When it comes to gardening, there always seems to be something new to learn. Even experienced gardeners may not know what to do with snowdrop bulbs after they have flowered. If you’re wondering the same thing, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Although snowdrops are not particularly high maintenance, learning what to do with snowdrop bulbs after flowering will ensure that they return to brighten up your garden year after year.
What are Snowdrop Bulbs?
The snowdrop bulb is a small, rounded, tunicate bulb. It contains nutrients and energy that allow the plant to grow and bloom early in the year, even before the snow has melted in some regions. Snowdrops propagate both by seed and by bulb offsets (small bulbs that form around the base of a larger bulb). Over time, this can lead to the formation of dense clumps or carpets of snowdrops.
What to do with Snowdrop Bulbs After Flowering?
After snowdrop flowers have bloomed and faded, it’s essential to provide the right care to ensure they return with vigour in the subsequent year. Here’s what you should do with snowdrop bulbs after flowering:
1 – Leave the Foliage
Do not cut back the foliage immediately after the flowers fade. The leaves continue to photosynthesize, producing energy that the bulb stores for the next growing season. Allow the leaves to yellow and die back naturally.
2 – Keep Watering
While snowdrops are relatively drought-tolerant once established, it’s a good idea to ensure they receive adequate water during their active growth period, especially if the weather is particularly dry.
3 – Fertilise
After flowering, you can apply a balanced, slow-release bulb-specific fertiliser to provide essential nutrients for the next year’s growth. This is especially helpful if your soil is not naturally rich.
4 – Avoid Overcrowding
Snowdrops can multiply quite rapidly. Every few years, you may notice that the clumps become dense and the flowers less prolific. This is a sign that it’s time to divide and transplant the bulbs.
5 – Lift and Divide
The best time to lift and divide snowdrop bulbs is during their “in the green” phase, shortly after they have flowered but while they still have foliage.
Gently dig around the clump with a trowel or spade, taking care not to damage the bulbs. Lift the clump out of the ground, gently separate the bulbs and replant the bulbs immediately at the same depth they were growing before, spacing them out to prevent overcrowding.
6 – Prepare for Dormancy
Once the foliage has yellowed and died back, you can gently remove it to keep the area tidy. During their dormant period in the summer, snowdrops require little care. Ensure the soil doesn’t become excessively dry, but generally, established snowdrops can handle summer dormancy without any special attention.
How to Store Snowdrop Bulbs?
If you need to store your snowdrops for any reason, they will keep for a little while until you plant them again but you will need to follow a few simple rules:
- Clean: Gently brush off any excess soil from the bulbs. Avoid washing them as moisture can lead to rot during storage.
- Inspect: Check the bulbs for any signs of damage, disease, or rot. Discard any bulbs that look unhealthy.
- Dry: Lay the bulbs out in a single layer in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Allow them to dry for about a week. This helps to reduce the risk of fungal diseases during storage.
- Pack: Once dried, pack the bulbs in a breathable container, such as a mesh bag or paper bag. You can also use boxes layered with newspaper. If you prefer, you can nestle the bulbs in slightly moist (not wet) peat moss or sand to help maintain some humidity and prevent them from drying out too much.
- Storage Conditions: Store the bulbs in a cool, dry, and dark place. Ideal temperatures range from 10°C to 15°C. Avoid storing them in a place with high humidity or where they might freeze.
- Check Periodically: Every few weeks, inspect the bulbs to ensure there’s no mould growth or rot. Remove any bulbs that show signs of deterioration.
- Plant: Ideally, snowdrop bulbs stored this way should be replanted as soon as possible, preferably in the Autumn, to ensure they establish well and flower the following spring.
Snowdrop bulbs are extremely low maintenance and do not really take much in the way of looking after them. As long as you let the leaves continue to grow after the flower has gone, they will still be able to store enough energy to flower the next spring. Many people will just mow over the leaves once the flower has gone but this is not a good idea as you will end up with stunted snowdrops the next spring and that is if they even grow at all. If you need to lift and store your snowdrop bulbs, it is not too difficult either providing you follow the steps that we have laid out for you, you will have beautiful grape snowdrops year after year.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Replant stored bulbs in early spring once the ground has thawed!”
“Do not forget to leave the foliage in the ground until it dies back on its own. The bulb needs the foliage for photosynthesis!”
“Over time, snowdrop clusters will expand. Lift and separate bulbs every 3 years and plant a few elsewhere to establish new clusters!”
“If storing bulbs for winter, check on them every 4 weeks to ensure that none of them has rotted and gone mushy, if any have, throw them away immediately!”
Frequently Asked Questions
How many years do snowdrop bulbs last?
Snowdrop bulbs do not really like to be out of the ground but those that are in storage and cared for properly will last around 12 months before they require planting.
Do you have to dig up snowdrop bulbs every year?
No, snowdrops do not need to be lifted every year. Snowdrops will do fine being in the ground through the winter although it is a good idea to lift bulbs every 3 or 4 years to separate the bulb clusters.
Can snowdrop bulbs be left in pots?
Yes, snowdrop bulbs can be left in pots as long as they are planted deep enough and are protected from heavy frost.
Do snowdrops need deadheading?
No, snowdrops do not need deadheading although you may want to for aesthetic reasons.
Why do snowdrops come up blind?
Snowdrops come up blind (without flowers) often due to overcrowding or insufficient nutrients in the soil. Over time, as the bulbs multiply and become too dense, they may compete for resources, leading to some bulbs not producing flowers. Regular division and replanting can alleviate this issue.
How many weeks do snowdrops flower for?
Snowdrops typically flower for about 3 to 4 weeks. The exact duration can vary based on the local climate, weather conditions, and specific variety of snowdrops.
Should snowdrops be cut back after flowering?
No, snowdrops should not be cut back immediately after flowering. The leaves continue to photosynthesise and provide energy to the bulb for the next year’s growth. Allow the foliage to die back naturally.
How do you encourage snowdrops to spread?
To encourage snowdrops to spread, allow their seed pods to mature and release seeds naturally. Additionally, you can divide and replant overcrowded clumps to give bulbs more space, which can also help with spreading.
What triggers snowdrops to flower?
Snowdrops are triggered to flower by rising soil temperatures and increased daylight in late winter to early spring. They are among the first plants to bloom, often even before the last snow has melted.
Do snowdrops grow back every year?
Yes, snowdrops are perennial plants, meaning they grow back every year. Once established, they can bloom reliably each spring for many years.
Do snowdrops spread on their own?
Yes, snowdrops can spread on their own, both by producing offsets (small bulbs that form around the base of a larger bulb) and by self-seeding when conditions are favourable.
How many flowers does one snowdrop bulb produce?
Typically, one snowdrop bulb produces one flower. However, over time, as the bulb produces offsets, a single bulb can lead to a clump of several flowering plants.
Can you plant snowdrops and bluebells together?
Yes, snowdrops and bluebells can be planted together. They both enjoy similar woodland or dappled shade conditions. Snowdrops bloom in late winter to early spring, while bluebells bloom in late spring, providing sequential flowering and extended colour in the garden.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.