Occasionally I buy a novelty plant, assuming it will be around for a just a little while, as novelty plants seem to be short-lived. That has not been the case with this Ornithogalum longibracteatum, or Pregnant Onion, now two years old. I’ve since learned that these plants can last decades, so this one may be around a lot longer than I expected.
The Pregnant Onion originates from South Africa, where it can get quite large and grow leaves 10 feet long. The plant grows new bulbs along the sides of the original bulb, but my plant has never produced a baby. However, it has grown leaves close to three feet long. Some of the leaves are curly, and some straight. The leaves are fragile and break easily if they are tangled or brushed, so when the leaves get longer than 12 inches, I now just cut them about an inch from the bulb and new ones soon grow.
I’ve always kept my Pregnant Onion in the house, but I am going to put it outside next month to encourage it to produce little bulbs. This plant is hardy to 25ºF. It can take our summer heat, but needs afternoon shade, so it should be fine outside on the patio. I can always tell when it needs water because the bulb gets a wrinkly look and when given water, it plumps right back up.
I’ve read that some people use this plant for burns and abrasions in the same way as Aloe vera. That is hard to believe, as every part of the Pregnant Onion is poisonous, especially to pets. I’m very careful when handling it, as I don’t want to add severe dermatitis to all my cactus sticks and pricks.