Friday, 2 March 2012

propagating snowdrops from scale division

The delicate, down-turned, white nodding heads of snowdrops (galanthus nivalis) are traditionally the first garden plants to flower each year. Snowdrops are not considered to be native to the British Isles but are introductions. Nevertheless, their simple flowers give easy access to pollen and nectar for early flying insects and so they have an important part to play in helping wildlife. The pollen collected by bees from snowdrops is red.

Our plan is to fill our Woodland Garden beds with snowdrops where they will contrast especially well with the red stems of dogwood (cornus alba).

Established snowdrops self-seed and will hybridise readily. Plants should, therefore, increase in number over time due to the growth of seedlings and through vegetative reproduction as new bulbs are formed. To speed this process they are most frequently and effectively propagated by dividing clumps of bulbs after flowering has finished. Divided clumps should be fed with a general purpose fertiliser such as pelleted organic chicken manure ... and well watered. Dividing and replanting snowdrops gives plants extra vigour. They can be expected to flower abundantly the spring following transplanting.

In April of last year I tried propagating snowdrops by scale division - a technique new to me.


I took dormant bulbs and made thin sliced segments ensuring that each segment had a sliver of basal plate attached. The segments were placed into a sealed bag of vermiculite and left to allow tiny bulbs to form.

By August many of these had formed, and I placed them into a tray of dampened potting compost and waited to see what would happen....

The result was success as you can see; although not a resounding success with only five eleven new plants.

I will try the operation again this year and make fewer segments from each bulb. I will also ensure that my sharp knife is properly sterilised during each cut.

This is an especially useful technique if you wish to increase your stock of plants from a limited number of bulbs.

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