What is a Snow Crocus?

Amy Hunter

A snow crocus, or Crocus chrysanthus, is a small plant that develops singular cup shaped flowers early in the spring. Often in bloom while there is snow on the ground, the snow crocus is a hardy perennial that reproduces through division or planting bulbs. It grows well in United States Department of Agriculture zones 4 through 10.

A snow crocus usually blooms in the early spring.
A snow crocus usually blooms in the early spring.

The height of the snow crocus reaches approximately 6 inches(15 cm) tall. It produces one flower on each stem. The leaves are thin and narrow, with stripes running the length of the leaf. The leaves are so narrow they resemble blades of grass. Depending on the variety, the blooms may be various shades of yellow or blue. Some common varieties of snow crocus include Zwanenburg Bronze, Cream Beauty, Goldilocks, Blue Pearl, Lady Killer, and Advance.

It is generally easy to grow the snow crocus. It prefers full sun, but can tolerate a variety of habitats, including woodland areas and meadows. Plants in the Iris family, such as crocuses, have average water needs, and should not be over-watered. When planting, the bulbs should be spaced between 3 and 6 inches(7 to 15 cm) apart. These flowers make a good choice for rock and alpine gardens, where they provide visual contrast with little effort.

A particular trait of the snow crocus allows it to thrive in cold weather. The plant's exterior is surrounded by a waxy cuticle. This protects it from cold weather and frost, allowing it to bloom early in the season.

The snow crocus can be poisonous if eaten. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. It contains a substance that can irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction, called contact dermatitis, in some individuals. Symptoms of contact dermatitis include itching, scaly skin, swelling, and redness. These conditions develop locally, where the plant material touches the skin.

This flower belongs to the greater genus of Crocus, which grows natively in many parts of the world. They are common in central and southern Europe, through the Middle East, Central Asia, Western China, and North Africa. There are 80 species of crocus overall, with 30 of those cultivated. Crocus plants generally make a low-maintenance choice in the flower bed, and are available in both spring and autumn blooming varieties.

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