Growing in pots and tubs

Growing in pots, tubs and ornamental containers.

The common wisdom seems to be that snowdrops do not do well in pots, although this has not been our experience. Potted snowdrops can be used as temporary displays and focal points at a time of year when little else is around. Indeed, their rude good health at a barren time of year makes them all the more striking. A healthy tubfull of a large, striking and early snowdrop, such as Freds Giant, can be placed on your doorstep; where it will catch the eye of, and ellicit comment from all who call.

Provided that a few crucial points are attended to, growing snowdrops in pots is a rewarding aspect of their ownership.

Firstly, potted snowdrops need annual re-potting as they will exhaust the compost in a single growing season.

Secondly, potted snowdrops need proper attention and watering throughout their full growth cycle; not just when they are flowering on your front doorstep for all to see. If they are allowed to get dry and badly wilted, even once, there are likely to be serious consequences. The stressed bulbs will probably go dormant prematurely. The resulting bulbs will be small and soft; and will take one or more growing seasons to return to their former glory.

Thirdly, potted snowdrops need adequate protection from frost. Snowdrop foliage and flowers are remarkably cold tolerant and will recover from the most serious cold spell. The bulbs and roots are another matter. Normally they are insulated by several centimetres of soil (and snow) and will thus not experience such extremes or fluctuations of temperature.  If you allow a potfull to freeze solid, they will seem to recover after the temperature rises. After a while the plants will wilt and although the leaves are healthy, excavation will show that cold has ruined the bulbs and roots.

There is one final benefit. Just as the rootball is vulnerable to cold it also benefits from the warmer temperature of the surrounding air. With a modicum of protection, snowdrops in pots will tend to come out a good bit earlier than a similar variety in the open ground. Even here in cold North Scotland, varieties such as Mrs. Macnamara, Freds Giant and Jack Mead will all be out by Christmas. Potfuls can then be placed in strategic areas where they can be enjoyed or catch the eye of visitors or botanical philistines.

Our experience suggests that it is not a good idea to bring potted snowdrops into a heated house. They go over extremely quickly and rapidly develop long and flaccid leaves which seem subject to wind damage when the potful is returned outdoors.