July 24, 2010

Ornithogalum saundersiae

These four foot beauties are often overlooked by those who grow summer bulbs, but now I believe that of all of the Ornithogalums, O. saundersiae is the finest. This spring, I planted 50 large bulbs in my front alpine garden after looking through my many bulb catalogs for something different to grow. Not rare, nor new, O. saundersiae was promised to give a striking display, according to my Brent and Becky's bulb catalog.

My experience with Ornithogalums was limited to the winter-blooming florist varieties, and some miniature weedy forms, but these are fine specimens, and I look forward to growing more since this is the time of year, just as the lilies are fading, when you need something that is just beginning to bloom.


  1. OK, we get these all the time as a cut flower at my shop, but they sell them to us as Ornithogalum arabicum. More than one name? Also, do you know a common name? It's ponderous to sell them as O. arabicum, the customers are overwhelmed. The only common name I've seen might be perceived as racist, so we decline from using it...would love an alternative.

  2. These are the shiz. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Dramatic and well-timed blooms indeed. I've been meaning to grow these for years, and you've spurred me to include them on the Absolutely Positively list for Summer 2011. Thanks!

  4. O. arabicum is a different, and distinct species or ornithogalum, and very popular in the cut flower trade. It is, perhaps more common, given its commercial use. Why would customers be overwhelmed with its botanic name? It comes from Arabia, ( an Europe, through Africa), so it's name obviously comes from the Arabian penninsula where there are many Ornithogalum species. Remember that one of the common names for many Ornithogalum is 'Star of Bethlehem', and particularly for your species, O. arabicum, which is also known throughout the world as Large Star of Bethlehem, Arabian Star Flower, or Arab's Eye. In Malta, it is known as Halib it-Tajr Kbir, but the 'arabicum' part of the species title comes from 1760, by taxonomist Carl von Linneaus.

  5. Anonymous10:36 AM

    hi sprout...the informal name that I know Orni saundersiae is Chincherinchee, bit of a mouthful but easier than the latin !

  6. Anonymous9:37 AM

    I only bought my Saundersiae plant last year and is in a large pot and was lovely. It's died of last winter but have no grown back this year. Can any one help please

    1. I'm sorry your plant did not grow back, but my best guess as to why it failed might be because you kept it in a pot ( assuming you are in a cold climate). The bulbs are tender, and they will freeze. If you are in a warm climate, they need a bit of moisture while dormant, and a temperature shift to cool-cold, which will mimic vernalization or a dormant period. I have found that the bulbs can rot it they are too moist in winter, or they can also be lost it kept too dry, as fleshy roots cannot maintain proper bulb moisture.

  7. Anonymous3:05 AM

    Thank you for your reply Matt,
    I live in Essex in the UK. I put my
    Saundersiae in my greenhouse over the winter
    so the frost would not get to it. I emptied the pot
    the other day and the bulbs looked very white and healthy.
    I have now put them in the garden so let's hope they grow
    and do better. Thank you for your help Teresa


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