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Edelweiss Flower Care

Leontopodium nivale, one of 40 known species of edelweiss, is a plant species belonging to the sunflower or daisy Asteraceae family. The natural habitat of these plants is elevated altitudes of 5,900–9,800 feet, growing in rocky limestone alpine meadows. 

The flowers are legendary and popular in countries where the plants grow that wild populations almost became extinct, forced into growing on cliffs and remote areas. Even though natural stocks are recovering slowly, these are still protected under strict laws and cannot be picked.

It has been a part of the cultures and traditions of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria for ages, with the flower used in the logo of the German mountain rescue service and their Alpine Association and becoming a national symbol for many countries in Europe.

This hardy, herbaceous and perennial plants grow in clusters and reach about 8 – 12 inches tall with wooly lance-shaped leaves that grow in rosettes. It flowers from June – to September, producing white star-shaped flowers covered with fluffy, felt-like hair like the foliage. This fluff helps protect the plants from cold, dryness, and UV radiation. The flowers are a combination of white bracts that surround the actual inconspicuous yellow tubular flowers. 

Part of its popularity is a silvery glow of the thousands of minute air bubbles in the wooly hair of the bracts that reflect light. According to tradition, giving a loved one this flower is a symbol of dedication. This shimmer attracts pollinators like flies and beetles seeking nectar. The flowers are exceptionally durable, which also gave it the nickname of “Eternal Flower”. Sometimes gigantic flowers appear, up to 4.8 inches in size, which are popularly called “edelweiss kings”. 

These plants like growing in snow and need some care when growing in areas that don’t get snow in temperate areas. In this case, the plants should be mulched in winter to simulate snowy conditions and removed when spring begins. If you live in snowy areas, leave the plants alone in the winter, but protect them from heavy snowfall or rainfall. 

These plants are suitable to be grown in meadows, embankments, and home and rock gardens. They can also be cultivated in containers, but only outdoors, as this plant cannot be kept indoors as a houseplant. The plants are best displayed when planted in small groups of 3 – 5 plants. Avoid growing tall plants near these plants as they need sunlight. The flowers look good in bouquets including dry bouquets. 

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Sunlight

They prefer full sun and also partial shade if growing in slightly warmer areas. They need some shade in summer.

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Water

They are generally used to dealing with very little water and don’t need watering when growing outdoors in the soil. The only instances when they need watering are when they are growing in containers or during long periods of heat, but they mustn’t get water-logged. 

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Humidity

These plants generally cannot tolerate moderate or high humidity.

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Temperature

These plants prefer growing in temperatures between -20 – 50°F in zones 4 to 7. Warmer temperatures will make the plants susceptible to diseases.

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Soil

They prefer sandy/stony soil with good drainage capacity with pH 6.5 – 7.5. Soil for cacti is suitable.

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Repotting

These plants generally don’t need frequent repotting since they are slow-growing, they can outgrow their containers after some time, generally every two years they can be repotted in a larger pot. Dividing the plants for propagation can also be done at this time.

In this case, you can reuse the previous container since the plants will be reduced in size. Choose another well-draining container and partially fill it with gravel. Place the newly divided plants inside and top off the soil with a sandy or cacti soil mix. Water moderately.

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Propagation

These plants are usually grown from seed or by division, with the division being less complicated than growing them from seed.

Propagation from seed

Seeds can be bought from specialist shops or collected from withered flowers of existing plants. Start the seeds indoors, then start the process about two months before winter is predicted to end. Fill a seed tray with a sandy-peat soil mix and mix the seeds with some bird sand (easily sourced from pet stores).

Sprinkle this mix on the top without covering, as light is essential for germination. Lightly mist the soil, keep the seed tray inside your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment for four weeks. Then remove the tray and place it under partial shade, with temperatures around 68°F. Seeds will now take about 4 weeks to germinate. The temperature should be reduced to a maximum of 59°F. When the seedlings are a month old, they can be transplanted into small pots. 

Ideally, the plants should spend a few more weeks indoors before being moved outdoors as snails love their young and tender foliage. Once it’s time to move them outdoors, usually before summer begins, gently take the seedlings out of their pots and plant them in your garden, about 4 inches apart. 

Propagation from division 

As mentioned above, the plants can be divided when you’re repotting or when the plants have become bushy, usually every two years this also will help them stay healthy. Dig up the plants or take them out of their container either in autumn or spring, cut apart the plant into two or more parts using a sharp blade/knife. Each separated part must have no less than two shoots. Re-plant them immediately in a spot filled with suitable well-draining soil.

Additional Care

These plants rarely need to be fertilized, a low dose of lime added in spring is good enough for healthy growth. Plants growing in pots will be happy with a handful of rock or glacial flour.

Pruning isn’t necessary for these plants. You can prevent self-seeding by deadheading flowers before seeds can form in autumn. The plant can also be pruned down about 6 inches above the soil. This will not produce a second bloom but helps the plant grow back vigorously afterward.

Common Problems

These plants are very robust and have no significant issues. Waterlogging creates a threat of root rot, the plant must then be removed and re-planted. Snails are the only pests that plague these plants, eating the delicate foliage and posing a great danger. Scattering sawdust around the plants will help deter them. Alternatively, regularly picking off snails by hand, setting up snail traps, and scattering slug pellets will prevent them from attacking the plants.

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