Snowdrop – Should They be Transplanted ‘in the Green’?

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Robert Pavlis

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis and other Galanthus species, are one of the best spring flowering plants. The common advice given for transplanting them is that it should be done ‘in the green’. Transplanting in the green means transplanting snowdrops right after flowering, while the leaves are still green.

I suspect that this myth has been handed down for many generations, but it is not based on fact. Lets have a closer look.

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis
Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, by Robert Pavlis

Snowdrop Life Cycle

Snowdrops are bulbs, very much like tulips and daffodils. They spend the hot summer as dormant bulbs underground and look just like the bulbs you buy in fall. From the outside not much is happening, but inside, the snowdrop bulb is developing the leaves and flowers for next year.

In fall, as rain becomes more common and temperatures are falling, the snowdrop starts to grow new roots. Once roots have a good start the bulb also starts making new leaves. If you look at your planted bulbs in fall you won’t see any new growth, but next years leaves are sitting just below the soil surface waiting for spring.

Growing Great Tomaotes, by Robert Pavlis

All of this growing takes a lot of energy and plant food that is taken from the reserves in the bulb.

In spring, the leaves and flowers develop more and show themselves above ground. During and after flowering, the snowdrop makes more food in it’s leaves. The leaves become a food production plant for the bulb. As food is made it is shipped down to the bulb preparing it for the summer rest. As this takes place the bulb expands and becomes plump again.

In early summer the roots and leaves start to die off as the bulb starts it’s resting phase again.

Transplanting in the Green

There are two ways to transplant snowdrops in spring. You can buy a pot of growing bulbs and simply put the whole clump into the ground. This will cause minimal root disturbance and should not affect flowering in the future.

You can also dig up some plants and move them just after flowering. This can be successful if done very carefully, but the reality is that you will almost certainly damage roots and leaves in the process. If this happens, the plant is less able to produce food for the bulb which results in smaller bulbs. Smaller bulbs result in fewer flowers the following year. The plant will recover in a year or two and therefore transplanting ‘in the green’ does work.

Transplant in the Brown

A much better approach is to leave the snowdrop alone. The leaves will eventually dry up showing you that the bulb is dormant. You can then dig up the snowdrops and replant them, immediately, in a new location. Using this approach will have very little effect on the snowdrop and it will bloom great next year.

Many bulbs can be left dry above ground for the summer and it will not harm them. Snowdrops are not one of them. They dry out very fast and should not be left drying for more than a day or two. Replant them as soon as you dig them up.

Microbe Science for Gardeners Book, by Robert Pavlis
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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

13 thoughts on “Snowdrop – Should They be Transplanted ‘in the Green’?”

  1. Thank you for the helpful information. I would like to take some snowdrops from a patch at my relative’s but won’t be able until they’ve definitely gone dormant. I’ll be sure to have the spot ready where they’re to be moved to as well.

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  2. The myth probably came about because whenever I buy them from catalogues only 1/4 of them are actually viable. I’ve bought hundreds of them, planted them the day they arrived, and have been disappointed every time. At least when they are “in the green” you know you aren’t getting duds.

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  3. I found some at an old homestead that came
    up but have not flowered yer. I wanted to transplant them. I assume to wait? Their is a lot along with tons of spider Lillie’s.

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  4. Regarding the statement that it’s not a good idea to buy bulbs in the fall, last fall I bought snowdrops and most of the bulbs grew and flowered this spring. I suspect it depends where you buy them from.

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  5. This is helpful. I transplanted some while green to another Garden but I think it’s been 2 years and they haven’t shown. I have many in my own yard. This year I’ll mark their locations while green and try transplanting in fall.

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  6. She was correct. She did not say they would not grow but would give poor results, meaning the following spring. You said yours did not bloom until the second spring after transplanting them. Perhaps you misunderstood or misinterpreted you comment.

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  7. As usual, your article is absolutely correct, as far as it goes. It might be helpful to add, after “snowdrops are not one of them”, that it is really pointless to buy dry snowdrop bulbs from a commercial organisation because they will have been out of the ground at least weeks if not months and will therefore be excessively dry and give a very poor result.

    So your article is correct – but leaves a misleading impression!

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    • I don’t agree with your statement. Last fall I bought 2 different species of snow drops late in the season, when they were already on sale and most of the bulbs grew this spring. These would have been out of the ground for several months. Admittedly they did not flower, but they will next year. It is not the best way to buy them, but i have never seen them offered in Canada any other way.

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      • Snow Drops are the most cheery delightful little flowers that are always the first to be brave enough to open in the most cruel spring weather. Mine are ancient and have strayed here and there. I checked out this site to see when and if I could move some- like out of a pathway or closer to a stone wall, etc. This has been most helpful, thank you.

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