Ornithogalum candican

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Robert Pavlis

Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis

Ornithogalum candicans, is a tall, regal summer-flowering bulb that is little known in gardens. You might recognize it as Galtonia candicans. This plant was reclassified in 2004 when all of the Galtonia species were moved into the Ornithogalum genus, which I think is a shame since some of this genus, like star-of-Bethlehem, are garden thugs. O. candicans seeds very little and only at the base of the parent. It is no thug.

Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis
Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis

Other popular names include summer hyacinth, spire lily, and Berg lily. It looks like a giant summer snowdrop and works well in the middle of the perennial bed where it can stand well above the other plants. It starts growing late in spring and you might be tempted to plant other things on top of it, but make sure you give it enough space to grow. It’s a large plant for a bulb.

Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis
Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis

The summer hyacinth is reportedly only hardy to zone 7, but I have been growing it in zone 5 for at least 6 years and it is quite hardy here. The bulbs have slowly multiplied to the point where I now have two clumps.

It is reported that each bulb will produce a second flowering stems from each bulb. To be honest, I have not noticed this, but I have not looked either. It does flower for several weeks.

Soil Science for Gardeners book by Robert Pavlis
Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis
Ornithogalum candicans Photo by Robert Pavlis

Ornithogalum candicans

(or-ni-THOG-al-um  KAN-dee-kans)

Life Cycle: perennial bulb

Height: 120cm (4 ft)

Bloom Time: mid to late summer

Natural Range: South Africa (altitude 1350-2150 m)

Habitat: open damp grasslands

Synonyms: Galtonia candicans, Hyacinthus candicans

Cultivation of Ornithogalum candicans:

Light: sun to light shade

Soil: well drained

Water: average to moist

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Propagation: seed, bulb offsets

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

1 thought on “Ornithogalum candican”

  1. Dear Mr Pavlis

    I wonder if you can help me?

    I am looking for a Galtonia Moonbeam.
    It has a much more upright nature than the “snowbell” shapes of the summer hyacinths (princiceps, viridiflora) that fall down in nature.

    I was told that this one came from New Zealand (not South Africa like the snowbell-type ones).

    I have located a business where it is usually sold but not currently available.

    You can see it is quite different from the other variety. Here is the photo and associated info:

    https://www.tesselaar.net.au/product/7133-galtonia-moonbeam

    Do you know anything more about it?
    It is quite frustrating as the two varieties do look very different.

    Many thanks

    Yours faithfully

    Reply

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