Edelweiss Can Be Grown in Wisconsin

February 5, 2017 lawanda Magazine Columns

Edelweiss, Edelweiss

Every morning you greet me.

Small and white

Clean and bright

You look happy to meet me.

Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow

Bloom and grow forever.

Edelweiss, Edelweiss

Bless my homeland forever.

 

Many of us are familiar with the song “Edelweiss” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1965 musical “Sound of Music.”  The musical is based in Austria where the small white flower is protected and illegal to pick.

When my husband and I moved to our former home 26 years ago, the only plant the previous owners asked to take with them from the beautifully landscaped yard was an edelweiss they had brought back from Austria.  They were kind enough to divide it so I had an edelweiss plant too.  I kept it alive several years and saved dried edelweiss flowers in a vase for over 20 years.

Edelweiss is a small plant with sweet little white flowers and fuzzy, silvery leaves.  The flowers, set flat against the leaves, look like pretty snowflakes blooming from late spring through early fall.  One plant may spread to 8”x8” and grow 4”-16” tall.  Originating high in the European Alps, edelweiss does best in loose, gritty soil and is a star in the rock garden or as a ground cover.

Edelweiss is a short-lived, slow-growing perennial that likes full sun to part shade.  Most important for the success of growing edelweiss is the soil, which must be well-drained and slightly alkaline.  Mix compost and peat moss into the top six inches of soil before planting.  A sprinkling of lime at the time of planting is helpful.  Once established, edelweiss needs no supplemental watering.  Be certain not to plant it in a spot that will be under water when snow melts in spring.  If you cannot be confident of reliable snow cover all winter, cover the plants with a thick mulch in late fall and remove it in early spring.

Both edelweiss plants and seeds can be obtained by mail-order.  After hardening off to become accustomed to non-greenhouse weather, plants can be placed in the ground outdoors after the last spring frost.

Seeds need to be stratified by storing them in a freezer for three months to mimic winter conditions before planting in spring.  Seeds can be started indoors in March or April.  Sow them on the surface of the soil and keep them moist by misting daily.  Move them to a sunny window when they germinate.

Outdoors, seeds can be planted as soon as the soil is bare.  Scatter them on top of the soil and use the mist setting on your hose nozzle to keep them moist and avoid washing them away.

Expect bloom the second summer after planting if you grow edelweiss from seed.

Since edelweiss is short-lived, divide it every few years to prolong its life.  In cool summers, it may produce seeds which will germinate and provide young plants to take over when the old ones die out.

FlowersPerennials


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