Spring Starflower – Ipheion uniflorum

The Spring Starflower, is a charming little flowering bulb with white to pale blue star-like blooms and masses of grass-like leaves. The plant has an onion-like fragrance when bruised.

In the garden, Ipheion normally blooms in April. Indoors, it can easily be brought into flower as early as February.

The name uniflorum means that there is only one flower on each stem, but each bulb can send up several stems, so there are plenty of flowers.

The bulbs should be placed 2.5cm (1in) apart in coarse, gritty compost with good drainage. They should be planted in September and will offset easily, producing several offsets at a time.

Varieties

Ipheion uniflorum bears white to pale blue, star-shaped flowers on 15cm (6in) stems. The flowers of I. u. ‘Wisley Blue’ are mauve-blue, and those of ‘Froyle Hill’ are a darker shade of mauve.

Display ideasSpring Starflower - Ipheion uniflorum

If the bulbs are planted in pots and placed in a bright, unheated shed or greenhouse, they can be brought indoors in very early spring and enjoyed in bloom. After flowering, plant the bulbs out in the garden, where they will produce blooms the following year.

Propagation

Ipheion can be propagated by removing the offsets. Plants produce offsets freely and these should be removed every 3-4 years to make new plants.

1 Lift Ipheion bulbs when the leaves begin to die down in summer and separate the offsets from the parent bulb. Replant immediately in well-drained, soil-based compost.

2 Water as necessary, depending on the season. Plants should produce flowers in 1-3 years.

Looking after your plant

Plant Ipheion bulbs in September or October about 25-50mm (1-2in) deep.

If you plunge the pots in a tub, covering them with a layer of compost, the bulbs will not only be protected from severe frost, but you will be able to take the pots up in the spring if you wish without disturbing the bulbs.

Remove the flowers as they fade to prolong the flowering period. At the end of the summer, cut away any dead leaves and cut off the flower stems. You can leave the bulbs in their container for the winter if you are not removing offsets.

When new plants have been made from offsets, any surplus bulbs can be planted outside in a rockery.

Plant Problems

Flower buds and shoots become distorted when aphids attack. Treatment: Spray the plant with a solution of soap and water. Repeat if necessary, hut if this does not get rid of the insects, spray with insecticide.

The tips of the leaves turn yellow if the plants are overwatered. Treatment: Plant in a well-drained soil, and do not overwater. However, the leaves will turn yellow and wither naturally, prior to the dormant season in late summer or early autumn.

PLANT CARE

These plants require only the minimum of attention and will almost look after themselves. Remove the dead flowerheads as they fade, and cut off withered leaves at the end of the summer.

  • Potting: Use a well-drained, soil-based potting compost. Repot only when clumps are obviously overcrowded — about every 3-4 years.
  • Water moderately in the summer and sparingly in the winter.
  • Feeding: When the plants are grown in relatively small pots or tubs, feed every two weeks with a standard liquid fertilizer until leaves start to yellow.

GROWING CONDITIONS

  • Light: These plants will thrive in a sheltered position in partial shade or full sun.
  • Temperature: They will thrive in temperatures of 18°-22°C (65°-72°F) in summer. Give some protection from frost, either by taking the pots indoors in winter, or by covering them with compost. Plants brought indoors when in flower should be kept at around 13°C (55°F) to prolong the flowering period.

The Spring Starflower — Ipheion — is a native of Mexico and South America. It is less well-known than other spring-flowering bulbs but is nevertheless just as delightful.

When to buy

  • Bulbs are available in late summer or early autumn for planting in September or October. Try a specialist nursery or garden centre.
  • Choose firm, plump bulbs. Avoid any that are bruised or damaged.
  • Your Ipheion should live for many years.

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