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How to Grow Ornithogalum nutans Plants

Guide to Growing Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem

Ornithogalum nutans is a perennial bulb and a member of the Asparagaceae family. It has distinctive green and grey striped bell-shaped perianth flowers of six tepals. It a native of the Balkan regions of Europe and Turkey.

Although it is an attractive ornamental plant and has even won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in the United Kingdom, it is considered an invasive species in ten Eastern USA states; and it is especially a pest in the Maryland area where it has out-competed many native forest species.

As with any plant that you are planning to grow in the garden you should be aware of how it may affect the local environment; recommended alternatives that are native to the USA include Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells) and Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot).

Ornithogalum nutans Description Ornithogalum nutans Description

Common names for Ornithogalum nutans include 'Drooping' or Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem, and it can reach a height of 50–60 cm (20–24 inches), and a width of 5 cm (2 inches).

Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem
Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem picture by Jakub Hlavaty.

Plants have succulent strap-like (linear) leaves that are up to 1.5 cm wide (0.6 inches) that are grass-like. Stems carry racemes of up to 15 Six-tepal flowers that are white with a central green stripe and about 3 cm (1.2 inches) wide. They bloom in mid to late spring. Plants then bear ovoid fruits.

ornithogalum nutans
Ornithogalum nutans photograph by Leonora Enking.



Growing Ornithogalum nutans

Ornithogalum nutans Growing Guide

  • Members of the Ornithogalum genus are perennial bulbs, though they can also be grown from seeds.
  • They are ideal for the following locations and garden types: flower borders, flower beds, under shrubs; Cottage gardens, and wild-flower meadows.
  • They are hardy and can grow in zones 4 - 8 (and in growing zone 3 with mulch).
  • The bulbs should be planted at a depth of 10 cm (4 inches) and 7 cm (3 inches) apart in the autumn. Seeds should first be planted in flats or containers, under a cold frame, in the spring or autumn – they will take about four years to bear flowers and a further year to reach their full height.
  • The soil should be well-drained and fertile. They will grow fine in the following soil types: light, clay, chalk, sandy, loam.
  • Partial shade or full sunlight.
  • They are easy to care for and do not usually suffer damage from diseases or pests.
  • Propagate further Ornithogalum nutans from offsets or from seed.

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