by Carol Klein
There are snowdrops to suit a wide range of cultural and climatic conditions. Galanthus nivalis varieties, which constitute the majority of cultivated snowdrops, luxuriate in damp winter conditions but prefer to be drier during the summer.
Grow Snowdrops: Site Selection is Key
A site in heavy soil among the roots of deciduous trees is perfect to grow snowdrops. Not everyone has the luxury of space for a separate spring, woodland garden, but even one tree can provide a perfect environment for clumps of snowdrops planted through drifts of later-blooming shade-lovers.
You don't need a tree though—for example, you can snowdrops in the middle of broad island beds among big clumps of perennials. In the winter, when the herbaceous plants are absent, the snowdrops can be viewed clearly. Then, in the summer, the perennials lend cool shelter to the now-dormant snowdrops. A good moisture-retaining mulch is helpful in this kind of situation.
Some snowdrops are from much warmer climes and are happy in a sunny site. One of the first snowdrops to flower, G. elwesii has broad, glaucous leaves that clasp the flower stem and inner petals marked with green. Although it comes from Turkey, it is perfectly tough and will stand winter temperatures as low as -15°F (USDA Zone 5a).
Galanthus elwesii var. whittallii is one of its best forms, with especially green underskirts. Also happy in sun is G. gracilis (formerly G. graecus), a small snowdrop with characteristically twisted leaves.