5-8 centimeters) in the soil. This depth helps protect them from temperature fluctuations and provides stability while allowing the shoots to emerge easily in the spring.

Planting snowdrop bulbs too deep can hinder their ability to emerge and bloom properly. It's important to stick to the recommended planting depth of 2-3 inches (5-8 centimeters) to ensure optimal growth and flowering. Planting them too deep may result in delayed emergence or reduced flowering, as the bulbs may struggle to reach the surface.

Do snowdrop bulbs spread?

Yes, snowdrop bulbs can spread over time. They typically reproduce by forming offsets or bulblets around the parent bulb. As these offsets mature, they develop into new bulbs, gradually increasing the size of the clump. This natural propagation process allows snowdrops to spread and create charming drifts of flowers in gardens over the years. Proper care and maintenance, including dividing overcrowded clumps, can help encourage healthy spread and ensure continued vigor and beauty in your snowdrop display.

Snowdrops (Galanthus) can also self-seed under the right conditions, but they are not as prolific at self-seeding as some other plants. Typically, snowdrops primarily spread by forming offsets or bulblets around the parent bulb rather than through seed dispersal. However, in some cases, snowdrops may produce seeds if they are pollinated by insects. These seeds can fall to the ground and, given suitable conditions, germinate to produce new plants over time. In our experience this tends to happen more if the snowdrops are naturalised in a woodland area, rather than in a border or naturalised in dense grass. While self-seeding can occur, it is not the primary means of propagation for snowdrops, and most gardeners rely on division to increase their snowdrop population.

How long do snowdrops flower for?

Snowdrops typically flower for about 1-3 months in the UK, though this can vary depending on factors such as weather conditions, the specific variety of snowdrop, and the location where they are planted. Our early flowering snowdrops starting flowering at the end of December this year and are just coming to the end of their flowering now towards the end of February and starting to set seed, while some of our later flowering ones are yet to flower.  In colder climates, snowdrops may bloom for a shorter period, while in milder regions Like Norfolk in the UK, they may flower for quite a bit longer. Generally, snowdrops bloom in late winter to early spring, heralding the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Enjoying their delicate blooms is a fleeting yet cherished moment in the garden, and one of the highlights of the first part of the year for us, signalling the beginning of a new growing season.

To extend the flowering season of snowdrops and enjoy their delicate blooms for a longer period, consider the following strategies:

  • Plant different varieties: Select snowdrop varieties that bloom at slightly different times. By planting early, mid, and late-flowering varieties, you can stagger the bloom times and enjoy a more prolonged display of snowdrops in your garden.
  • Divide overcrowded clumps and plant in different areas of the garden: Over time, snowdrop clumps can become overcrowded, leading to reduced flowering. Dividing the clumps every few years helps rejuvenate the plants, promoting vigorous growth and extending the flowering season. You will often find that by planting in different part of the garden with differing growing conditions you will naturally extend the flowering season. For example we find the snowdrops in warmer sunnier or more sheltered condtion often flower earlier than thiose that get less sun or are in a more exposed position.
  • Plant some snowdrops in pots and pop them somewhere very sheltered against the wall of the house, or in an unheated greenhouse or conservatory over winter. We find that these snowdrop bulbs will usually flower first. 

Where can I find snowdrops in the green for sale?

Local garden centre often have pots of snowdrops for sale in January and february but this is an expensive way of getting snowdrops and each pot usually only contains 3 snowdrop bulbs in our experience. A much better way is to find someone who has lots of snowdrops in their garden, and may be willing to dig you up a large clump. Local WI (women's institute) markets are often a great place to find nsuch people as they often grow plants to sell on the weekly market. if you look online you can also find lots of suppliers of snowdops in the green who will post them to you.

Can you plant snowdrops in a lawn?

Yes, you can plant snowdrops in a lawn, although there are some considerations to keep in mind. Planting snowdrops in a lawn can create a charming naturalised look, especially when they emerge among the grass in early spring. Here are a few tips for planting snowdrops in a lawn:

  1. Choose the right location: Select an area of your lawn that receives partial to full shade and has well-drained soil. Avoid areas that are prone to water logging, as this can cause the bulbs to rot or that dry out too much in summer.
  2. Planting depth: Dig holes in the lawn to the recommended depth of 2-3 inches (5-8 centimeters) and plant the snowdrop bulbs, ensuring they are spaced a few inches apart. We find it best to plant them in group of three to five bulbs as you get a much more natural look the next year.
  3. Lawn maintenance: Adjust your lawn mowing schedule to accommodate the snowdrops. Allow the foliage to die back naturally after flowering before mowing the lawn. This allows the bulbs to replenish their energy reserves for the next growing season. If you cut the grass before the snowdrops have gone underground you will weaken the bulbs and over time they will die out.
  4. Naturalising: To create a more naturalised look, scatter snowdrop bulbs randomly across the lawn rather than planting them in neat rows. This mimics their appearance in the wild and adds to their charm.

By following these tips, you can successfully plant snowdrops in your lawn and enjoy their delicate beauty as they herald the arrival of spring.

Will snowdrops grow in pots?

Yes, snowdrops can be grown in pots or containers, providing you with the flexibility to enjoy their delicate beauty even if you don't have a garden. Here are some tips for growing snowdrops in pots:

  1. Choose the right container: Select a pot or container that is at least 6-8 inches (15-20 centimetres) deep and ideally larger if you are going to leave them in their a long time. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent water logging. We quite often plant snowdrops in pots with other plants as either a mixed planting or with a standard holly or small shrub. We also find they mix well with a planting of nerines. 
  2. Use well-draining soil or garden compost: Fill the pot with a high-quality, well-draining potting mix. You could also add some gravel or coarse sand to improve drainage. Be careful if you are used a bought potting compost as they are often too dry, and do not contain enough humus in our experience. Remember snowdrops often grow in woodland clearings and like a humus rich soil. Having said that we also have managed to grow them in gravel so they are very forgiving bulbs.
  3. Planting depth: Plant the snowdrop bulbs at a depth of 2-3 inches (5-8 centimetres) in the potting mix, spacing them a few inches apart.
  4. Location: Place the pots in a location that receives partial to full shade, as snowdrops prefer cooler conditions. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight, as this can cause the soil to dry out too quickly.
  5. Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water the snowdrops whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, especially during the growing season.
  6. Fertilisation: Snowdrops generally do not require much fertilisation. However, if they are in pots it is probably worth applying a balanced fertiliser diluted to half strength once or twice during the growing season to encourage healthy growth.
  7. Overwintering: Where we live in North Norfolk in the UK the pots of snowdrops are left out all year round but our winters are generally very mild.  If you live in a very cold climate, consider protecting the pots from freezing temperatures by moving them to a sheltered location, an unheated greenhouse or insulating them with mulch or straw during the winter months.

By following these tips, you can successfully grow snowdrops in pots or containers and enjoy their charming blooms up close, whether on a balcony, patio, or windowsill. 

Let us know how you get on with splitting your snowdrops 

We hope that you have found this guide to splitting snowdrops helpful and that by mastering the art of splitting snowdrops, you can enrich your garden with the timeless beauty of these resilient flowers. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting out, propagating snowdrops is a rewarding and straightforward process that yields stunning results. With proper care and attention, your snowdrop collection will flourish, bringing joy and wonder to your garden for years to come.

Any questions please pop them in comments and we will be happy to answer and please do let us know if you found the guide helpful and if you have had a go at dividing your snowdrops. 

Watch our videos on our you tube channel Gardeners Cottage Blakeney to see our snowdrops and how we split and divide them


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