A Reader Asks About Ornithogalum Chesapeake Snowflake

To brighten up our home I've bought a plant - the Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum Chesapeake Snowflake), which produced fantastic spikes of flowers. However, I've gone on-line to find out how to care for this variety, and have two schools of instructions.

One website said to let cut the fading flowers at the base of the stalk, not to touch the leaves and let the bulbs go dormant as they'll flower again in the Spring.

The other website said that as the bulbs were indoor ones I could get up to four flowering periods a year from them, so keep watering and feeding them.

These are two very opposite instructions, therefore please could you advise me which one should I follow as I would like to keep this plant for the length we're staying here.

I hope in the meantime to add color to the patio with flowering plants in tubs as that's allowed and it'll be great to sit outside in balmy weather with a glass of wine to enjoy them and end the day.

Thank you for your help,




Doug says

This Ornithogalum (Ornithogalum Chesapeake Snowflake) is a relatively new introduction and "both" websites might be right. Here's the deal.

This plant blooms for a very long time producing one or two flower stems in succession for several months. Each individual flower stem will bloom for 4-6 weeks.

So you're going to get an incredibly long bloom time from this bulb. Do cut the stalks off as low as possible when they are finished (cosmetically appealing). I'm not so sure about the don't touch the leaves routine but....

So - it does continue to produce new stems but it stops doing this after a few months (depending on the health and strength of the bulb and the temperatures).

Temperatures over 90F will push it into dormancy as it is what we call a "summer dormant" bulb (like tulips and daffodils) and it will bloom for the longest time around 75F.

It is an outdoor bulb in a USDA zone 9 and an indoor bulb everywhere else.

Can you get it to rebloom? I'm not sure. I've never grown it but it seems to be used as a pot plant and bedding plant in the commercial literature.

It is produced from tissue culture and the growing time from started small bulb to finished pot plant is 25 weeks.

I suspect if you kept it cool and dry for 12-16 weeks after it finished blooming, and then gave it a shot of very hight heat - (90F) until it started producing leaves - then 65F until it produced blooms, you'd likely get more flowers but don't quote me on that.

The literature sounds a trifle confusing about getting this hybrid to bloom again - but it's worth experimenting with to be sure.

Water until damp and then allow the soil to dry to finger dry - water thoroughly again. In other words, don't allow to go to desert or swamp.

And good luck.

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