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Summer Snowflake: A late spring favorite!

Summer Snowflake in my yard.
Photo: Mary H. Meyer, UMN Extension Professor
Sad to see your tulip garden fading?  Here's a late spring flowering bulb that's often overlooked for perennial gardens. Summer snowflake, Leucojum aestivum, band putting on looms in late May and can put on quite a show.

It is a long-lasting perennial in the Amaryllis family, similar to daffodils, and like daffodils it is poisonous to mammals, so deer and rodents avoid it! A big plus. It also is very tolerant of wet or boggy soils and can live in a perennial border that you water in the summer, unlike many other spring flowering bulbs that require dry summer conditions.
Summer snowflake in front of
a 'Northern Lights' Azalea at
the Mn Landscape Arboretum.
Photo: Mary H. Meyer, UMN Extension

How to identify

‘Gravetye Giant’ is the most common selection of summer snowflake. Sources say it grows to 3 feet, but it is only 2 feet tall in my garden. I purchased this cultivar in a 25-bulb package from Costco in 2009 and it continues to bloom in my partially sunny, front perennial border every spring.

This cultivar was given the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit and is named after Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan manor house in West Sussex, England, where author and gardener William Robinson lived.

Summer snowflake tends to have a lot of foliage for the rather small flowers.  However, this is the sign of a good strong perennial…similar to peonies.

Do not confuse the summer snowflake with the smaller species, Leucojum vernum or spring snowflake, which blooms earlier in the year, usually in April and is less than 12 inches in height. Carl Linnaeus first described these two plants and used their season of bloom in the botanical names, vernum for spring and aestivum for summer.

Where to buy it

Look for summer snowflake at garden centers to plant in the fall, when daffodils and tulips are sold. You can be sure to find it in bulb catalogs, such as:
John Scheepers
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

Resources

For more information on planting and care for spring flowering bulbs, see this Extension web page:
Planting bulbs, rhizomes and tubers 
Or this article from the University of Arkansas' Extension Service:
Plant of the week: Summer Snowflake

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor


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