Snowflakes–Leucojum

Snowflakes are hardy bulbous plants with flowers that resemble Snowdrops, botanically known as Galanthus. Although similar, they are easily distinguished. Snowflakes have flowers formed of six, equal-sized petals while Snowdrops, which also have flowers with six petals, have three inner ones that are smaller than the outer petals.

There are twelve different species of Snowflakes, but only three are in general cultivation.

The Summer Snowflake (L. aestivum) is the species most commonly grown. It reaches 50-60cm (20—24in) high with a spread of about 20cm (8in). During April and May, clusters of 2.5cm (1 in) long white flowers with green tips to the petals are borne at the tops of stiff, upright stalks.

Other species

The Spring Snowflake (L. vernum) is a delight in February and March with its white, green-tipped, 18mm (3/4in) long flowers. It grows about 20cm (8in) high with a 7.5-10cm (3— 4in) spread. The Autumn Snowflake (L. autumnale) also has a small stature, growing 20-25cm (8-10in) high and spreading up to 10cm (4in). From July to September it produces 12mm (½in) long, white flowers with a pink flush.Snowflakes–Leucojum

Looking after your plant

When grown in the garden, Snowflakes are trouble-free and, once planted, require no attention. Bulbs of the Spring Snowflake and Summer Snowflake are planted 7.5-10cm (3— 4in) deep, while those of the Autumn Snowflake are 5cm (2in) deep. They are all planted in late summer or early autumn, as soon as bulbs are available. Eventually, the plants become congested and overcrowded, and these are divided and replanted as the foliage dies. Snowflakes planted around the edges of a patio can be treated in the same way.

These plants are not totally suited for growing in containers, as when not in flower they have little appeal, presenting at first long, narrow, green leaves which eventually die down completely. If you do wish to grow them as permanent features in containers, plant them around the edge of a large tub which has a small shrub in it. A combination of the Spring Snowflake and an Azalea will bring a strong splash of colour early in the year. Alternatively, plant the Autumn Snowflake to create colour over a longer period. The Summer Snowflake grows too high to be planted in combination with a small shrub, and is best planted and naturalized in the soil at the edge of a patio.

Forcing Snowflakes

During October, plant bulbs close together in soil-based compost in wide, shallow pots. The tops of the bulbs must be 12mm (½in) below the surface of the compost. Water the compost thoroughly and place the pots in a 15cm (bin) deep trench in a well-drained part of the garden. Cover with 15-20cm (6-8in) of peat.

During mid-winter, remove the peat and place the pots in a cool, frost-proof, vermin-proof, airy and light shed. Keep the compost moist and when the shoots are 2.5-4cm (1-1½in) high move them indoors into 13°C (55°F). High temperatures and dry compost soon damage Snowflakes.

Snowflakes can be increased from offsets from the parent plant.

PLANT CARE

Snowflakes are trouble-free bulbous plants.

Potting: Whether planted in the garden or in a large tub, set the bulbs in position in late summer or early autumn, as soon as they are available. Both the Summer and Spring Snowflakes are planted 7.5-10cm (3— 4in) deep, the Autumn Snowflake 5cm (2in) deep.

Keep the compost moist, especially during spring, and water moderately in summer when the plants are flowering. Water sparingly in winter.

Feeding: Not essential, but a weak liquid can be applied in spring to Snowflakes in tubs. Bulbs in the garden do not need feeding.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: Full sun to light shade.
  • Temperature: These are hardy plants and do not require protection. For information on gently forcing them to flower earlier and indoors see Forcing Snowflakes.

When to buy

  • In late summer or early autumn, as soon as they are available.
  • Select large, firm and undamaged bulbs.
  • Once you have Snowflakes, they will naturally increase themselves so that you have them almost forever.
  • Snowflakes are some of the daintiest and most appealing of all small bulbs. They are trouble-free and will flower on the edges of a patio, or in a large tub, for many years.

Growing For Cut Flowers

The Leucojum, or Snowflake as it is commonly known, is of easy culture, thriving in good moist, yet well-drained, sandy soil.

Leucojum aestivum is best known as the summer Snowflake. It is sometimes to be found growing wild in this country, and forms a handsome plant with 8-in. Flower-spikes which appear in April and

May. The elegant, drooping, white flowers, about 1 in. long, have a green tip, being greatly prized for cutting.

Of the same height, and blooming at the same time, is L. aestivum `Gravetye’, the flowers being large and more refined than the type. It is at its best when planted in a shady position. Fibre not only gives some immediate protection, but also provides a summer mulch which will be of great value later in the year. When established, the Earlham varieties are hardy, although an annual mulching is helpful.

Vernum is the spring Snowflake, and is probably the finest of all species, being found naturalised in some parts of this country and blooming from February to April. It grows only 6 in. high, and for this reason is sometimes mistaken for a snowdrop, although there is a considerable difference in appearance. The sweet-scented flowers of this leucojum are more open and of better shape, each pointed petal being tipped with green, making it more attractive than the other species.

 

 

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