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All parts of plant, especially bulbs, are poisonous if ingested.


Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials

Clusters of typically star-shaped flowers appear on these small, grassy plants in the spring; but O. dubium may start blooming in late winter. Leaves vary from narrow to broad and tend to droop. In mild-winter areas, ornithogalums can fill many different roles. Set them in open woodlands, wild gardens, or rock gardens, where many kinds will naturalize; plant them in containers or mass them in borders.

Where cold winters prevent growing ornithogalums outdoors, plant the bulbs in pots and force them to early flowering indoors or in a greenhouse. Plant bulbs in early fall in well-drained soil amended with plenty of organic matter, setting them 3 in. deep and 3–4 in. apart. Provide regular moisture during growth and bloom. In areas with summer rainfall, grow them in pots to keep them dry. Dig and divide plantings of all species only when plant vigor and bloom quality decline.

Ornithogalum dubium
Ornithogalum dubium

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Ornithogalum dubium

From South Africa. Stems to 8–12 in. high bear 2-in. waxy looking yellow-orange flowers, each centered with a shiny, bead-like black eye. Dark green to yellowish green, lance-shaped leaves are about 4 in. long, nearly prostrate.

Ornithogalum thyrsoides

From Namaqualand, South Africa. Leaves grow to 6–12 in. long and 2 in. wide, sometimes dry at flowering. Bloom stalks rise 8–32 in. above the ground, producing masses of long-lasting white flowers from mid- to late spring.

Ornithogalum umbellatum

From the eastern Mediterranean. Stems to 1 ft. tall bear clusters of 1-in. white flowers striped green on the outside. Semierect, grassy-looking leaves are about as long as the flower stems. Cut flowers last well but close at night. Once established, may naturalize and become weedy.

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