Ipheion, the Spring Star Flower, is a native of South America, mostly Argentina, highland Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. It is quite hardy to moderate cold and freezing weather. Will grow well in warm temperate & sub tropical climates when placed in cooler positions. These small bulbs are members of the Onion (Alliaceae) family.
Their thin leaves resemble those of Garlic Chives with a characteristic onion smell when crushed. Bulbs are best planted in the Autumn or Early Winter at about 3inches/7.5cm deep and almost as far apart. In very cold climates experiencing severe freezing, the bulbs can be mulched for protection.
In mild climates, the shoots often appear soon after planting. These leaves are hardy to frost and even freezing weather. Plants soon spread to make impressive clumps of blue green grassy foliage reaching 5-7inches/12.5-17.5cm tall.
Starting whenever weather begins to warm slightly and days begin to lengthen in Late Winter and Early Spring the small star-like flowers begin to appear. These Star Flowers continue to open over many weeks and soon cover the plant in starry flowers in many shades of blue, purple and white.
Ipheion uniflorum is the most widely grown species but there are dozens more species and many hybrid varieties. Ipheion uniflorum var. ‘Alberto Castillo’ is a very desirable large-flowering pure white variety. Each flower creates a classic white star. Ipheion u. purpuream var. ‘Froyle Mill’ is lavender purple with longer, pointed, thinner petals. Hybrid variety ‘Rolf Fiedler’ has bright blue broad petals which resemble a cobalt blue Polyanthus.
Like most onion relatives, Ipheion needs very good drainage and a rather light but somewhat enriched soil which is slightly acid to neutral in pH. They respond well to planting into standard potting mix as well a light garden soil, loose leaf mould and sometimes sandy land.
Ipheion make lovely container, pot or window box specimens. The small bulbs are easily tucked-in amongst other Winter and Early Spring-flowering annual and perennial flowers as well as low groundcovers, especially Pansy, Polyanthus and Primula. Their grassy leaves and thin flower stalks peak up between the foliage of other plants and make a lovely border and edging in the garden.
The bulbs naturalize easily and soon make impressive drifts of white or blue. Being small bulbs with low-growing flowers they are best planted in substantial clumps or drifts of the same variety so that they are not lost or overwhelmed by nearby plantings.
They work extremely well when planted with Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) as they flower about the same time at the same height and in very complimentary colour shades. Both Ipheion and Muscari are ideal subjects for naturalizing beneath deciduous shrubs and trees. They also are effective when planted en mass or large clumps in a rock garden where they make an impressive background to Anemone blanda and A. coronaria, Chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-Snow), Crocus, dwarf Narcissus, Puschkinia (Striped Squill) and early-flowering species Tulips.
In containers Spring Star makes an impressive display where they can be left to multiply undisturbed for years. Container-grown Spring S tar have the advantage that the pots can be raised to eye level to reveal their delicate beauty and sweet scent.
Once they finish flowering the pots can be set aside in a dry position, possibly underneath shrubbery for their Summer dormant period.
Ipheion prefer sunny positions but will accommodate dappled light or partial shade. Soil should be light and freely draining, especially when grown in less than full sunshine.
Ipheion go dormant soon after flowering. Usually their leaves completely die away but sometimes will continue showing a few leaves throughout the growing season. With established clumps of bulbs, often leaves reappear in Early Autumn. As with most Minor Bulbs, Ipheion prefer rather dry conditions with no artificial watering throughout their dormant period.
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