Friday, February 22, 2008

Pregnant Onion

Ornithogalum longibracteatum


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.

13 comments:

GardenJoy4Me said...

Hi Aiyana .. I have never heard of this plant before, what an unusualname too !
There is so much to learn about the plants in your zone and what you have going on in your garden world.
It amazes me and I'm so glad you have a blog like this !
Joy

nikkipolani said...

Novel is right! It looks like something from Dr. Seuss :-)

Teri C said...

What an interesting plant! leave it to find it.

BTW, I am in Tucson so we did have clear skies for a little while with the eclipse.

Jon said...

Neat and lovely blog you have created! I enjoyed visiting and your post on the "Pregnant Onion" was very interesting. I like novelty plants too and often find myself picking some up at the local garden center. Glad you visited my blog...come back again. Best regards, Jon in Vicksburg, MS at http://mississippigarden.blogspot.com on 2-22-08

Julie said...

This is a very cool plant! Now, youv'e gone and done it again...I feel myself NEEDING one of these!!! LOL...yours is so cute, and odd. I know just the place for one in my house!!! Thanks!!!

kate said...

That's what I love about coming here - I have learned much about all kinds of unusual plants. This is one of them - the name is great. It'll be interesting to see if your pregnant onion will live up to its name and have some babies this summer.

Anonymous said...

I have so many of these that I am now giving them away. I hope they are not posisonous,my cat nibbles on the new tops. I will have to put a stop to that. I have mine(the first one) since 1970. I don't know which one is the orginial. But they just keep reproducing and have very pretty flowers.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at sites to get more information about the plant I have. I need to let you know had one of these plants , I got it almost 30 years ago. I have given away hundreds of the babies, I have taken one pot yesterday infact, and divided it into 7 pots. I am rather cruel and neglectful to it and it seems to thrive. I have only had mine flowerabout 3-4 times in the last 10 years. I must clarify , I do not have the original bulb, just about a zillion of the originals decendant. It is a different kind of plant that is for sure.

Aiyana said...

anonymous,
Where do you live? I am amazed that you have had one of these plants so long. You must live in an ideal climate for the plant. Most people can't keep these alive as I believe they overwater. Your neglect probably is the best thing for it!
Aiyana

Anonymous said...

I live in Fort Worth Texas, I take them outside after the last chance of a freeze and they stay outside until the first risk of a freeze. I water them pretty much once a week when they are inside, (if I remember). I water them when I water most of my other potted plants when they are outside(that could be as often as daily , depending on the temp.) Like I said, I dont have the original one but I have a zillen of the babbies. They are in the back yard, facing west with very little protection from the sun. Like I said I just repotted them and I imagine they are going to go crazy now they are not totally root bound.

Aiyana said...

Thanks for the info. I think one of the reasons that Pregnant Onions struggle in this climate is the intense sun and lack of humidity. They seem need more humidity to thrive. You ought to sell the offsets on Ebay!
Aiyana

Anonymous said...

i have one of these for 21 years now an before that my mom had it for 20 years an before that her mom had it...an it wont die its hard to get rid of. i live in california.

Anonymous said...

I had my pregnant onion for about 8 years. I could never get one of the babies to grow for long. Then while moving, someone left my onion outside and we had a frost. By the time I located her she was gone. However, she had babies. I tried one last time to grow the babies, and now I have 6 pregnant onions that are doing great! One is much larger than the rest. I have them in separate pots. =)
Amy in Fortuna, Ca