Stars of the Spring Garden
Home gardeners in the midlands continue to share their plant delights with me. Eleven springs ago when writing about Nell Campbell’s keepsake garden in southeast Columbia, she was growing a wide selection of spring bulbs – crocus, daffodils, wood hyacinth, hyacinth – introduced to her when volunteering at Riverbanks Zoo. One added heirloom plant winding a ribbon of color across the front border of her home today is the blue spring star flower, Ipheion uniflorum.
The tiny bulb is one of the easiest to grow but one of those overlooked surprises of spring. The dainty spr ing star flower has green grass blade foliage. Single six– lobed star– shaped flowers an inch in diameter shoot forth on 6– 8 inch stems in early spring. The mildly fragrant flowers come in white, blue or blue– violet depending upon the cultivar.
Campbell noted that the leaves and bulb smell like onions when crushed or disturbed, a clue to its lily family ancestry. Ipheion uniflorum hails from South America but has become naturalized throughout USDA hardiness zones 5-9.
Campbell pointed to several renegade plants that had jumped the border and were running through the lawn. The plant reproduces quickly by bulb offsets and selfseeding. The perennial bulb forms a dense mat of foliage, which can be divided every few years and passed along to friends and family. Just a few plants will go a long way in any garden given full sun and well–drained soil.
Spring star flowers are prolific bloomers and look fantastic in masses around a tree, along a garden path, between stepping stones, and in rock gardens. Their spreading ways are controlled by pot, container and window box culture. Some gardeners allow runaway plants to naturalize in their lawns for a meadow effect.
In March and Apr il, public heirloom gardens throughout the south feature spring star flower displays. Illuminate your spr ing garden with the lovely star flower.