Ophiopogon or lily of the valley is an oriental herb that blooms with small but touchingly delicate spike-shaped inflorescences of white, pink-lilac and purple colors. Growing, it forms dense “unkempt” clumps of thin long leaves, the color of which varies from light olive to almost black. Planting and caring for ophiopogon have similar requirements with cereals, but with some nuances regarding the growing conditions. Evergreen varieties of ophiopogon can also be grown at home, which is justified by their out-of-season decorativeness at all stages of their vegetative development.
General description with photo
The ophiopogon plant, often called lily of the valley or Japanese lily of the valley, is an ornamental deciduous perennial of the Liliaceae family. Its natural habitat is spread over the countries of South and Southeast Asia, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Japanese islands. It mainly lives in dense shady subtropical forests.
The root system forms a thickened short rhizome with a superficial bedding, which is intertwined with numerous fibrous processes with roots – characteristic tuberous outgrowths of small size. The lily-type plant leaves, very narrow, smooth and long, like a sedge, usually of uniform width along the entire length, rounded or pointed at the ends, collected in a dense basal rosette. Their color can be monotonous and variegated, from the lightest and muted green tones to gray-violet and violet-black.
In July, the ophiopogon blooms, releasing burgundy flower stalks with bell-shaped inflorescences resembling an ordinary lily of the valley, for which it received its unofficial names. The buds, sitting on short, thin pedicels, can be painted not only in white, but also in other delicate pastel colors. Flowering lasts until the autumn cold, but even after that, the lily of the valley retains its decorative effect, replacing flowers with dark blue or black fruits-berries of a round shape. Inside their pulp, the same round yellowish seeds ripen.
Lamb seeds have a short germination period and germinate for a very long time.
Types of ophiopogon with photo
The genus includes two dozen varieties, of which only three are used for cultivation. But on their basis, through the efforts of breeders, many decorative varieties have been bred.
The height of the formed curtain, depending on the variety, ranges from 30 cm to 75-80 cm. The leaf plates are leathery, lily-shaped, with a blunt tip. The outer side of the leaf is colored in a dark green saturated tone, the lower part of them is slightly lighter, with a pronounced relief veining. With a width of 1 cm, the length of the leaves can be up to 80 cm. Peduncles of an erect type, approximately level with the curtain. Inflorescence up to 15 cm, white or light purple in different varieties. The buds of this species exude a soft, pleasant aroma. The best decorative varieties of this variety of ophiopogon are:
- “Variegata” – as the name implies, is a variegated variety with contrasting white and green stripes.
- Aureivariegatum is another decorative leafy variety with a golden leaf edge.
- “Nanus” is a compact varietal variety, characterized by winter hardiness not lower than -15C. In the climatic conditions of central Russia, it requires high-quality winter shelter.
- “White Dragon” is a very light-leaved variety with an almost white color of the leaf plates. Only along the central vein is a very narrow green stripe.
Forms a very dense rosette with leaves of the same shape and length. Their length ranges from 15-35 cm in different varieties, in the basic version it has a dark green color. Leaf plates of medium hardness, gently curved in length and in relation to the central vein. Peduncles are dark, short, inflorescence is also shortened, drooping type, about 5-7 cm. Buds are small, lilac-red tones, growing together into a tube.
The best varieties of Japanese ophiopogon with a photo:
- Compactus is a short variety with particularly narrow leaves.
- “Kyoto Dwarf” is a dwarf variety that rises no higher than 10 cm from the ground.
- “Silver Dragon” is a variegated varietal variety with a white stripe along the edge.
Herbaceous perennial with slightly longer leaves than other species. The main decorative value of this variety is the very dark color of the belt-like foliage, visually it seems almost black. Peduncles bear racemose inflorescences of drooping type with relatively large bell-flowers of snow-white or pink color. The berries are traditionally blue-black in color, ripen in large quantities. The most spectacular variety is called “Nigrescens”, its crown is bluish purple, almost black. The buds are painted in a white-cream tone; after flowering, absolutely black berries ripen on low peduncles.
The variety “Nigrescens” is distinguished by its high resistance to cold. The winter hardiness of this ophiopogon allows it to withstand temperature drops down to -25 … -28C.
It is not a separate botanical variety, but due to botanical characteristics adjusted by breeders, it is more suitable for growing at home.
Reproduction of ophiopogon
You can get new plant seedlings using seeds or vegetatively.
Ophiopogon should be planted only with freshly harvested seeds. To collect planting material, it is necessary to wait until the berries are fully ripe, when they take on a rich color and their pulp becomes soft and ripe. The berries are crushed and washed under water to remove this pulp. After that, they should be soaked in water and replaced regularly over several days. After that, the seeds are laid out on the surface of a sandy-peat substrate, sprinkled with a small amount of the same soil or sand, moistened and covered with a film. But they should not be kept in the sun or in the warmest place, but in a cool place at a temperature of + 10 … + 15C. The process of seed germination will be long, sometimes you have to wait for seedlings up to 5 months. After the sprouts have risen 10 cm, they can be transplanted to a permanent place.
The recommended planting scheme for medium-sized varieties of ophiopogon is 15-20 cm.
Since the plant actively forms lateral root shoots, it is much easier to propagate it vegetatively than by seeds. It takes several months to form an independent bush, which can be transplanted from the mother bush. By the end of summer, it is usually already possible to select ready-made seedlings, which are cut off from the mother plant and planted in a permanent place.
Another vegetative breeding method of ophiopogon is dividing the bush. This is done either in the spring or at the very beginning of summer. Having dug out a bush with as large a lump of earth as possible, its roots are washed from the ground and carefully cut along the central rhizome into several divisions. Each of them, in addition to part of the uterine rhizome, must contain at least 3 leaf rosettes. Parts of a divided bush take root better in light, loose soil, they are planted immediately in a permanent place. It usually takes several weeks to adapt.
During the rooting period, the cuttings require regular, but extremely careful, moderate watering, since the cut root is very easy to rot in conditions of excessive moisture, and may not take root in dry soil.
Ophiopogon care, growing conditions
The culture is unpretentious in care, specific conditions for its cultivation are not required. The crown of the Japanese lily of the valley calmly perceives both the open sun and partial shade. As for the indoor varieties, for them there is also no big difference between the orientation of the windows on the windowsill of which they will stand. It may even be a north window, but it is still not recommended to put the pot in the back of the room, where lighting is very poor. Or it will be necessary to provide additional illumination.
With regard to the temperature content, the plant also does not require, but it will feel more comfortable in the cool than in a stuffy room or in a garden in the heat. In summer, it is better to take indoor specimens out into fresh air, where they can grow quietly until September or even October. The ophiopogon is not afraid of drafts or nighttime possible cold snaps, therefore, you can not worry about the seedlings of winter-hardy varieties, planted before the return frosts.
Watering the lily of the valley is necessary often and abundantly. The soil under it should be permanently moist, but without stagnant water – small root shoots easily rot under conditions of excessive moisture. When it gets colder outside, watering should be reduced accordingly. The room requires additional measures to maintain high humidity. Very harmonious for visual perception and useful for the plant will be its placement next to the home aquarium.
The maximum drying out of the soil in the summer for ophiopogon is 1-2 cm.
Domestic specimens need replanting every 2-3 years. A street planting of ophiopogon can also grow a little longer in one place. To maintain its decorative effect, the bushes need to be periodically divided and planted. In this case, the roots should be handled very carefully, they are quite sensitive to damage.
Regardless of where the Japanese lily of the valley grows, indoors or outdoors, it should be fed only in the spring and summer. The plant does not have a pronounced dormant period and retains its foliage all year round, however, it also needs rest and recuperation for flowering next year. Fertilization will give an impetus to new growth and take away strength. For feeding ophiopogon, you can use both organic matter and universal mineral complexes (or compositions for decorative deciduous crops), alternating their introduction with a frequency of 1-2 times a month.
Pests and diseases
The culture has high immunity to insect pests and diseases. Usually, errors in planting and caring for the ophiopogon are the cause of the problems.
The plant has fungicidal properties. When grown indoors, it helps cleanse the air from pathogens, inhibiting their reproduction and spread.