Early spring charmers: Chionodoxa

This year, I’m enjoying Chionodoxas for the first time.


These are charming and relatively-unknown “minor” garden bulbs, closely related to Scillas (squills). They flower in shades of pink, blue, and white, at the same time as late crocus and early daffodils. Native to Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean, they cope well with cold as long as the soil is well-drained, and they sleep well through dry summer conditions. They don’t care for areas that remain damp; if that word describes your garden well, choose Fritillarias instead.

The foliage will yellow in early summer, at which point it can be removed. Never remove (or braid!) bulb foliage before it has yellowed completely: If it is still green, the plant is still photosynthesizing and gathering strength for next year. If you don’t like the look of yellowing foliage, plant the bulbs near something that will leaf out and hide the dying foliage: hostas and ferns are good candidates in shady locations, and most summer- or fall-blooming perennials will do the job in sunny locations. If you have time to braid foliage, you should be pulling weeds instead.

There are several species of Chionodoxa, and I have no idea which one mine is. Last fall I was late in getting my bulb orders organized and I found these instead at the garden center in one of those lazily-labeled and poorly documented packages. But this fall, now that I’m better acquainted with these plants’ dispositions, I’ll add to my collection from sources that offer better information.

Chionodoxas are said to naturalize well from bulb offsets. I certainly hope so.

Chionodoxa blossom