Ornithogalum

White Ornithogalum flowers

A family of both hardy and tender bulbous perennials with pretty star-like flowers, some species of which are native to the UK.

Family: Asparagaceae
Botanical Name: Ornithogalum (or-nith-oh-GAL-um)
Common Names: Star of Bethlehem, dove's dung, eleven o'clock lady, nap at noon, sleepy Dick, summer snowflake

Foliage: Linear, basal green leaves. Deciduous (dies back after flowering).

Flowers: Star-shaped flowers, mainly in a combination of white and green. Also available in yellow or orange. Often fragrant.

Flowering Period: April-May.

Soil: Well-drained soil (chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun or part shade. Best in a south or west facing aspect.

Habit: Upright, clump forming.

Type: Bulbous perennial.

Origin: Europe.

Hardiness: Hardy or tender, depending on species.

Toxicity: Can cause severe discomfort if ingested. Sap may irritate skin. Wear gloves and wash hands after handling.

Planting and Growing Ornithogalum

Outdoor species: plant in autumn in a light, fertile, well-drained soil, in full sun or partial shade. Plant 4in (10cm) deep. Suitable for the front of the border, short grass and rockeries. Once established they should self-seed and colonise well.

Indoor species: pot in a well-drained sandy loam, from September to February.

Taking Care of Ornithogalum

Mulch outdoor grown plants annually in spring.

Pests and Diseases

Generally disease and pest free.

Propagating Ornithogalum

Lift and divide established clumps in summer or increase by offsets.

Popular Varieties of Ornithogalum

Bulbs are usually available for sale from August to October. Outdoor varieties may also be available in March-May as pot grown plants.

Ornithogalum arabicum bears white fragrant flowers with black centres, in summer. Suitable for the cool greenhouse. Height to 2ft (60cm).

Ornithogalum balansae a dwarf form suitable for the rockery. White petals striped with green. Height to 6in (15cm).

Ornithogalum nutans bears translucent greenish-white flowers, in April. Suitable for a shaded greenhouse. Height to 1ft (30cm).

Ornithogalum thyrsoides bears pointed spikes of long white flowers, in June-July. Plant outside in mild areas or in a cool greenhouse.

Ornithogalum umbellatum (Star of Bethlehem) bears greenish white, upward facing flowers in May. Grow outdoors in shade. Can be invasive.