Some garden flowers are well known as heralds of spring, popping up not long after the last risk of frost has passed. Crocus and snowdrops are among them. They can often be seen growing right through the last remnants of snow and ice. With bright green leaves and beautiful flowers, crocus and snowdrops let us know that warmer weather is on the way.
Crocus are known for their display of beautiful and colorful flowers, which open during the day and close at night. The blossoms come in a variety of colors, from pure white to light creams, bright yellows and oranges, to blues and purples. The leaves are long, slender and dark green. Snowdrop flowers are bright white, hence the name. Taller than crocus, snowdrops usually bloom before crocus. While crocus have upright flowers, snowdrop flowers tend to nod.
Both crocus and snowdrops grow quickly. They are frequently the first plants to emerge in the garden in spring and often grow straight through any snow that may remain from winter. Both plants prefer cooler climates and do not do well below hardiness zone 7. If not trimmed first, the foliage will go dormant by late spring.
Crocus grow from flattened corms, which are similar to bulbs. Each plant produces several blooms that are from 4 to 6 inches high and about an inch across. They are slightly cupped with six lobe-shaped petals and large yellow stamens in the center. The leaves grow from the base of the plant and are grass-like in appearance.
Snowdrops produce two or three narrow basal leaves that are about 4 inches long. The stem can grow to 6 inches tall with a single white, waxy-looking flower that is bell-shaped with three lobes. Each blossom is about an inch in diameter and droops downward.
Crocus corms and snowdrop bulbs should be planted from 2 to 3 inches deep and about 2 to 3 inches apart in the fall, when temperatures are low and the plants are dormant. They can also be forced by placing the corms or bulbs in cold storage in a refrigerator, before planting them in early spring. The roots of crocus corms and snowdrop bulbs should be planted with the roots facing downward. Soil for these plants should be medium weight, humusy and moist, but well-draining. Both plants prefer full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
Snowdrops and crocus can be planted to add color and life to gardens early in the growing season. The corms or bulbs can be planted closely in large numbers to produce a field of flowers. Both plants are also attractive in rock gardens, walkway margins and anywhere a small but bright accent flower is appropriate.