Learn more about the snow in summer plant including its characteristics, how they grow, what it looks like, and how they are used. We've also added some tips on how to take care of these marvelous white blooms.
The snow in summer plant is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Italy and other alpine regions of Europe. Thankfully for the rest of the garden lovers of the world, they are a wonderfully resilient plant and have been naturalized in many other places.
Snow in summer is part of the carophyllaceae botanical family. It is set apart from other members of the genus because of its tomentose (feeling of felt) foliage. The soft silvery hairs are one of the easiest ways to identify this marvellous plant.
This low spreading perennial is not a very demanding plant, and it graces your garden, windowsill, or apartment balcony with small and perfect white flowers. This beautiful display of blossoms is how the plant gets its common name, “snow-in-summer”, as the tiny white flowers speckle the landscape as if it were snow.
Cerastium tomentosum is just one of the many plant species we cover in our Wonderful List of Flowering Plants. If snow in summer isn’t the exact plant you’re looking for, you’ll sure find the perfect candidate there!
What do Snow in Summer Plants Look Like?
Though many parts of the snow in summer plant are an easy road to plant identification, the flowers are the most obvious indicator.
Inflorescences are borne in clusters of up to 15 flowers at the tips of stems. These dense explosions create a very thick canopy of white flowers, almost covering the leaves below.
A snow in summer flower is a very small thing, only growing to be about 15mm across. These small, pristine, white flowers are borne with 4 petals with deep notches that make each petal look like it is cut in two.
A flower calyx is 5-7mm in length, and petals are twice as long as the calyx. All of the aspects of the flower create a beautiful star shape.
The blooming period of a snow in summer flower usually occurs from the late spring (usually around May) towards the early summer (usually around July) within the northern hemisphere. Warmer regions will experience longer blooming periods.
Another wonderful way to identify a snow in summer plant is by its foliage — this is a helpful thing to know when trying to identify a plant outside of its bloom period! They’re known for having attractive tomentose narrow leaves.
Both the stems and leaves of the snow in summer plant are completed covered in silvery hairs. They grow very densely and a silky and frizzy. These entangled hairs create a white felt type of texture.
Each snow in summer leaf is only about 30mm in length and is rather thin and narrow. They are linear and lanceolate in shape and are arranged in pairs along the stem of the plant.
The snow in summer is an evergreen ground cover plant. It has a spreading habit as it spreads very quickly by reseeding itself.
It will only grow to be between 15 and 30cm in height, but will spread over wide areas. This is commonly known as a creeping off shoot habit.
Where do Snow in Summer Plants Grow?
The natural growing range of the snow in summer plant is very specifically in Sicily, Italy. The growing range eventually expanded throughout southern Italy, and is now widespread throughout southeastern Europe.
Outside of its natural growing range, snow in summer has been naturalized in countries like France, Canada, and the United States. That being said, certain states in America are too humid and hot for this plant, and it cannot survive in the deep south. It exists happily in USDA growing zones 3 through 7.
How do you Grow a Snow in Summer Plant?
The snow in summer plant has a natural spreading habit, making it a very easy plant to just allow to grow free. If you’re looking to keep a tidy garden and would rather take a little control, there are a couple of ways to keep your snow in summer flowers coming back every year.
If you don’t have an established plant, simply pick a spot on your property that receives full sun and has gravelly, well draining soil. Plant seeds 10-15 inches apart from one another, and ensure that they receive plenty of water during their germination period.
If you have an already established plant and you would like to keep your snow in summer plant contained in one area, there is one specific thing that needs to be done at the end of the growing season!
The plant should be heavily sheared after the blooming season is over. This can be done by taking gardening shears and just going for it, or you can take a lawn mower and cut it down to about 2 inches.
This may seem extreme, but these are very rigorous growers and they will likely come back even bigger and badder the following spring! This is the best way to maintain a tidy habit, as their natural creeping tendency can easily get a little bit out of control.
If you’re not too concerned about keeping super tidy, then just let the plant seed as it may! It’s a perennial meaning that it will just keep coming back every year. This creates a really beautiful wildflower garden type vibe, and seed germination takes nearly no time at all.
What are the Growing Conditions of Snow in Summer Plants?
Since you already know about the natural growing range of the snow in summer plant, it isn’t too difficult to guess the type of soil it prefers.
It can thrive in nearly any soil type as long as it is well drained. They tend exhibit super vigorous growth in gravel soil that is low in nutrients.
They absolutely do not tolerate wet soil or poorly drained soil as this can very quickly lead to root rot. Gotta keep those rhizomes nice and aerated!
The snow in summer plant loves sun – may be hard to guess since snow doesn’t usually do too well with sun – and prefers to exist in full sun conditions. Though it can tolerate partial shade, it will always prefer the greatest amount of sun you can provide it.
One specific thing to note about the snow in summer plant is that it requires rather low or average moisture levels. It does not like wet conditions, so keep this is mind when watering your plant.
Usually, naturally precipitation will be more than enough for the plant. They are wonderfully drought resistant, but they are not flood resistant. Established plants especially do not need frequent waterings.
Snow in summers are not particularly cold hardy, and should be cut back when winter approaches. They can exist happily in growing zones 3-7.
Snow in summer plants are accustomed to existing in super poor soil, and so they do not need to be fertilized in order to experience a successful blooming season. That being said, it doesn’t hurt, and they can respond quite well to a general purpose fertilizer in the height of spring.
In order to prevent your snow in summer plant from self seeding, it is very important to prune. We’re not talking about deadheading or trimming here, we’re talking about literally mowing the plant down to almost nothing.
These plants grow from a rhizome root system and can tolerate heavy pruning. The best method is to just mow the groundcover down until it’s about 2 inches in length. The plant will return in abundance the following spring after it spreads its summer seeds.
All in all, snow in summer is a wonderfully low maintenance plant to care for. The main things to remember are that ideal conditions consist of well drained soil, full sun, and moderate watering. They are completely intolerant of existing in standing water, and they also don’t agree too well with urban pollution.
How are Snow in Summer Plants Used?
Snow is summer is a very popular cultivar as an ornamental plant. It is grown in gardens all over the world for its remarkable dense silver carpet and beautiful sprinkling of white flowers. If you’re looking for a naturalizing woodland gardens look, you’ve found it.
If you’re curious about attractive garden composition, consider planting a snow in summer in your rock garden! Their spreading habit helps keep the garden low and minimal. They’re a wonderful plant to plant in between stepping stones in a rock garden.
They looking incredible flowing over the sides of rock walls, but they grow as equally well in outdoor pots, for mass planting, in mixed outdoor containers, or they can be used as a border edging plant as well.
Additionally, because they are such a drought tolerant plant, they’re a super excellent choice for xeriscaping! For those of you who aren’t familiar, a xeriscape application garden is one that has eliminated the need for irrigation – hence the attraction to drought tolerant plants!