Pregnant Onion - Knowledgebase Question

Doylestown, PA
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Question by hugheat
June 21, 1999
For many years I have had what my Mother-in-law
referred to as a 'pregnant sea-onion'.I t was so called because of its habit of procreating with little bulblets at the base of the mother plant,as well as concealing miniature replicas of itself under the first or second layer of its onion-like skin.

The plant itself is a very lime green onion-esque bulb that grows entirely on top of the soil. It has straps of green leaves that come out of the top and even sends out a shoot with green hyacinth-type flowers in the summer.

I have had the "mother" plant for years and have given many of its off-spring to friends, but now one is going to a home where I know the sketchy information I can provide will be insufficient.

Based on what I know, I was hoping you could provide a botanical name and a little history of this most unusual plant.

Answer from NGA
June 21, 1999
Your plant is Ornithogalum caudatum, also known as Pregnant Sea Onion or False Sea Onion. It's a houseplant in most areas of the country (hardy to about 25F) and is generally grown for the bulb and foliage rather than the tall wands of small green and white flowers. The strap-like leaves hang downward and grow to 5' long, and the bulb grows on, not in, the ground. The plant originates in South Africa.

Ornithogalum thrives in full sun to full shade outdoors or bright light indoors. It prefers rich, well-draining soil. Water when the soil begins to dry and either mulch with well-rotted manure (if the plant is growing outdoors), or fertilize in the spring with a half-strength liquid fertilizer.

Hope this answers all your questions!

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