Plant of the Month - April 2023
I was in my late teens when I first met Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum, in a neighbouring English garden. They were like a snowdrop plant on steroids with tall, glossy mid to dark green leaves and a few dangling “snowdrops”. The flowers differed from Galanthus as their tepals were of equal length. I grew this later in Canada, more of a curiosity. Then I saw delicate, pink-flowered, thin-leafed Leucojum autumnale, the Autumn Snowflake. Unfortunately it is not reliably hardy in Toronto. I am happily growing Leucojum vernum, the best of these three species. It is short, with a fuller inflorescence and blooming as the snowdrops are finishing.
The Autumn Snowflake has grass-like leaves, a solid flower stem and is without markings on the tepals. It was eventually, after much publication, changed in 2004 to the genus Acis with 8 other Leucojum species with similar characteristics. The Spring and Summer Snowflakes are now the only two members of the genus Leucojum.
Common Name: Spring Snowflake, Snowbell, Dewdrop, St. Agnes Flower.
Synonym: Galanthus vernus.
Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum - with yellow tipped sepals.
Leucojum vernum var. vernum.
Leucojum vernum var. vagner - more vigorous, earlier, with 2 flowers per steak. Comes true from seed.
Many - different sizes, with single, 2 or even 3 flowers per stem.
Tepal colours from white to yellowish or greenish, single or double.
Green or yellow marks of varying size.
Blooming time varies with cultivars.
Difficult to find and may not be as advertised.
Life Cycle: Clump-forming bulbous perennial, dormant in summer.
Height: 10 to 25 cm when flowering.
Bloom Time: Early April to May in Toronto.
Leucojum vernum - close up of flowers.
Flower Colour & Size: The down-hanging flowers are usually solitary. Six white tepals form a cup-shaped bell and are 15-20 cm long, with a green to yellow mark just before their tips, like a finger nail.
Leucojum vernum - Flowers and Leaves.
Leaves: Shiny, 10-15 mm wide and 10-20 cm long.
Native Range: Central and southern Europe, east to the Ukraine.
Habitat: Damp shady areas.
Plant: Dry bulbs in the fall, 8-10 cm deep and the same distance apart.
Naturalize: Drifts in lawns.
Light: Full sun to part shade, or open deciduous woodland.
Soil: Most humus rich soils. Prefers to be slightly alkaline.
Water: Average moisture, not very dry or waterlogged.
USDA Hardiness: Zones 4 - 8.
Companion planting: Other spring bulbs with yellow and/or blue colours, rock garden plants, in lawns.
Leucojum vernum in Tufa Bed with Galanthus nivalis and Haberlea rhodopensis.
Propagation: Divide clumps after leaves die down or in the fall. From seed: sow immediately when ripe. Keep @ 20°C for 3 months, then place @ 4°C for 3 months. Seedlings will appear the following year.
Problems: No serious problems, occasional slug damage.
Text and images supplied by Anna Leggatt (Toronto Master Gardener)