Plants - Flower Bulbs

Glory of the snow

Lorraine Hunter
Photography by
Getty Images

This tiny, colourful bulb is one of the first harbingers of spring.

One of the prettiest but most underused flowering bulbs available, glory of the snow (Chionodoxa spp.) is well named for its ability to bring glorious waves of colour to a snowy spring garden.

Closely related to the scilla, glory of the snow is a member of the lily (Liliaceae) family, originating in the alpine regions of Turkey, Crete and Cyprus, where each year it transforms the landscape from snowy white to blue. It's therefore fitting that its botanical name comes from the Greek chion, meaning “snow,” and doxa, meaning “glory.”
Extremely hardy, with some species thriving even in Zone 3, these tiny gems need almost no care. Their grass-like green leaves peek up through the snow in early spring, and by March or early April, they burst into sprays of tiny, six-petalled, star-shaped blooms in shades of blue, lavender, pink or white with yellow anthers. Blooms usually last for a few weeks, after which they die down and disappear until the following spring.

Best used in informal settings such as meadow or woodland gardens, glory of the snow is also very well suited to rock gardens. It sparkles along garden paths, at a property's edge, under trees or in elevated beds where the blooms can be enjoyed up close. The plant usually flowers more abundantly in its second year and is thus an excellent choice for naturalizing.

Good planting companions include hellebores, lungworts (Pulmonaria), primroses (Primula) and pasque flowers (Pulsatilla). They may also be planted with yellow and white narcissi or small, early-flowering red tulips-and even in lawns with snowdrops and crocuses.

Glory of the snow self-seeds as well as produces new bulbs. Fall-planted bulbs will flower the following spring, whereas new plants from seed will flower in two or three years. They'll multiply over time and should be split up when they begin to look too crowded. This may be done just after the leaves wither. Left to their own devices, they can self-seed into a dense carpet of bloom.

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