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A garden full of bright little stars

What about adding some stars to your garden next year? We’re talking about planting some Ipheion - or Spring Starflower - bulbs. This perky little bulbous plant is still unfamiliar to many, even though it would make a great addition to a garden and is also so easy to grow. Besides that, it comes up every year. We think it’s about time to shine a spotlight on the Ipheion!

Little Old Ladies

Ipheion is a perky little bulbous plant that will make any garden prettier. Its little star-shaped flowers can be white, lilac-pink or blue. In Dutch, they have a rather funny name: Oude Wijfjes, or Little Old Ladies. This name came from a woman who grew them, and the name simply stuck.

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An easy-to-grow bulb

The Ipheion isn’t demanding. Just be sure to choose a place for it in the sun or partial shade. Plant them about 5 centimetres apart in soil that isn’t too wet. Just one little bulb can produce five flower stems! Their little flowers will look beautiful at the edge of a border or in the lawn. But the Ipheion will also feel right at home in a pot or between the rocks in a rock garden. Plant them before November in the right spot and let nature take its course. You’ll be rewarded year after year. In fact, within a few years, these little bulbs will even spread to become nice big clusters or even entire mini-carpets in your garden.

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Add more sparkle

Ipheion is a low-growing plant. For this reason, don’t plant it next to much taller plants that could smother it. Good companions would be grape hyacinths such as Muscari ‘Blue Spike’ or Muscari ‘Heavenly Blue’. Together with Ipheion, they give your spring garden the look of an enchanting fantasyland. They will also complement low-growing tulips (Tulipa kaufmanniana), a dwarf iris (Iris reticulata) or blue anemones (Anemone blanda).

Here are just some of the Spring Starflower varieties

Ipheion uniflorum

The species itself produces whitish little flowers with light blue veins.  Height: 15-20 centimetres. Flowering period: March – June.

Ipheion uniflorum ‘Alberto Castillo’

Produces a profusion of little snowy white flowers. Its flowers are larger than those of other Spring Starflower varieties. Height: 20 centimetres. Flowering period: May – June.

Ipheion 'Jessie'

‘Jessie’ became available in 2003. Gorgeous little blue flowers. Height: 10-15 centimetres. Flowering period: May – June.

Ipheion 'Tessa'

Available since 2008. Dazzling little lilac-pink flowers. Height: 10-15 centimetres. Flowering period: May – June.

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Interesting facts

  • Ipheion is a real naturaliser and easily increases in number by producing more little bulbs. Some varieties even spread by seed as well.
  • Ipheion is endemic to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Peru, so no wonder they are such sun worshippers.
  • One variety, later named ‘Alberto Castillo’, was discovered growing in an abandoned garden in Buenos Aires. It doesn’t get much more romantic than that!
  • Although its leaves and bulbs smell like garlic when bruised (yes, the Ipheion is a member of the onion or Alliaceae family), its flowers have a delightfully sweet fragrance.
  • We want more! Once Ipheion plants are well established, some varieties will simply produce more flowers in the autumn: a nice encore! 
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