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Star Of Bethlehem Plant Care: Tips On Growing Star Of Bethlehem Bulbs

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a winter bulb belonging to the Lily family, and blooms in late spring or early summer. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is similar to wild garlic. Its foliage has arching leaves but does not have the garlic odor when crushed.

Star of Bethlehem flowers, though attractive for a few weeks when in bloom, have escaped cultivation in many areas. When this happens, they quickly become a danger to native plant life.

Star of Bethlehem Facts

This plant can quickly out-perform and take over when planted in beds with other ornamental bulbs. Landscapers tell horror stories about trying to get rid of Star of Bethlehem flower bulbs in lawns.

This is a shame, because when growing Star of Bethlehem in the garden, it is an attractive addition in the beginning. Small, star-shaped flowers rise on stems above draping foliage. However, Star of Bethlehem facts conclude that it is safest to grow this plant in containers or areas where it may be kept confined. Many agree that it is best not to plant it at all.

Some say Star of Bethlehem flowers are good companion plants for early blooming hellebores and dianthus. Others remain steadfast in the notion that the plant is a noxious weed and should never be planted as an ornamental. In fact, Star of Bethlehem flowers are labeled noxious in Alabama, and are on the invasive exotic list in 10 other states.

Growing Star of Bethlehem

If you decide to plant Star of Bethlehem flower bulbs in your landscape, do it in fall. The plant is hardy in USDA Zone 3 with mulch and grows in Zones 4 to 8 without mulch.

Plant Star of Bethlehem flower bulbs in a full to mostly sunny area of the landscape. This plant can take 25 percent shade, but grows best in full sun location.

Star of Bethlehem flower bulbs should be planted about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart and at a depth of 5 inches (13 cm.) to the base of the bulb. To ward off invasive tendencies, plant in a buried container or an area that is lined and edged so that bulbs can only spread so far. Deadhead flowers before seeds develop.

Star of Bethlehem plant care is not necessary, except to prevent the abundant spread. If you find the plant becoming too prolific, Star of Bethlehem plant care requires removal of the entire bulb to stop its growth.

Information About Astrantia (Masterwort Plant)

Astrantia (Astrantia major) is a group of flowers, also known as masterwort, that is both beautiful and unusual. This shade-loving perennial is not common to most gardens, but it should be. Let’s take a look at the masterwort plant and how to care for Astrantia.

What Does Astrantia Look Like?

Astrantia grows to be about 1 to 2 feet tall. Astrantias come in a wide variety of colors. The flowers on the masterwort plant are unusual looking, as they are a group of tightly packed florets that are backed by petal-like bracts. This makes the flower look very much like a star or a firework. The leaves look a little bit like Italian parsley or carrots, which is not surprising as Astrantia are in the same family as carrots.

There are a wide variety of masterwort plant cultivars. Some examples of cultivars include:

  • Astrantia ‘Buckland’
  • Astrantia ‘Lars’
  • Astrantia major ‘Roma’
  • Astrantia maxima ‘Hadspen Blood’
  • Astrantia major ‘Abbey Road’
  • Astrantia major ‘Shaggy’

Care of Astrantia

The masterwort plant is suitable for USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9 and is a perennial. It prefers to be planted in part shade to full shade. Astrantia grows best in moist soil with plenty of organic material.

Because masterwort plant needs moist soil, it needs to be watered frequently during times of drought, otherwise it will die. It should be fertilized once or twice a year for best growth.

Propagating Astrantia

Astrantia is propagated either through division or through growing from seed.

To divide the plant, dig up a mature clump in either early spring or early fall. Use a spade and thrust the spade through the masterwort plant clump. Replant the two halves wherever you would like the plants to grow.

To grow Astrantia from seed, start them in the fall. Astrantia seeds need to be cold stratified in order to germinate. Do the cold stratification in the fall and once they are cold treated, you can plant them in soil and keep the soil warm. The older the seed, the longer it will take for them to germinate. Scarification of the seeds will also help to increase the number of masterwort seeds that germinate.

For gorgeous summer borders, grow astrantias. These ever-popular, slug-proof cottage-garden perennials make a wonderful addition to English gardens.

What’s so special about Astrantias?

Astrantias are star plants of our summer borders and they’ve been blooming happily in British gardens since Tudor times. Their pincushion heads of minute cream, pink and green flowers, surrounded by papery green-tipped bracts, were once collected from the wild for medicinal use.

The old English name for astrantias, masterwort, denotes their herbal use as a purgative or diuretic. But their quiet beauty saw them established in cottage gardens, and they became showier as plantsmen and women selected stronger and more colourful forms. Astrantias set lots of seed and are easy to hybridise.

Many astrantias come in dark colours, from blood red to deep purple and near black. These dark types are the most sought after and are mostly cultivars or varieties of Astrantia major. This is a European native sporting pale pink pincushions framed by pink-tinged green and cream bracts.

One of the loveliest of this good-looking family is the stately A. maxima. The pale pink bracts forming the characteristic ruff are wide, taper to a point and frame the prominent central umbel of large flowers which are the colour of crushed strawberries. The underside of the flowerhead is an astonishing bright green.

Look out for a deeper pink variety called A. maxima ‘Mark Fenwick’. Some well-known types of astrantias, such as the dark red A. maxima ‘Hadspen Blood’ and deep pink A. ‘Roma’, are thought to be hybrids between A. maxima and A. major.

Astrantias grow well in heavy, damp soil in light or dappled shade Photo:

Which are the best astrantias to grow?

Astrantias are also known as Hattie’s pincushions. Gill Richardson has a keen eye for them and her Lincolnshire garden has long been a place of pilgrimage for astrantia worshippers.

Gill first fell in love with these enchanting plants many years ago at an RHS summer show in London. She saw A. major ‘Ruby Wedding’ across a crowded exhibition hall, and it was love at first sight. ‘It stood out – just glowed – and was so beautiful and strong,’ she says.

It wasn’t long before her garden contained a large collection of astrantias, from the species through to named varieties including the large-flowered pink A. ‘Washfield’, classic A. ‘Buckland’ – a strong cultivar with pale-pink pincushions – and the delicate A. major var. rosea ‘George’s Form’, a pale-pink variety that was found in the York garden of celebrity florist George Smith.

A. ‘Bury Court’, a good red-flowered variety with near-black stems, named for the Surrey garden where it was discovered, also flourishes here; as do the striking A. major ‘Venice’, a sturdy plummy red; and the neat, near-purple A. ‘Moulin Rouge’.

Astrantias produce a second flash of flowers if you deadhead them Photo: Iona Woolf

The heavy damp soil in Gill’s garden suits astrantia very well and her collection grows. Gill no longer regularly opens her garden, but she still grows a multitude of astrantias. This starry company produces an astonishing range of seedlings, many full of promise. Which is why, more than 10 years ago, Gill gave seed to Norfolk nurseryman John Metcalf, who selected a dark form of A. major from the seedlings, naming this new strain ‘Gill Richardson’ in her honour. The plant, introduced at the 2004 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, not only has near-black tips to the bracts, but also a stem with the same dark flush.

New and Exciting Astrantias

Probably the astrantia Gill derives the most satisfaction from is the relatively new A. ‘Burgundy Manor’. There’s a story behind her quest to breed a red ‘Shaggy’. A. major subsp. involucrata ‘Shaggy’, one of our best-loved astrantias, was developed from a seedling spotted by the eagle-eyed plantswoman Margery Fish in her garden at East Lambrook Manor in Somerset, in the years after the Second World War.

For a brief while, it was named A. ‘Margery Fish’, but the cream-and-green cushioned head, surrounded by large, twisted, deeply divided bracts, green-tipped and with a tumbled charm, was soon re-named.

‘Shaggy’ it became, and ‘Shaggy’ it has been ever since, much desired and much mistaken, in that plants sold as ‘Shaggy’ often aren’t. Gill knows that the real thing can be told by the twisted nature of the extra-long bracts – that collar that surrounds the neat pad of flowers. Each is deeply cut, with a nipped-in middle.

‘For a long time, I’d been trying to produce a plant that looked like the finest form of ‘Shaggy’ but with red colouring,’ she says. When some promising seedlings opened, she invited nurserywoman Rosy Hardy to take a look. Rosy visited, and promptly slid down the slope on which the seedlings were growing in her hurry to examine them. So the lovely large-flowered astrantia, with its ‘Shaggy’-like bracts, was nearly named ‘Rosie’s Tumble’, but was eventually given the more sober tag of A. ‘Burgundy Manor’ when it was launched by Rosy and Gill at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2011.

Top tips for growing Astrantias

– Astrantias are natives of central and eastern Europe and are found in heavy damp soil on woodland margins and in meadowland. They are accommodating plants but will do best in soil that doesn’t become too dry.

– Plant astrantia in light or dappled shade. The exceptions are A. maxima and A. major ‘Sunningdale Variegated’, which grow best in a sunny spot provided soil is moist.

– Deadheading after the first flush of flowers will encourage a second flowering. Deadhead them after the second flush, too, because too many seedlings can swamp the parent plant.

– Gill sows her seed outside in drills while it is fresh and pricks out the seedlings the following spring.

WHERE TO BUY ASTRANTIAS

Enjoy this article? Why not find out how to grow roses or browse our top 10 cottage garden favourites for some gardening inspiration.

If you have acid soil in your garden, take a look at our collection of top plants for acid soil.

Astrantia

Group of hardy herbaceous perennials, native to Europe and western Asia. Tolerant of most soil types, they will thrive in light shade and will also do well in full sun if the soil is kept moist. Astrantia has a long flowering season, from early summer to autumn.

These hardy spreading plants are great for flower arranging and are long lasting as cut flowers; so it is always a good idea to grow more than you need in the garden.

Family: Apiaceae
Botanical Name: Astrantia
Common Names: Masterwort, Hattie’s pincushion
Foliage: Green deeply divided/lobed basal leaves. Deciduous.
Flowers: Small round convex flowers, usually white or pinkish in colour, with a frill of papery bracts.
Flowering Period: May, June, July, August.
Soil: Fertile, humus-rich, moisture-retentive soil.

Conditions: Thrives best in partial shade, but will do well in full sun if watered well.
Habit: Vigorous, clump-forming.
Type: Herbaceous perennial.
Hardiness: Fully hardy in UK.

Planting and Growing Astrantia

Generally easy to grow. Plant in a moisture-retentive fertile soil, preferably humus rich. They will required more water than most other perennials.

Good for mixed beds and borders, courtyard gardens, cottage gardens, pots and containers.

Taking Care of Astrantia

Stake in exposed situations and water freely in dry weather. Apply a surface mulch of compost or well rotted manure around April-May time to conserve moisture.

Like geranium (cranesbill), the whole plant can be cut down to ground level following the first flush of flowers in July, to stimulate fresh growth and further flowers.

The flower heads can be left on the plants over-winter to provide an attractive architectural effect. However, Astrantia are prolific self seeders and crossbred cultivars do not come true from seed. So you may wish to deadhead named varieties to avoid the spread of more vigorous self-sown reversions.

Cut plants down to ground level in November.

Pests and Diseases

Young emerging shoots are susceptible to slug damage. Can be affected by powdery mildews.

Sow seeds under glass in September. Divide cultivars that do not come true from seed in the spring or autumn.

Popular Varieties of Astrantia Grown in the UK

The most widely grown garden variety is Astrantia major.

A. major (Europe) has attractive, deeply divided, green foliage. Clusters of small pinkish-green flowers are borne on wiry stems from June to August. Height: 2ft (60cm).

Astrantia major ‘Star Of Billion’ produces upright stems of pincushion white blooms from June to August.

A. major ‘Sunningdale Variegated’ the young green leaves are splashed or striped with cream in the spring. Height: 1.5 to 3ft (45-90cm).

A. major involucrata (Shaggy) with deeply cut fingered leaves. Flowers have looser, longer, bracts. Height: 2ft (60cm).

Astrantia major ‘Venice’ has rich red flowers. Ideal in a semi shaded position, where they will flower all summer long.

A. maxima has attractive shell pink flowers. Height up to 2ft (60cm).

A. carniolica ‘Rubra’ rich dark red blooms. Height: 1.5ft (45cm)

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