This might be one of the most fascinating and stunning flowering plants in the world. Ornithogalum a.k.a. Star of Bethlehem is without a doubt, a beautiful ornamental that produces attractive blooms.
If you are not familiar with this plant, by the end of this guide, you will be an expert and you will like it so much that you will find a nice spot for it in your plant family.
Ornithogalum is a popular genus of perennial flowering plants that enchants gardeners with its lovely, easy-going species. Depending on the authority, the number of species that belong to this genus varies considerably between 50 and 300.
The flowers from the Ornithogalum genus usually go by the common name Star of Bethlehem.
Prized for their forgiving nature, Star of Bethlehem plants are appreciated by many growers from around the world. These ornamentals belong to the winter lily family, they are easy to grow and care for, and you will find out more about their caring routine later throughout this article.
Their low-maintenance habit is not the only feature that makes these plants a must-have in every respectable flower collection as the presence of their delicate flowers will spruce up any dull corner and fill any garden with life.
Are you curious to find out more about Ornithogalum a.k.a. Star of Bethlehem? Keep reading!
About Star of Bethlehem
- The best known Ornithogalum species include O. arabicum, O. balansae, O. dubium, O. maculatum, O. magnum, O. nutans, O. saundersiae, O. umbellatum, O. thyrsoides, and O. viridiflorum. Make sure you check them all out!
- Most Star of Bethlehem plants are native to several regions of southern Africa and southern Europe. Still, some of them originate from the Caucasus region. You will also find Star of Bethlehem growing natively in Mediterranean regions. They typically grow in grassy places or meadows.
- The common name “Star of Bethlehem” comes from their star-shaped flowers, and is inspired by the Star of Bethlehem that appeared at the birth of Jesus in the Bible. Besides this common name, Ornithogalum plants also go by other common names including Eleven-o’clock lady, Bird’s milk, Summer snowflake, Grass lily, or Nap-at-noon.
- The flower appears very often in religious ceremonies because it symbolizes purity, innocence, forgiveness, hope, and honesty.
- Thanks to their unique overall look, the O. dubium, O. nutans, and O. thyrsoides species have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
- Star of Bethlehem plants make for wonderful additions to flower gardens, wildflower meadows, rock gardens, cottage gardens, beds, borders, underplanting of shrubs and roses, or pots. Some species are also great as cut specimens in flower arrangements.
- Star of Bethlehem flowers will look absolutely gorgeous if you plant them near other eye-appealing species. The most common companions are Daffodil, Dianthus, Hellebore, Peruvian Lily, Primrose, Sword Lily, Tulip, and other plants that have similar growing needs.
- An interesting fact about the Star of Bethlehem is its close connection with garlic and onions. Quite similar in appearance to wild garlic, the Star of Bethlehem can easily be mistaken for this edible plant just before its flower spikes start to shoot up.
- Star of Bethlehem plants belong to the Asparagaceae family which has a reputation for containing species that are poisonous to humans and livestock. For safety purposes, plant these beauties in an area where curious kids or pets cannot reach them.
- Despite the safety concerns, some people use parts of these plants for edible purposes. In some regions, people boil the bulbs, or dry them and ground them into powder. Likewise, the flowers are a nice addition baked in bread. According to historians, Ornithogalum bulbs were once used as a food replacement and eaten by travellers.
- The bulbs of Star of Bethlehem plants contain chemicals that play a big part in medicine. Folks use this plant as a treatment against congestive heart failure, nervous breakdown, intestinal disorders, depression, and even cancer. It is important to mention that, nowadays, this plant is not used in allopathic medicine, so you should never use this plant without seeking advice from your physician or pharmacist.
Star of Bethlehem Features: An Overview
- Star of Bethlehem plants are perennial species. They have bulbous ovoid roots that can store impressive quantities of water, making them relatively tolerant of drought for a long period.
- Depending on the species, these plants can reach from 4 to 24 inches (10-60 cm) in height and 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) in width. They grow and spread at a very fast rate.
- They are great naturalized plants that multiply like crazy to form small colonies of flowers. A few species including O. umbellatum are aggressive spreaders, so you should be cautious when choosing the right type of Ornithogalum for your garden.
- Their foliage consists of long, grass-like, linear to lance-shaped, green leaves that may show up with a longitudinal white band on the upper side. The band on the leaves might be a cause of an interruption of tissue in the central part of the leaf.
- Star of Bethlehem plants bloom throughout the spring months. During this season, they exhibit many star-shaped flowers. In general, the blossoms are fully white, but some species feature white with green stripes or fully orange blooms.
- Their flowers open in the late morning when the sunlight is the brightest and will close once the sun goes down. They will also close during cloudy weather.
- After their flowering period, Star of Bethlehem plants may bear fruits. The fruits of Ornithogalum are obovate to oblong capsules that have six noticeable ribs in section and numerous globose seeds.
Growing Star of Bethlehem
Although Star of Bethlehem plants, with their delicate-looking flowers, might seem somewhat fragile and picky at first, this could not be much further from the truth. Once you have these buddies in your garden, you will see that they are truly unique and might not have much in common with other ornamentals growing in your garden.
These plants can do well in a wide range of environmental conditions. However, they will still prefer some particular circumstances to show the best performance out there.
Light-wise, Star of Bethlehem plants are more than tolerating and forgiving. These companions can grow in a variety of lighting conditions, from partial shade to full sunlight.
Yet, they will thrive with at least six hours of bright and direct light on most days. This kind of exposure will not only help your plants grow nicely but also produce the most stunning and healthy flowers they can.
In terms of temperatures, Star of Bethlehem plants will have a great time even in those areas where winters are on the colder side.
These flowers are winter-hardy in the USDA zones 4 through 9. If you live in one of these regions, lucky you! This means that you can grow Star of Bethlehem plants in an outdoor setting without worrying about the harsh winters that will come.
Star of Bethlehem plants are among those species that do not encounter any pest issues along the way. The only problem that may occur would be root rot, which is commonly a result of prolonged periods of over-watering.
You can easily avoid this from happening by providing your Star of Bethlehem plants with proper environmental conditions and a suitable watering routine for their needs.
Planting Star of Bethlehem
As mentioned earlier, Star of Bethlehem plants have a natural tendency to grow and spread like there is no tomorrow. Due to this fact, they can easily become invasive and occupy more space than you might expect at first.
If you want to avoid over-crowding your garden, we suggest you space the bulbs at least 4 inches (10 cm) apart. This process will also help you spoil your plants with good air circulation and avoid fungal issues that might occur because of poor ventilation.
Star of Bethlehem plants grow healthy and happy in loamy soils that come along with very sharp drainage. In case you live in a colder climate, it would be wise to add a layer of 3 inches (7.5 cm) of mulch above the soil to protect the bulbs in winter.
Keep in mind that a well-draining substrate is a secret key to the best overall performance of these plants. They can tolerate all types of substrates, from alkaline to acidic. You should plant each Star of Bethlehem bulb 4 inches (10 cm) deep with the pointed end facing up.
When it comes to fertilizers, Star of Bethlehem plants are very independent and can do just fine without supplemental feeding. However, these flowers have a reputation for growing perfectly when they receive lots of organic matter.
- You will get Ornithogalum Dubium, Yellow Sun Star Flower Bulbs - Size 6.
- Fill your containers with good quality, well-drained soil. Almost any commercially available potting medium will work fine. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes; ornithogalum bulbs must never sit in waterlogged soil or they will rot.
- Plant your ornithogalum 3” deep and 5” apart for the most brilliant display. The bulbs look like small onions. Plant them with the pointed ends facing up.
- After planting, water well to settle the soil around the bulbs. Roots, and sometimes small sprouts, form in the autumn. Flowers will develop in the spring.
- After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight and provide nourishment for next year's show.
- Star of Bethlehem facts say this plant can quickly out-perform and take over when planted in beds with other ornamental bulbs. Landscapers tell horror stories about trying to get rid of Star of Bethlehem flower bulbs in lawns.
Last update on 2023-08-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Make sure you mix some compost into their growing medium once every year in spring to give your plants the time of their life.
Once their blooming period comes to an end, all that will remain of Star of Bethlehem plants in your garden will be a mass of tangled leaves. Even if this look is not particularly appealing, you will have to refrain from cutting that foliage back.
In the summer, Star of Bethlehem plants will go dormant. When this happens, their foliage will basically disappear and leave gaps in your garden and that will make gardening much easier for you.
Since Star of Bethlehem plants are able to spread on their own through seeds, they will conquer more space than you might want them to. If this is the case, you will have to remove the spent blossoms right before they start dropping their seeds.
You can use those seeds later to propagate these plants, but in a location of your choice where you can control their growth.
Watering Star of Bethlehem
Star of Bethlehem plants are garden buddies that usually love to experience moisture constantly. This might be a paradox, as their bulbs have a habit of storing water for dry future times. But don’t worry, their watering preferences are not as confusing as they appear at first.
The Star of Bethlehem specimens that appreciate as much moisture as they can get are usually the younger ones. In their first year of growth, new plants will benefit from regular watering that will keep their growing medium constantly moist but not soggy.
Remember that waterlogging or soggy conditions will easily lead to root rot, so it is better to water these babies only when the top half of the soil has dried out.
Once they reach maturity, Star of Bethlehem plants become somewhat tolerant of drought. However, they still require a moderate amount of moisture to perform well. During the spring and summer months, make sure you spoil your plants with another drink whenever the top few inches of their substrate feel dry to the touch.
When the plants go dormant, from late summer through winter, you can even forget about watering them until next spring.
Humidity-wise, you must know that Star of Bethlehem plants are also tolerant of a wide variety. This part of their caring routine is not a concern as long as you manage to meet the particular demands of these plants regarding soil moisture.
Propagating Star of Bethlehem
Star of Bethlehem plants are those exciting, but annoying family members that tend to take a lot of space for themselves. In other words, these plants can propagate alone without extra help from the gardener. Although this feature might seem attractive at first, it can get exactly the opposite with time, especially if the space in your garden or home is limited.
Luckily, you can control their self-propagation habit by paying a little extra attention to their growing habits. The bulbs of Star of Bethlehem plants will multiply over time, producing offsets that you can remove and use as propagation material.
Cutting the bulbs off will prevent the mother plants from spreading. The process is super simple, as all you need to do is dig out these offsets and plant them absolutely anywhere you want. This growing place can be either outdoors directly into the ground or in a container filled with moist well-draining potting soil. Once you have planted the offsets, you can treat them as ordinary store-bought bulbs.
You can also propagate your Star of Bethlehem plants via seeds. This method will not only help you obtain more specimens for yourself, family members, or friends but also prevent your plants to produce too many others in their proximity.
When the blooming period ends, you must collect the seeds from the spent flowers. After this step, you can sow the seeds in both outdoor and indoor settings in a moist growing medium. Make sure you provide them with water whenever the soil seems dry to the touch. With proper care, germination should occur next spring, when the active season of these plants begins.
As you can see, Ornithogalum a.k.a Star of Bethlehem is an easy-going plant that will thrive in a wide range of environments. If you want to fill your garden with attractive blooms, the only thing you have to do now is to plant one or more of these superb flowers. And if you already have at least one Star of Bethlehem in your collection, you know the rule – you can never have too many flowering plants around. Especially when they are so exquisite and friendly!
Are you growing Ornithogalum? Let us know in the comments section!