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Common Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
gah-LAN-thus niv-AL-is
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Snowdrop is a small bulbous perennial with milk white flowers in the Amaryllidaceae (onion) family. It is native to Europe and southwestern Asia. Its common name is a reference to the time of year when the plant blooms—late winter to early spring—when snow can be present. 

Snowdrop grows best in full sun to part shade in clay or loam soil with high organic matter. The site needs good drainage although snowdrop will tolerate a site that is occasionally wet.  Propagate snowdrop by division or stem cutting. In order to germinate, snowdrop seeds need to experience a cold spell, below 20 degrees F; therefore, the plant may have a shorter lifespan in warmer climates. 

Snowdrop easily spreads by self-seeding and bulb offsets to form new clumps, so plant it in a naturalized area or in a woodland garden under deciduous trees or shrubs where it has room to roam. It is also at home in a rock garden, a winter garden, and a pollinator garden where it will feed bees.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Two or three strap-shaped, basal leaves 
  • A solitary flower is bell-shaped on a naked stem
  • Flower is six-parte and white but with inner segments that have a terminal green mark
  • The inner tepals are shorter than the outer three tepals

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No significant problems. 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Flore Pleno'
    features double white flowers to 1 inch long
  • 'Viride Apic'
    features white flowers with green marks on both inner and outer tepals
'Flore Pleno', 'Viride Apic'
Tags:
#bulb#showy flowers#poisonous#houseplant#perennials#white flowers#low maintenance#spring flowers#deer resistant#naturalizes#fantz#early spring flowers#winter flowers#late winter flowers#ebh#bee friendly#ebh-g#black walnut toxicity tolerant#tepals
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Flore Pleno'
    features double white flowers to 1 inch long
  • 'Viride Apic'
    features white flowers with green marks on both inner and outer tepals
'Flore Pleno', 'Viride Apic'
Tags:
#bulb#showy flowers#poisonous#houseplant#perennials#white flowers#low maintenance#spring flowers#deer resistant#naturalizes#fantz#early spring flowers#winter flowers#late winter flowers#ebh#bee friendly#ebh-g#black walnut toxicity tolerant#tepals
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Galanthus
    Species:
    nivalis
    Family:
    Amaryllidaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Bulb
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe and Southwestern Asia
    Distribution:
    Native to a large area of Europe, from Spain in the west, eastwards to Ukraine. Naturalized in North Carolina and Virginia as well as several other states.
    Wildlife Value:
    Polinated by bees.
    Edibility:
    Bulbs are toxic if eaten
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 4 in. - 0 ft. 10 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 3 in. - 0 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Bulb
    Poisonous
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a more or less spherical capsule, 1/2 inch in diameter. The pale brown seeds are about 0.1 inch long.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    A solitary faintly scented early bloomer. Bell-shaped white flower, held on a slender pedicel. 6 tepals, three outer are white are white, oblong, entire, obtuse, 1.5-2 cm. Three inner segments are white with an apical green mark, entire, emarginate, cuneate, elliptic, shorter than outter 3 tepals. The flower scape is terminated by large, green bract.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Each bulb generally produces two to three linear, or very narrowly lanceolate, grass-like, greyish-green leaves from its base. Basal, linear, usually paired, glaucous, 3.5 x .25" at flowering.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    The green scape (the leafless, flower-bearing stalk) is 2 to 7 inches long and bears a single erect flower bud, a spathe of 2 membranous bracts.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Houseplants
    Naturalized Area
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Causes low toxicity if eaten in quantity; can result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Phenanthridine alkaloids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Leaves
    Roots