How to Grow and Care for Summer Snowflakes

These delightful bulbs love our Southern climate.

Summer Snowflake Flowers in Bloom
Photo: Patrik Stedrak/Getty Images

Refreshing temperatures remind me that autumn is near. I love autumn weather because, at last, I can escape my air-conditioned prison and garden outside in comfort. What will Grumpy be doing? Planting spring bulbs. And while most of you know about daffodils, tulips, crocus, and hyacinths, one spring bulb doesn't get the widespread love it deserves: the snowflake.

Its official common name is "summer snowflake," which is terribly misleading as it blooms in February and March in Alabama in my USDA Zone 8A garden. I surmise that whoever dubbed it that lived in the northern reaches of its native Europe, where it's been cultivated since at least 1594. Its botanical name, Leucojum aestivum, distinguishes it from the slightly earlier blooming spring snowflake, Leucojum vernum. Summer snowflake is showier in bloom than its cousin and much more amenable to the mild winters we have in the South. Unlike many spring bulbs, it blooms reliably as far south as central Florida.

Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Summer snowflake
  • Botanical Name: Leucojum aestivum
  • Family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Plant Type: Bulb
  • Mature Size: 1 ft. to 2 ft.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil Type: Loamy, clay, well-drained, moist
  • Soil pH: Acidic, neutral, alkaline
  • Bloom Time: Late winter, spring
  • Flower Color: White
  • Hardiness Zones: 4–9 (USDA)
  • Native Area: Europe

Summer Snowflake Care

Plant your bulbs in fall about 4 inches deep and 4 inches apart, preferably into well-drained soil. Summer snowflakes look best when planted in bunches of six or more, in clumps that eventually spread into an impressive drift. The bulbs require little care after they are planted in the fall. Snowflakes thrive in most conditions, tolerating sun, partial shade, hot and cold climates, rich soils and clay, wet streambanks, deer, and even black walnut trees. The plant has not been categorized as invasive in any state, though it naturalizes easily, producing bulb offsets and spreading into wooded areas.

Light

Summer snowflake does well in either full sun or light shade and can be planted under a tree in dappled shade or part shade. Unlike daffodils, its stems don't lean towards the sun, but always stand straight up, so it's pretty viewed from any side.

Soil

Summer snowflake grows best in well-drained, rich soils with medium moisture, but is quite tolerant of many conditions. Snowflakes can adapt to clay as well as moist soils along a streambank or pond—just make certain to plant the bulbs above the waterline.

Water

Snowflakes need consistent moisture while growing and blooming in the late winter and spring. Water if the soil dries out during the period your flowers are actively growing. Once they go dormant in summer, snowflakes can tolerate moderately dry soil. A 2-inch layer of mulch is helpful in retaining moisture in a location that is hot and dry in summer.

Temperature and Humidity

Snowflakes are adapted to USDA Zones 4 to 9 (that's most of the U.S. down to the Gulf Coast). They aren't bothered by humidity but require extra care and watering in a dry climate.

Fertilizer

Snowflakes aren't fussy and don't generally require fertilizer, though they do best in rich soil. Consider adding compost or bulb fertilizer at the time of planting. If you would like to enrich the soil, you can add compost on top of the soil each year after the plants wither away.

‘Gravetye Giant' Summer snowflake
White Flower Farm

Types of Summer Snowflakes

The plain vanilla summer snowflake sports 18-inch stems, each carrying three to five, 1-inch, bell-shaped blooms with a green dot on the tip of each petal. I prefer the stately heirloom selection, 'Gravetye Giant,' named for the estate of famous 19th-century garden writer and designer, William Robinson. Shown above, it's taller, has larger blooms, and bears as many as nine flowers per stem.

Pruning

If you prefer to keep your garden neat and tidy, you can remove spent flowers from the plants. Allow the foliage to continue growing until it withers away, at which point you can remove it. Planting other perennials or ferns around your snowflakes can help to hide the dying foliage.

Propagating Summer Snowflake

Deer and rodents will not eat snowflakes, so these long-lived treasures increase in numbers over time. Summer snowflakes prefer to be left undisturbed, but you can dig up, divide, and replant the bulbs if they outgrow their space. Wait until the foliage has turned yellow before you dig up a clump. Should you be the sharing sort, bestow extras on friends and family—a tradition that's been going on for more than 400 years.

How to Get Summer Snowflake to Flower

Summer snowflake is a dependable and low-maintenance plant that should flower without special care. It does require sunlight to bloom, so don't plant the bulbs in deep shade. Deadheading is not necessary on this plant. Blooms appear in late winter in the warmest climates up to early June in the coldest, so patience may be all that is required if your plant hasn't bloomed yet. Like daffodils, snowflakes make an excellent cut flower. By spring bulb standards, it stays in bloom a long time—a couple of weeks.

After hearing how easy and dependable these plants are, you naturally want some summer snowflakes for your own garden. If you can't find the bulbs locally, you can purchase them by mail. Trusted sources include White Flower Farm, Brent & Becky's Bulbs, and John Scheepers.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles