Orange Star Lifespan: How Long Do Orange Star Plants Live?
Want to know how long Orange Star Plants live? These Southern African natives are popular perennial bulbs with a long lifespan. But to get the most out of them, they need proper care and maintenance. Gardening expert Madison Moulton discusses how long these plants live for and how you can extend their lifespan as long as possible.
Orange Star Plants, featuring captivating bright orange flowers in the classic star-shape that gave it its common name, are ideal additions to any flower garden. These hardy plants are easy to grow and don’t require much maintenance.
These plants have become popular for many reasons, especially their beautiful perennial orange flowers. These plants can survive both indoors and outdoors, provided they have proper care. But, before you commit to one, you may be asking yourself: How long do orange star plants live?
Orange stars have an incredibly long lifespan – provided they get the right care and conditions. Let’s take a deeper look into this beautiful flowering plant, and what you can expect when you decide to bring one into your home.
About Orange Stars
Orange Star Plants are scientifically known as Ornithogalum dubium. Part of the Ornithogalum genus, these perennial bulbs are also known as the Star of Bethlehem. The specific epithet refers to its unique characteristics, meaning “unlike others of the genus”.
Ornithogalum dubium is part of the Asparagaceae or asparagus family. This large family contains many popular garden plants, including the common asparagus we are all familiar with. However, these bulbs are part of the subfamily Scilloideae within Asparagaceae, meaning they are more closely related to hyacinths and bluebells.
Orange Stars are native to sunny South Africa, particularly the Cape region. Endemic to this region, they can still be found in home gardens and pots around the world due to the popularity of their bright star-shaped flowers and long blooming time. It has even been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
This compact plant grows between 12 and 20 inches tall, producing clusters of small orange flowers with pointed petals that give it its apt star-related common name. These flowers form on long, thin stems that emerge from elongated bright green leaves.
These bulbs are not difficult to grow and reward owners with a long blooming season without much effort. All parts of the plant are toxic when ingested, so it’s important to keep them away from pets and children.
How Long Do Orange Stars Live?
Ornamental plants are generally split into categories according to their flowering longevity. Annuals are plants that only flower for one year, biennials for two years, and perennials for longer than two years.
These distinctions are not always clear. One plant may be grown as an annual in a cooler zone but can live as a perennial in a warmer zone due to its lack of tolerance for the cold. Some biennials can also live longer than two years but won’t flower as well as they did previously, leading gardeners to grow them as biennials or even annuals.
Rather than a strict classification, these terms are normally related to the Zone you live in and the performance of your particular plant.
Most bulbs are considered perennials. With the right care and conditions, they will come back year after year. Orange Stars fall into this category and will essentially continue to bloom until incorrect care, pests and diseases, or incorrect conditions result in their demise.
Although there is typically something that will influence the lifespan of your Orange Star, they can theoretically live indefinitely in the right environment. They have been known to survive for 30 years or even longer, flowering prolifically each season until they are pulled from the garden or succumb to some other issue.
7 Ways To Extend Their Lifespan
Because they can, in theory, live forever, the best way to extend the life of your Orange Star is to give them perfect care and limit any problems that could result in their premature demise.
Plant In The Right Zone
Climate is key to keeping your Orange Star Plant alive long-term. Not appreciating cold weather, these plants can be grown outdoors in USDA Zones 7-11. They prefer the warmer areas of Zones 9 and above, but will still survive in Zones 7 and 8 if all other needs are met.
That doesn’t mean those outside those Zones cannot grow these wonderful bulbs. Once the plant goes dormant and dies back in fall, simply dig up the bulbs to overwinter them. Store them in a cool and dry area to prevent rotting and simply plant those same bulbs out again in spring when the weather warms.
As compact plants, they are also great for growing in containers. This allows you to protect the plant from extremely cold temperatures by bringing the pot indoors overnight. They can also grow indoors long-term, but due to their need for full sun, they are unlikely to flower when kept inside.
Keep your Orange Star Plant in temperatures between 60F and 80F throughout the year, avoid any cold snaps, and they will live a long and happy life.
Use The Right Soil
Bulbs are designed to hold nutrients and water to keep the leaves and flowers glossy and bright during the growing season. Due to their composition, they are also prone to rotting when the soil conditions are not right.
These plants require incredibly well-draining soil to prevent rot and ultimately, an early death. In their native habitats, they are found in loose, sandy soil. Replicating these conditions in your backyard or in a container is essential to a long life.
If your backyard is filled with clay soil, amend with compost and river sand before planting to improve drainage. In containers, mix potting soil with perlite and coconut coir to draw any excess water away from the bulb and through the drainage holes.
Provide Enough Sunlight
Like most bulbs, they need a full day of direct sunlight to thrive. In even partially shady conditions, they are unlikely to flower or grow correctly, ultimately becoming stunted and fading out.
In the hottest climates, they may benefit from some protection in the afternoon, but generally prefer a minimum of six hours of direct light per day. If you don’t have the right spot in your garden, you can always plant in containers and move the pot around during the day to make the most of the light levels.
Overwatering and underwatering are two of the greatest plant killers. They have the potential to quickly kill your plants if not dealt with correctly.
As these bulbs are prone to rotting, overwatering is more of a concern. Never plant in an area where rainwater collects and only add additional water if the top layer of soil dries out completely. They require a bit more water while establishing, but aren’t thirsty after that initial period.
Underwatering is also an issue, especially when planted in containers that dry out quickly in the sun. Never leave the soil to dry out completely as this can irreparably damage the bulb, potentially killing your plant if it is not resolved. Check the soil regularly, especially at the height of summer, to make sure these plants have enough moisture.
Bulbs are designed to store nutrients that allow the plant to grow back again year after year. They draw these nutrients from the soil and from the plant as it starts to die back.
Over time, nutrients are drawn from the soil and used up. If they are not replaced at any point, the plants will have nothing more to use and will ultimately stop growing, leading to their death. The best way to combat this problem is with a healthy dose of compost and a regular fertilizing schedule.
Dig compost into the soil before planting and add a layer of compost mulch in summer to retain water and prevent evaporation. During the season, apply a flower focussed bulb fertilizer as directed on the packaging. Avoid overfertilizing as this could also lead to growth problems and a shorter lifespan.
Divide & Prune
These steps are not a strong requirement, but they do help in extending the life of your plants.
As the bulbs grow beneath the soil and expand over the years, they can become overcrowded. This crowding can stunt growth and encourage pests and diseases to settle on your plants.
To control their spread, divide the plants every few years and space them correctly or plant a few in new parts of the garden. This will give them more space to grow, ensuring they stay alive for even longer.
Pruning is also helpful in the prevention of pests and diseases. Damaged or weak growth is more vulnerable to attack. Plus, these areas sap energy from the plant, making it weaker overall and less able to deal with pest and disease problems on its own.
Remove any damaged or diseased growth as soon as you spot it with your pruning shears. Cut back any dense leaf sections where needed to improve airflow around the base of the plants.
Watch For Pests & Diseases
Orange Stars are not majorly prone to pest and disease problems. However, if you do encounter one, dealing with it immediately is the only way to extend the life of your plants.
Look out for common garden pests like thrips that enjoy feeding on the juicy foliage. Remove with insecticidal soap or neem oil, applying regularly until the problem is solved.
The most common disease in these plants is root rot, as mentioned above. Stop cold, wet soil from hanging around the roots to prevent any later issues. In high humidity environments, powdery mildew is also a potential concern. This fungus can be washed off the plant and prevented with full sun, no overhead watering, and adequate airflow.
Orange Star Plants are wonderful, bright additions to any perennial garden or container. Ensuring they have the proper care, and maintenance is critical to their longevity. With the right care, they can live as long as their owners, flowering again year after year.