Prized for their abundant winter or early spring blooms, Snowdrops (Galanthus) are invaluable additions to the garden and provide gardeners with some of the greatest pleasures in winter. Nothing is more uplifting than a carpet of white flowers under bare winter trees. Appealing and highly versatile, these harbingers of spring are tough, cold-hardy, deer or rabbit resistant and easy to grow bulbous perennials. Remarkably resilient, they even bloom beneath a blanket of snow if they have to. They are fabulous at bringing sparkles to the winter garden when most plants are still dormant and bring huge amounts of optimism and great joy.
While extraordinarily good-looking on their own, Snowdrops however, look more charming when planted with companion plants. Well-behaved, they make perfect partners with other plants and help create strikingly beautiful combinations in the garden.
Choose the right companion plants and extend the season of interest of your garden
Surrounding your Snowdrops with a succession of flowers and foliage plants will reinforce the beauty of their blooms and extend the season of interest of your landscape. Here is the list of favorite companion plants for your Snowdrops.
- Hellebores (Helleborus) are great snowdrop partners since they share the same flowering time and growing conditions. Their leaves will spread in the summer to cover the dormant bulbs and give them a cool dry rest. The most popular Hellebore varieties are the Lenten Roses (Helleborus x hybridus or Helleborus orientalis) which are available in a rich array of colors including pink, purple, red, white, green, apricot and yellow. Flowering a month or so earlier are the Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger) with their pristine white to pink-tinged white blossoms. Since Hellebores can form dense clumps, it is preferable to plant your snowdrops in front or next to your Hellebores for a better display. Do not sprinkle your bulbs in between or they might not be noticeable.
- Low-growing spring bulbs such as Crocus, Cyclamen, Scilla (Squill), Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Erythronium (Dog Tooth Violet), Anemone blanda (Grecian Windflower), Iris reticulata (Dwarf Iris), Leucojum (Snowflake), Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite) and Narcissi (Daffodil). They will create a flowering carpet and provide eye-catching color to your garden at a time when it is still dormant.
- Complement with fragrant shrubs or trees which will bring their pretty blooms and delightful scent to the landscape and add light and interest to the winter landscape. Among them are Lonicera fragrantissima (Fragrant Honeysuckle), Edgeworthia chrysantha (Paperbush), or Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Hamamelis (Witch Hazel), and Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry Dogwood).
- Add foliage plants such as Asarum europaeum (European Wild Ginger), Heuchera (Coral Bells), Trillium (Wake Robin), Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (Black Mondo Grass), Ferns with their graceful fronds, Hostas with their smooth leaves, Carex (Sedges), ornamental grasses with bright golden foliage such as Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' (Hakone Grass), to carry the display over the year.
- Interplant perennial plants that do not require much attention or regular digging up. Choose instead Paeonia (Peonies), Baptisia (False Indigo), or Papaver Oriental (Oriental Poppy) to enjoy a lovely spring display. Select Sedums, Liriope muscari (Blue Lily Turf), Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Cyclamen hederifolium (Ivy-Leaved Cyclamen) to create a powerful fall statement.
- Introducing colorful spiky companions will provide visual variety against the blooms or your snowdrops. Without the leaves, the colorful stems and bark texture of some trees and shrubs come into their own and provide a cheerful backdrop to your Snowdrops. Underplanting your Cornus sericea (Red Osier Dogwood), Cornus alba (Tatarian Dogwood) or Betula (Birch) with pristine white Snowdrops will create more emotion in winter than a solitary Dogwood or a lonely Snowdrop. Other fabulous plants that shine on a bright sunny day are Salix alba var vitellina (Ornamental Willow) with fiery orange stems or Prunus serrula (Ornamental Cherry) with glossy chestnut-red stems.
Avoid bad neighboring plants
Snowdrops perform best when free from overbearing companion plants that would out-compete them for light, water or nutrients.
- Do not plant your snowdrops among large evergreens or densely packed conifers which would deprive your bulbs of sun and dry out the soil. Choose instead Buxus (Boxwood) or Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) varieties.
- Do not plant plants with quickly extending rhizomes such as Pulmonarias, vigorous geraniums (Buxton's Blue, Wargrave Pink), or some Epimediums. Generally speaking, avoid plants with dense carpets of roots through which your emerging Snowdrops might have trouble penetrating.
- Do not plant herbaceous perennials that need regular divisions. As an example, avoid planting Monarda (Bee Balm), Helenium (Sneezeweed), Asters or Hemerocallis (Daylilies), or your nearby snowdrops may struggle.
- Be careful with Ivy as it may become a troublesome neighbor for your Snowdrops if these are not vigorous enough.
Snowdrops Cultural Requirements
There is a wide range of companion plants that will bring out the best qualities of your Snowdrops and share their space with a serene balance. Make sure you select any ornamental grasses, perennials or shrubs that have the same growing requirements as your Snowdrops.
- Snowdrops thrive in full sun to part shade. They grow 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.
- Snowdrops grow in average, moist, well-drained soils. They do not welcome soils that are too fertile, so adding compost, manure or fertilizer should be avoided. It is important that the soil does not dry out in summer