As a symbol of the high mountains, the edelweiss has a number of admirers. They appreciate its delicate beauty and the myths that have been woven around them. Many garden fans would like to cultivate the little flower in their own garden. This is quite possible, provided that the right know-how is used for care.
Profile of edelweiss:
Scientific name: Leontopodium nivale
Plant family: daisy or aster family (Asteraceae)
Other names: Alpine edelweiss
Sowing time: spring
Planting time: autumn or spring
Flowering period: June to September
Soil quality: stony sandy, low in nutrients, low in humus
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower meadows, embankments, group planting, planters, dry stone walls, rock garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of edelweiss
Plant order, origin and occurrence of edelweiss
The Alpine edelweiss (Leontopodium nivale, formerly Leontopodium alpinum) is the only representative in Central Europe of the approximately 40 known edelweiss species, which are common in the mountains of Europe and Asia. It can be found in the Alps, the Carpathians and in the Jura, where it settled as an immigrant from Asia after the last ice age. The Alpine edelweiss belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and has a long tradition in Germany, Austria and Switzerland as a symbol flower for alpine culture, for example in the logo of the German Alpine Association and the mountain rescue service.
Characteristics of edelweiss
Edelweiss grows as a cluster, compact, persistent herbaceous perennial that remains relatively plain on the ground. It grows about 20 centimeters (8 in) in height and width and carries flowers of up to eight centimeters (3.2 in) on upright stems. Occasionally gigantic edelweiss flowers appear with a size of up to twelve centimeters (4.8 in), which are popularly referred to as “edelweiss kings”.
The Alpine Edelweiss has simple lanceolate leaves that sprout from a basic leaf rosette. Similar to the flower, the leaves are also equipped with short white hair, which gives them a felted look, hence the Latin name (Leontopodium means “lion’s foot”). This fluffy hair protects the plant from the cold and strong UV radiation in the mountains.
The fluffy, bright white flowers of the edelweiss are legendary. The inconspicuous tubular flowers on the inside are surrounded by a hairy star of pointed white, irregularly long bracts in variable numbers. The peculiarity of the edelweiss flower is its silvery shine. This arises from the reflection of thousands of tiny air bubbles in the woolly hairs on the bracts. The silvery-white shimmer attracts nectar-seeking pollinators such as flies and beetles. The actual flowering period is June to September, but the edelweiss flowers are extremely durable, which also earned it the nickname “Eternal Flower”.
Edelweiss – cultivation and care
In nature, edelweiss normally grows up to 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) high on steppe-like, rugged alpine meadows. Due to the great pressure of eager wildflower pickers and souvenir hunters, the small plant was pushed more and more into the cliffs and remote crevices, which is why the edelweiss is often mistaken for a cliff plant. Leontopodium nivale prefers siliceous limestone as a subsoil and a very sunny location facing south. In the garden, the hardy edelweiss is suitable for planting in the rock garden in full sun.
The stony soil should be as fresh, warm and poor in nutrients as possible. If the soil is very loamy, it must be loosened up with sand before planting. Edelweiss is also suitable for planting on a south-facing terrace. In this case, poor cactus soil is suitable as a substrate.
At the right location, edelweiss is extremely easy to care for and frugal. Plant the edelweiss seedlings in autumn or spring at a distance of 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in). Water slightly after planting.
Edelweiss can also be cultivated in a container, but this planter must also be outdoors. An edelweiss is not designed to be kept as a houseplant.
There are a few criteria to consider
- Place a drainage of gravel or expanded clay in the bottom of the planter to avoid waterlogging
- Use commercially available potting soil mixed with expanded clay and sand as a substrate
- Keep a distance of 10 cm (4 in) between the individual plants in planters
- Fertilize with some rock flour
- Water regularly but moderately
- Choose full sun location
- Cut off withered inflorescences regularly
- Remove the dead leaves in spring
In addition to self-sowing in autumn, edelweiss is mainly propagated by division. Prick a part of the plant after two years of being cut in autumn and put it back in a new place that is as similar as possible to the old one. It is also possible to grow edelweiss from seeds yourself. To do this, sow the Edelweiss seeds in cultivation trays in March. Do not cover and do not pour on! The sprouts should be pricked off at a distance of about 20 centimeters so that they can continue to grow vigorously. From May the young plants can be placed in the garden.
Propagation by division
An edelweiss that has already spent a few years in the bed will usually have a bushy, polster-like shape. These perennials are predestined to be multiplied by division:
- Dig up the edelweiss in spring or autumn
- Cut the root ball into two parts with a sharp knife, whereby each part must have at least two shoots
- Re-plant the plants immediately
- Plant as deep as the mother tree was in the ground before
Propagation by sowing
Alternatively, the small mountain plant can also be propagated by sowing. This happens in spring. Corresponding seeds can be purchased in specialist shops or obtained from the withered blooms of existing perennials:
- Fill the seed tray with a peat-sand mixture
- Mix seeds with bird sand
- Sprinkle the seed mixture on the substrate
- Do not cover with earth, as it needs light to germ
- Water lightly
- Place the seed tray in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator
The vessel remains there for four weeks. Then it is placed in a partially shaded place, where temperatures are around 20 ° C / 68 ° F. It now takes about four weeks before the seeds start to germinate. The planter is now set up at a maximum temperature of 15 ° C / 59 ° F. After another month, the young plants are large enough to be pricked out.
Optimally, they should spend a few weeks in single pots before being planted outdoors. The very young and tender shoots are a real delicacy for snails.
The edelweiss is used to handle with a little water. As a result, it does not need to be watered. The only exceptions are plants in buckets and in longer heat periods. But even then it is imperative to ensure that no waterlogging can occur. Basically, watering should take place either in the early morning or in the evening.
It is not necessary to fertilize edelweiss outdoors. A single low dose of lime in the spring ensures strong growth. In pots, the plants are happy about some rock flour.
No pruning is necessary over the year for edelweiss. If you want to prevent self-seeding, you should remove the flower heads in autumn before the seeds form. To do this, the whole plant is cut about a hand’s breadth above the ground. This does not lead to a second bloom, but the plant grows back compactly and vigorously after the cut.
Diseases and pests
The Alpine edelweiss is extremely robust and has no significant natural enemies. If there is waterlogging, however, there is a risk of root rot, then the plant must be re-planted. Only snails, who prefer to eat the delicate shoots of the plant, pose a great danger. A good protection here is to scatter sawdust around the edelweiss. Alternatively, collect snails regularly, set up snail traps, scatter slug pellet and plant plants around the edelweiss, to which snails are sensitive.
Edelweiss is completely hardy and does not require any special winter protection – at least not from frost. Winterly waterlogging can harm the small plant. To avoid this, the plant should be covered with fir twigs before the onset of winter. Plants that are cultivated in tubs should be placed in a bright room. Temperatures around 5 ° C / 41 ° F should prevail in this winter quarters.
If this is not possible, the entire planter can alternatively be made winterproof:
- Wrap with frost protective foil or fleece
- Place on a block of wood
- Cover the plant substrate with brushwood
- Place in a protected place, for example in front of a house wall
Use in the garden
Even if the rapidly shrinking natural stocks are slowly recovering, the Alpine edelweiss in the mountains is still under strict nature protection and must not be picked or dug up. All the better when you can admire the flower as a cultivated plant in your own garden. The edelweiss is most radiant in small groups of three to five plants, this is how they grow together to form dense polster, together with saxifrage, gentian and earleaf bellflower. Small-sized sedum species also frame and highlight the white flower stars. Avoid tall growing plants as bed partners because they shade and press the edelweiss. If you don’t have a rock garden, you can also cultivate the edelweiss as a potted plant. The white star flowers even do well cut off until the winter, making them a special addition to dry bouquets. It is best to cut the flowers at lunchtime, because there they are in all their glory.
The commercially available edelweiss varieties bear the names of the mountains, such as ‘Matterhorn’ (dense flower on a long stem), ‘Wendelstein’ (gray-green and heavily branched) or ‘Mont Blanc’ (compact growth with individual flowers). In addition to the classic Alpine edelweiss, which is mostly sold as Leontopodium alpinum, there is also a good polster-forming Chinese dwarf edelweiss (Leontopodium souliei), which only grows about five centimeters (2 in) high, but shines with dozens of small flowers. The climate in the garden is problematic for the edelweiss because it naturally grows at altitudes above 1,800 meters (5,00 ft). In plain areas and in too dark locations, it tends to turn green. So ask for varieties that bloom at lower altitudes.