Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum Plant): Types, How to Grow and Plant Care

It’s worth noting, that before you even consider growing this plant, it has a very vigorous habit, and in some places, it is considered invasive. It’s probably worth mentioning that quite a lot of plants we grow in our own gardens are considered invasive, such as mint. 

Once you plant it, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. Having said that, it’s one of the most striking plants you can grow in your garden, producing plenty of bright star-shaped blooms. 

It’s always good practice to plant invasive plants into containers, as this will help limit their spread drastically, so long as the roots cannot find their way into the ground. 

It also means that if you get sick of these beauties, you can pull them up no problem. If you plant them in borders in the ground, you’ll find them for years. 

Star of Bethlehem flowers, known as Ornithogalum, make a great contrast against any flowering plant. 

They offset both the shape and the colors of its neighboring flowers, allowing your gaze to appreciate both. 

They work especially well against contrasting colors, such as planting hellebores with dark flowers, or richly colored dianthus or dwarf irises. 

You should check with your local authority before considering planting a star of Bethlehem, as in some places you can be fined for doing so, if your area considers it invasive.

How to Grow a Star of Bethlehem Plant

Ornithogalum and star of Bethlehem refers both to the plant and the genus, which is part of the asparagus family of plants, Asparagaceae

The number of plants within the genus depends on the authority, as it can range from around 50 plants to 300!

Establishing a Star of Bethlehem Plant

Star of Bethlehem plants aren’t fussy about the pH of the soil, and you can grow them in pretty much any soil type you have.

The best time to plant a star of Bethlehem is in autumn, as with most bulbs. You’ll need to plant them 5 inches deep into the soil, leaving 2 inches between each plant. 

If you choose to plant in a bed rather than a container, make sure the bed is lined, so the bulbs can’t ‘escape’ and spread across the whole of your garden. 

It’s also worth deadheading the flowers before the seed pods develop, letting that precious energy go into more flower production than producing seeds.

As long as you’ve made sure that your newest bulbs cannot take over your garden and then escape into neighboring areas, these plants are very easy to grow. 

You can also divide bulbs once they’ve started to spread, in order to make new plants. In fact, every few years you’ll need to do this in order to keep the flower production prolific. 

Sunlight Requirements

In order to get the most flowers possible, place your star of Bethlehem plants in full sun. It will also encourage the blooms to open out in their full glory. 

If a position of full sun is not possible, they will also do well in partial shade, although they won’t produce as many flowers.

Watering Needs

The star of Bethlehem prefers moist soil which can still drain fairly well, and it is also drought tolerant to some extent. 

When the plants are young, you’ll need to water them more often, but once they have established in their new position, you can let nature do her work just fine.  

Temperature Requirements

These are hardy plants, and as long as you live in a USDA zone 4 to 8, they will thrive, and won’t need winter protection, unless you have a severe winter. 

In zone 3, you can also grow them, but they will need some mulching to keep the bulbs protected during winter. 

Pruning and Feeding Your Star of Bethlehem Plant

It’s not recommended feeding your star of Bethlehem plant, as these lovely flowers have a prolific habit already. Feeding them would be too much like encouraging them to take over your garden! 

Pruning is also unnecessary, but you can remove the spent blooms in order to keep the plants vigorous and to keep your garden looking neat. 

Some believe that cutting the plant back ruthlessly will halt its growth and stop it spreading to the rest of your garden, but that won’t do it. The only way to remove the plant entirely is to, well, pull up all traces of it from your garden. 

Pests, Diseases, & Toxicity

One of the reasons why this plant is considered to be so invasive is that there are a very limited number of pests and diseases that can inhibit the plant, allowing it to spread invasively and take over so many native plants in so many areas.

While this is a great thing when it comes to ornamental gardening, you do have a responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t escape your garden, otherwise it can do a lot of harm to the natural environment.

It’s also important to know that this plant is toxic. It contains alkaloids which are extremely harmful to livestock and pets, which makes it an unsuitable choice if you live near either. 

Like foxgloves, while the star of Bethlehem is toxic, it has also been used medicinally, to prevent infection taking hold, to treat colds, and to strengthen the heart. 

As these are historical uses, we’ve since developed better (less toxic) ways to treat these, so don’t try to self-medicate with plants.

Varieties of Star of Bethlehem Plants To Grow Yourself

Ornithogalum dubium ‘Sun Star’

If white isn’t really what you want in a prolific flowering plant, ‘Sun Star’ is the option to go for, as it produces fantastic orange, yellow, red, or very rarely white blooms. 

It grows to 50cm tall, and is capable of producing anywhere between 5 and 25 flowers per plant. The word dubium means dubious, referring to its unusual appearance that isn’t consistent with the rest of the genus. 

As it is endemic to the Cape Province of South Africa, this type of Ornithogalum is not winter hardy, and you’ll need to overwinter it somewhere dry and frost-free so that it will provide you with flowers year after year.

Ornithogalum narbonense ‘Pyramid Star of Bethlehem’

The pyramid star of Bethlehem is a striking plant, reaching a maximum of 90cm tall. It produces lovely white flowers with a hint of pale green, arranged in a pyramid shaped cluster.

It makes for an unusual and captivating display in any garden, flowering from May until June, and can thrive in full sun or partial shade. This cultivar is also hardy in USDA zones 4 through to 10, making it a versatile option for your garden.

Ornithogalum nutans ‘Drooping Star of Bethlehem’

Found across Europe and South West Asia, this is a striking Ornithogalum featuring pendant flowers in gray and white. 

These gorgeous blooms have a nodding habit, and it’s hardy in the USDA zones 6 through to 10.

It can reach a height of 60cm, though it can grow to a lower stature of around 20cm, depending on the conditions the plant is grown in. 

This cultivar has also received the attention of the RHS, where it has gained the Award of Garden Merit. The flowers can also come in yellow or even orange, and up to 15 flowers can appear on one flower stalk.

Ornithogalum pyrenacium ‘Spiked Star of Bethlehem’

Also known as French sparrow grass, this lovely plant is perfect if you want height and color, as the flower spike can reach up to 2 feet tall. 

It produces petite white flowers striped with green, and these appear throughout June and July. 

Historically, the juvenile unopened flower spikes were sold in Bath market as an alternative to asparagus. 

Ornithogalum saudersiae ‘Giant Chincherinchee’

The ‘Giant Chincherinchee’ or star of Bethlehem produces flowers in tight clusters in a cone-shape. 

The plant itself can reach anywhere from 30 to 100cm tall, and these lovely flowers appear from June through until August. It’s a plant that’s especially suited for rocky areas, and makes perfect cut flowers. 

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