Spring Flowers Grow Under the Snow–Really!

– Posted in: Mud Season, Uncategorized, What's up/blooming

The calendar says it’s spring, but you’re still looking out on a vast expanse of snow:

dreary, late winter snow

It’s not even pretty anymore. Will it ever go away?

You look at it and think, “Before any flowers will bloom, first that stuff has to melt, then the soil has to thaw, then the leaves will emerge, and then–finally!–I’ll have flowers.

Not so, dear gardener. Not so.

The earliest spring bloomers have adapted to this time of year. They are not waiting for that lingering snow to melt before they start growing. Even now, the sharp points of their leaves are piercing the soil’s surface and are reaching for the light.

snowdrops pushing through snow

Snowdrops can only wait so long for the snow to melt . These are the “common” snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.

They want to be ready when the earliest pollinators come out of hibernation and start foraging for pollen.
row of snowdrops peeking over the snow

Like children tip-toeing on the bottom of the swimming pool, determined to keep their heads above water, these snowdrops are stretching up over the snow.

That vast expanse of snow is deceiving. On the other side of the tree on the right, crocuses were getting ready for the big thaw:
crocuses under snow

The grass-like leaves of crocuses are pushing up through soil and snow, poised to take advantage of the first warm day.

Three days later (and one of those days was 60°F [16°C], I admit) the first of them are blooming.
first crocus blooms

You can’t keep a determined crocus down. The smaller species crocus bloom earlier than the Dutch crocus hybrids.

The winter aconites were no slouches, either.
Eranthis or winter aconite

These winter aconites (Eranthis sp.) were blooming the same day the snow melted off them.

Yes, the snow is taking a long time to melt, but that does not mean that spring is on hold until the snow is gone. Spring is merely undercover, stealthily infiltrating your garden while Winter’s back is turned. When it comes, the takeover will be quick.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the earliest flowering bulbs that know this trick. Many weeds grow under the snow as well.


Before the snow was melted, this chickweed (Stellaria media) was busy making luxuriant new growth.

And they can be hard to pull when the soil they’re growing in is still frozen! But we hardy souls take the good with the bad. The first weeding session of the year is wonderful, even if you have to wear waterproof pants to protect yourself from the soggy ground and gloves to keep the chill out of your fingers.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

commonweeder April 10, 2015, 4:43 pm

You and I are enduring the same winter. Ice last night. Even my chickweed looks like yours – as do my snowdrops.

Beth April 8, 2015, 11:01 pm

Kathy, I’m so happy that your early bulbs are finally flowering, despite the snow. In a few weeks you’ll forget winter even happened as you’re inundated with flowers and foliage and green, green grass! -Beth

Donna@Gardens Eye View April 8, 2015, 6:59 pm

I am shocked at how fast the bulbs are growing under ground and then blooming. Now we are getting heavy rain so everything is too soupy and there will be no gardening this week.

Rose - New Holistic Living April 8, 2015, 1:57 pm

I had my first experience with snowdrops this year when a whole bunch of them came up next to the porch of our new house! I had never seen them before, but heard of them, so I guessed what they were right away when they were about ready to bloom already as soon as the snow melted off! It was a nice little reminder that spring really was on it’s way! 🙂


Kathy Purdy April 8, 2015, 2:13 pm

Rose, when they are done blooming, you can divide them and make a bigger patch.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern April 8, 2015, 9:27 am

Yesterday was beautiful! I was out in the garden – out in the garden! Lots of signs of bulbs emerging. Lots of dog poop. I’ll take weeding over picking up poop any day ha ha! We still have a few stubborn patches of snow but rain is coming and should wash it away.

Deborah Banks April 7, 2015, 7:57 pm

I noticed that I have several clumps of daffodils that are up 4-5 inches, though just now emerging from the snow cover. The leaves are solid yellow because they haven’t been in the light.

Joanne Toft April 7, 2015, 6:21 pm

Our snow has been gone for awhile but the temp. is still cold so the green tips are showing but no flowers yet. I have a few daffodils that have popped up in the middle of my garden. They did not grow last year and I was sure they were dead and gone. So glad to see their green leaves.

Jane Rutkowski April 7, 2015, 2:27 pm

Hi Kathy,
Yep! There’s green life under that white stuff. Your snowdrops are so pretty. If I remember later this year, I’ll order some to plant in the Fall.

The snow cover is gone, for now. We’ve had late April snows in the past. Nothing is blooming here yet, but plenty of daffodil tips are pushing through. Things should be blooming in early May. I can’t wait!