1262 Ipheion uniflorumCommon Names: spring starflower,springstar,blue starflower Family: Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis Family)
Spring starflower is a small perennial that springs from a bulb to form a clump of star shaped flowers. Each bulb produces several flowers, each of which is borne on a 6-8 in (15-20 cm) stem, technically called a scape. Flowers are about an inch and a half (4 cm) across and pale silvery blue with darker midlines and bright orange stamens. The flowers have six tepals (petals plus sepals that look pretty much alike), and smell like honey. In summer, after the flowers have had their day, grasslike leaves emerge from the base of the plant. The narrow strap shaped leaves are semi-erect, to 10 in (25 cm) long, and smell like garlic when crushed. The leaves die back in winter and there is no sign of the plant until the flowers emerge again in spring.
There are white-flowered cultivars (‘Album’ is one); a cultivar with brownish violet or mauve flowers, ‘Froyle Mill’; and one with larger flowers that are clear lavender-blue, ‘Wisley Blue’.
Ipheion uniflorum is native to warm-temperate and subtropical South America, including Uruguay and Argentina, where it grows in meadows, hillsides and rocky sites. It has escaped cultivation and become naturalized in parts of Europe and Australia as well as in California and Washington and most states in the southeastern US. Spring starflower is a frequent lawn weed in some older homesteads in the SE US, and under ideal growing condition, it can be invasive.
Light: Spring starflower does best in full sun and does well in partial shade. Potted specimens do well with bright indirect light. Under deciduous trees in the lawn, where spring starflower can get full sun in early spring and filtered sun later in the year, seems to be ideal. Moisture: : During its dormant period, water spring starflower sparingly if at all. During growth and flowering, you should be sure it gets moderate watering. They tolerate most all soil types, but do best in soils that are a little on the acidic side. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9 . The bulbs should be mulched over for protection in winter where temperatures regularly get below 15° F (-9° C). Propagation: Starflower bulbs produce many offsets that can be split off every few years. They also produce little bulblets on short runners that can be cut off and replanted. Bulbs should be planted 3-4 in (8-10 cm) deep, in autumn if possible. Spring starflower also can be grown from seed, collected and sown as soon as ripe.
Spring starflower is an excellent choice for rock gardens, along pathways and in front of beds and borders that aren’t ashamed of small plants. This is a vigorous, fast growing bulbous perennial that will increase and naturalize nicely given a sunny position in half way decent soil. Spring starflower often is allowed to naturalize in lawns, where its long lasting flowers (along with the ubiquitous dandelions, Taraxacum officinale) bring springtime color, and its grasslike leaves that appear later are hardly noticeable. Each bulb produces several scapes, and large clumps of starflowers form quickly. To maintain the most vigorous starflowers, you should divide the bulbs every 3-5 years, preferably in autumn after the leaves have died back.
Plant several bulbs in a pot, and spring starflower makes a nice container plant, too. The cut flowers last for more than a week, thus making spring starflower a good flower in small table top arrangements.
There are just 10 species in the genus, Ipheion, all from South America. I. uniflorum is the only one commonly in cultivation. The genus, formerly in the much-inclusive Liliaceae, is now placed in the onion subfamily (Allioideae) of the Amaryllidaceae.