Is there a way to eradicate invasive Star of Bethlehem?

Asked April 13, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT

One of my flower beds has been overrun with invasive Star of Bethlehem. They are beginning to spread to the yard. Is there a way to eradicate this weed?

Chesterfield County Virginia

2 Responses

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is an invasive weed in our area that is difficult to control. Two products are recommended in Virginia Tech's Pest Management Guide and April is the best time to apply them when the weeds are young and fairly tender. Dicamba or a mixture of Dicamba and 2, 4-D are the best herbicides to try. They often do not give complete eradication and repeated treatments may be necessary. Any good full service garden center (not big box hardware store) should be able to direct you to a product that contains these chemicals. Please read and follow the label directions carefully for your own safety and to avoid damaging nearby vegetation when applying them.

Our extension agent is not in the office today but he may have other suggestions for you on the best way to eliminate this weed. I will contact him tomorrow morning and will let you know his response.

This publication gives some additional information on Star of Bethlehem. It was originally considered a beautiful and desirable plant for gardens until its invasive nature was discovered. The flowers and bulbs are considered poisonous.

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To follow up on Star of Bethlehem invading your flower border and yard, I spoke with our Extension specialist and this is his reply:
"Dismiss (sulfentrazone) has been shown by the U of TN to be effective. Star of Bethlehem is on the label, too. HOWEVER…6 ounces is about $70. Pricey but effective. Roundup has been used for some effect if the waxy surface is roughened first. Multiple applications are still required."

If you use Roundup (glyphosate) be aware that it kills pretty much all plants that get spray on their leaves. One solution for spot spraying is to cut the bottom out of a quart milk jug or similar container and place it over the intended target plant, then spray into the open top of the jug so less gets on surrounding plants. Another way is to apply it directly with a sponge or rag, small paint sponges work well. I've had success roughing up the waxy surface on plants by just stepping on them and rubbing them lightly with my shoe before spraying.

Because Star of Bethlehem comes up from the bulbs and many of them are very small in an infestation, you may have to repeat any of these treatments several times to get complete eradication. Keep a watch on the area over this summer so you can treat any new growth quickly and again next spring. Hopefully that will eliminate your problem. Read and follow label directions on any product you decide to use.

Again, use the reply feature within this email or call the Extension office at 804-751-4401 for further help on this issue. Thanks for using Ask an Expert!