Ornithogalum

(Question)

I was given a small pot with one plant. Now that the flowers are faded, what do I do with the plant. Do I plant it outside, but bring in the bulb (I presume there is a bulb) at the end of the summer and winter it over in my cold room along with the dahlias, tub. begonias etc?

 

(Answer)

The genus Ornithogalum is a member of the Lily family which contains numerous members. Some of them are commonly known as Star of Bethlehem. The most common varieties we see are Ornithogalum umbellatum and O. nutans.  These plants are native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa. Not sure exactly what variety you have but if your specimen was purchased as an indoor plant then it may not be winter hardy. The two varieties just mentioned, however, should be hardy in southern Ontario.  If you decide to keep as an indoor plant reduce watering after the flowering is over and repot each autumn.

If you decide to grow outside there are a couple of things you should know about Ornithogalum. They grow very easily and in fact have a very aggressive growth habit.  Some U.S. States have labelled them a noxious weed due to their invasive characteristics. They reproduce by seed and bulblets.  It’s safest to grow these plants in containers or areas where they can be kept confined. Normally you plant bulbs in the fall so that they bloom late spring and into early summer and then you can leave them alone. Bury them about 5ins deep.  Some of the literature mentions another interesting detail in that this plant produces toxic compounds, which are concentrated in the blubs. Remember to deadhead the flowers before any seeds develop.