The Star of Bethlehem: a beautiful and meaningful cut flower

Over the holidays, you may have seen the Star of Bethlehem in many Christmas floral arrangements. Its name alone signifies its meaning but it’s simple beauty also helps the bloom stand out as a cut flower.

January 5, 2018 - Author: Dixie Sandborn, Michigan State University Extension

Over the holidays, you may have seen the Star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum, in many Christmas floral arrangements. Its name alone signifies its meaning in regards to the holiday season. This flower is often used in religious ceremonies symbolizing innocence, purity, honesty, hope and forgiveness.

Aside from the simple beauty and significant meaning of the bloom, the Star of Bethlehem stands out as a cut flower and has real lasting power. Cut “stars” can last up to a month in a flower arrangement. This makes it an exceptional flower for the holiday season and those who were looking to add a delicate and meaningful flower to their holiday glitz.

Here are a few facts from Michigan State University Extension about this beautiful bloom:

  • The Star of Bethlehem is a winter bulb and belongs to the lily family.
  • It is native to the Mediterranean region, growing wild across the countryside.
  • Although it is not native to the United States, it has become naturalized in many areas, especially throughout Missouri. In fact, Star of Bethlehem flowers are labeled noxious in Alabama and are on the invasive exotic list in 10 other states.
  • This bulb is hardy in USDA zone 3 with mulch and grows in zones 4 to 8 without mulch. They should be planted in a full to mostly sunny area of the landscape. They can also be grown as part of a naturalized woodland area where spread is not as much of a factor.
  • The Star of Bethlehem is very low maintenance, but does like well-drained soil.
  • The Star of Bethlehem plant blooms in the spring through early summer and bulbs can be divided for propagation.
  • The bulb produces star-shaped flowers on grass-like foliage that is marked with a white line down the mid-rib.
  • The plant blooms on a 10-inch long, multi-flowered spike and each spike bears about 12 to 30 star-like blooms with six petals each.
  • The backside of the petals sport a broad band of green.
  • These flowers open in the morning and close every evening, making them good for container gardening as well as flower gardens.

As beautiful as they are you, should keep this plant away from livestock and other animals as the bulbs and foliage contain toxic alkaloids that are poisonous to animals. Do not grow them in areas that tempt your dog or cat to take a sample bite of the leaves.

Tags: 4-h, 4-h environmental & earth science, 4-h plants, environmental & outdoor education, flower gardening, & gardening, home gardening, msu extension, soils

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