Growing snowdrops in pots

According to most experts, it’s quite possible to grow snowdrops in pots. Containers are usually used for less hardy snowdrops that are grown in the greenhouse or cold frame. Many gardeners start twin scales and seedlings in pots as well. Attention has to be paid to the depth of the pots, as the roots of the plants need adequate space for growth. The soil needs to be adequately drained and should be quite nutrient-rich. Usually a loam-based compost is used, instead of the peat-based mixture of many composts. Vermiculite, perlite, grit and composted bark are often added for drainage and air porosity (1). Many galanthophiles add organic components like leaf mulch, for which snowdrops appear to have an affinity. Fertilizer like slow-release tomato feed may also be added. The opinion on the exact soil mixture varies:

General advice Hagen Engelmann* (2) Blonde Inge (3) Yanik Neff (4) Freda Cox (5)
Freda Cox 2 Melvyn Jope* (6) Naomi Slade (7)
Compost (loam-based) 50% 30% 40% (JI3) 10% 75% 20%
loam 10% 20% 40%
hort grit 50% 30% 15% 25% 40%
cornish/fine grit 15%
Vermiculite / perlite  10% 10% 20% 37,5%
leaf mould/shreddered leaves/leaf litter some 15% 10% 20% 25,0%
composted bark 20% 20%
eggshell/lime 2,5%
peat 10% 20%
sand 30% 20%

* for growing G. reginae-olgae / autumn snowdrops
JI: John Innes No.

Watering Schedule
In general, snowdrops need less watering during dormant phases. It is only in autumn that a steady watering schedule should again be started. Most snowdrop experts start with watering by September, at least monthly. After top growth starts, a 2-weekly watering schedule should be begun. If no slow-release fertilizer is present, liquid tomato feed can be added by watering, at half the strength recommended by the manufacturer.

Temperature control
When growing in pots, care must be taken to keep a steady temperature. Frost can easily creep underneath potted plants, and steps must be taken to prevent this. In the greenhouse and cold frame, it is often wise to place pots in a sand bed for better temperature and humidity regulation. Snowdrops in cold frames and greenhouses must also be shaded when the bulbs are dormant in summer, to prevent too much heat. Adequate ventilation is also senseful. Some exceptions like G. reginae-olgae and G. peshmenii, and possibly G. fosteri and G. cilicicus might like some summer heat however. Bulbs in pots should be repotted each year and at least every two years. If a yearly schedule is not possible, take care to add liquid fertilizer to the watering regime.  

Pests and disease control
Fine-mazed netting might be used in from may on to prevent the narcissus fly from entering pots (8). Dead leaves might also be removed to prevent the flies from recognizing entry points to bulbs. With regard to fungal diseases, fungicide can be used in case of high risk of infection or in case nearby bulbs have been affected. Affected bulbs are better removed from healthy stock, and if rare, twin scaling with a fungicide dip might be used to treat and save the stock.   Finally, there’s an ongoing discussion on whether to use plastic or clay pots, both having their own advantages.

  1. Growing medium. Pacific Bulb Society.
  2. Hagen Engelmann. Autumn snowdrop soil mixture forum post. 2011.
  3. Blonde Ingrid (Ingrid Jacobson). Snowdrop soil mixture forum post. 2018
  4. Yannik Neff. Swiss drops soil mixture facebook post. 2018
  5. Freda Cox. Gardener’s Guide to Snowdrops. 2013 Crowood press.
  6. Melvyn Jope. The cultivation of Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae under Glass. Daffodils, snowdrops and tulips yearbook 2007-2008.
  7. Naomi Slade. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops. 2014 Timber press.
  8. Alan_B. Snowdrop soil mixture forum post. 2018
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