Ornithogalum umbellatum
Common Name: Star of Bethlehem
Type: Bulb
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Europe, northern Africa, Middle East
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy

Culture

Easily grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Some tolerance for dry soils once established. Plants can be aggressive spreaders in the garden (multiply by bulbils), and will quickly naturalize garden areas, often escaping into the wild. Best sited in areas where plants can romp around without disturbing other plants. Plants go dormant after bloom, and do not like heavy moisture from late summer rains. Plant bulbs with tips 2-3" deep. Propagate by digging bulbs, removing the offsets and replanting. Self-sown seedlings may appear.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ornithogalum umbellatum, commonly known as star of Bethlehem, is a bulbous perennial that is native to the Mediterranean region. Narrow, semi-erect, grass-like, linear leaves (to 12") grow in a basal clump to 6-12" tall. Leaves begin to droop and fade as the flower stems (6-8") rise in late spring to early summer, each stem bearing 10-20 starry white flowers (each to 3/4" wide) in an open, umbel-like, terminal cluster. Flowers are striped green on the outside. Flowers open near noon and close at sunset or in cloudy weather. This species is listed as a Class C Noxious Weed in the State of Alabama.

Genus name comes from the Greek words ornis meaning a bird and gala meaning milk for the white flowers.

Specific epithet refers to the flowers being in an umbel.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Bulb rot may occur in poorly drained soils.

Garden Uses

Naturalize in grass, shrub borders, meadows, woodland margins and wild areas. Do not plant in formal gardens or rock gardens where invasive spread is likely to become a problem.