Plant of the week - Galanthus

The Galanthus, better known as the Snowdrop, is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family that grows in many places around Oxford, including in the Hayrick Border in the University Parks. It is a very well-known flower, for many marking the beginning of spring, and it has about 20 species with hundreds of cultivars and hybrids.

The most common is the single flowered G. nivalis. They grow between 5 and 15cm tall, depending on variety, with a single white flower for each stem. There are many double flowered varieties available, for example G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’. They flower roughly between January and March.

Snowdrops are generally simple to grow. The best way to get them is after flowering when they are sold as ‘in the green’ during the late spring, usually in bundles. Some of the rare varieties are sold as single bulbs – the most expensive one sold in 2015 for £1,390! By planting in the green, they have the best chance of getting established, doing best in partial shade, and are very good for naturalising under trees and in woodland areas. The soil needs to be free draining but moist; don’t let them dry out in summer. Remove old foliage once it has died off, usually 4-6 weeks after flowering. The easiest way to propagate snowdrops is to divide established clumps after flowering in the late spring.

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