Everblooming Ornithogalums

By Shila Patel

Although many western gardeners know that ornithogalums are practically unmatched for the longevity of their blooms -- the flowering spikes last up to three weeks with the proper care -- the most attractive flowers are produced by tender bulbs that thrive only in greenhouses or in mild-winter areas (zones 8 through 10) similar to their native South Africa and Mediterranean regions.

But soon gardeners everywhere will be able to enjoy the blooms almost year-round. After more than 15 years of work, researchers have bred the Chesapeake series of repeat-blooming ornithogalums, perfectly suited for indoor growing. Under typical indoor conditions (60° F to 85° F), they will flower not just once in spring, but four times a year. The 8- to 14-inch-tall plants produce blooms that are vibrant orange ('Chesapeake Blaze'), white ('Chesapeake Snowflake'), bright yellow ('Chesapeake Sunburst'), and dark orange ('Chesapeake Sunset'). The straplike leaves remain attractive all year.

For best results, place the flower pots in a south-facing window. Once the blooms have faded, remove the bloom stalk, water well, and fertilize with a bulb fertilizer. Plants will be available this fall from garden centers nationwide.

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