Growing in containers in the ground

Growing snowdrops in containers in the ground

If you have more than a few snowdrops or have any that are rare, expensive or tricky, then we strongly recommend that you consider growing them in containers that are then, themselves, planted in the ground. The benefits are many and there is little extra effort or expense involved.

What we mean is that you pot your snowdrops into some porous/ mesh container and that you plant the resulting potfuls in their chosen location. Some bulb catalogues periodically offer special baskets for the purpopse and sieves and colanders can be used. As good as any are the mesh pots sold for the planting of aquatic plants; they are widely available in a range of sizes and are not expensive.

Whatever container you choose, the principle is the same; the bulbs and their offsets are contained within the pot but are able to root out through the holes and grow into the surrounding soil; accessing a large area of ground for nutrients and water. They do not, therefore, require additional watering or feeding; indeed they do not require any different treatment to bulbs planted directly into the ground.

The benefits fall into three broad categories:-


Moles, may, or may not be present in your garden. Our ground has been in cultivation for over a century and is adjoined by decidious woodland and arable fields. It boasts a healthy population of moles and probably always has done. We waged a long and sustaind campaign of persecution against them and undoubtedly killed large numbers with traps and poison. We did not, however, seem to have any effect on their abundance. We long ago left the moles alone and peacefully co-exist with them. Moles present no threat to snowdrop bulbs but display an unerring ability to home in on recently disturbed ground. Once a mole has ploughed through a clump of bulbs the result is disastrous. If a number of varieties are being grown adjacent, the result is chaos that takes several growing seasons to sort out. Moles by-pass bulbs in containers - end of problem.

We all acquire new plants at various times and in various ways. Garden centres do a huge trade in plants bought on impulse, usually when in flower. Unfortunately, the choice bare patch, occupied by a dormant clump of snowdrops, looks " just the spot" to pop in the new acquisition which is needing out of its pot and in the ground anyway. Either, snowdrop bulbs appear like spring onions speared by fork tines or, a little vigorous trowel work yields a harvest of sliced bulb fragments. We quickly smooth over the disturbed area and beat a guilty and crest-fallen retreat. Then we hastily put the new acquisition in some less suitable spot in order to be done with the whole unfortunate interlude. Containerised snowdrops make their presence known immediately; which is to the benefit of all concerned, including the new acquisitioin.

Labelling and ease of retrieval

If you label your snowdrops (see separate article) it is simplicity itself to attach the label to the underground hidden container.

Snowdrop bulbs in containers are easily retrieved at any time. Plus you know you are retrieving all the bulbs and not leaving some small ones behind to cause confusion at some time in the future. Furthermore the container is easily retrieved with a minimum of disturbance to the roots of surrounding plants which may be in full growth.

Hygiene and nutrition

When you first plant the bulbs in the container we suggest you use new sterile compost; we use a proprietary John IInnes No.3. The bulbs are thus contained in a good growing medium and isolated to some extent from any pests and diseases that may be lurking in the open ground. If you then lift them periodically, because they are increasing nicely, then this benefit can be renewed each time.