Shooting star – planting, care and tips

Shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia)
Shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia)

The shooting star feels at home where light shade and damp soil interact. The graceful elegance of its extraordinary flowers can be admired in late spring, both under trees and in the rock garden. Here are tips for planting and care.

Profile of shooting star:

Scientific name: Dodecatheon meadia, syn. Primula meadia

Plant family: primrose family (Primulaceae)

Other names: eastern shooting star

Sowing time: Autumn or February

Planting time: Spring

Flowering period: May to June

Location: no direct sun to partial shade

Soil quality: loamy, humus rich, calcipholous

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower, beds planters, underplanting, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden, rock garden, potted garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-31 °C / -25 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of shooting star

Plant order, origin and occurrence of shooting star

The shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) is native to the Northeast, the Southeast and the southern Prairie States of the United States. It belongs to the primrose family (Primulaceae). It grows in nature in forests as well as in prairies and is most often found in calcareous areas.

Characteristics of shooting star


The perennial grows upright and forms clumps over the years. It reaches a height between 10 and 30 centimeters (4 and 12 in). In summer, after flowering, the shooting star completely fade away, shooting again next spring.


The green 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 in) large leaves of the shooting star are lanceolate in shape and have a smooth edge. They sprout close to the ground like rosettes and loosely arranged.


The shooting star has it name because of its charming flowers that bloom on long stems from May to June. The elegantly bent back white, pink, pink or crimson petals and long protruding stamens are reminiscent of the blossoms of cyclamen. The flowers stand in umbels nodding in the wind over leaves arranged in rosettes.

Shooting star – cultivation and care


The shooting star likes it best in a sheltered place in partial shade, where it can enjoy the sun in the morning and in the evening. The shooting star does not like direct, blazing sun.

It feels very comfortable under hardwoods, which sprout very late. But also feels comfortable in natural gardens, rock gardens, forest gardens and on the banks of ponds.

The ideal neighbors of the shooting star should be plants that do not tower above and thus hide their beauty. They should also need little water, like the shooting star. Too much moisture damages the plant and promotes root rot.


Shooting star like a slightly acidic soil. It also has to be humus rich and permeable. It is important that it does not dry out too much, especially in a very sunny location.

  • Soil rich in nutrients, humic, well drained.
  • Slightly acidic
  • Slightly damp, not too dry
  • Fertile humus soil is crucial for healthy growth
  • Heavy soils that tend to waterlogging have be loosened with sand, gravel and compost
  • Calcareous soil should be added some peat

Planting shooting star

There is not much to consider when planting the shooting star. One of the most important things is to memorize the place. For most of the year, the plant cannot be seen, so it’s easy to forget where it is and injure it when you are gardening. Individually, the delicate perennial does not appeal as if it were planted in small groups. Then it really comes into its own.

  • Planting distance 25 cm (10 in)
  • Before planting, immerse the plant ball in water so that it can soak up completely
  • Select plant partners according to the plants needs. Since the shooting star does not need any water in summer, there must be plants all around that can also get by with little water.
  • 12 plants per square meter (10 sq ft.)


Watering is especially important before and during flowering. As soon as the plant has withered, water is no longer necessary, it can even be harmful. Persistent wetness causes the roots to rot, weakens the plant and makes it more susceptible to diseases and pests.

  • Do not let the plant dry out during the growth and flowering period, but also do not keep it permanently wet
  • The surface should first dry out before watering is started again
  • When the plant has withered, it is mulched with compost, but not earlier
  • Stop watering
  • No further fertilizer required
  • Otherwise, fertilize once before flowering, e.g. with horn shavings


The plant must only be fertilized in spring before the flowering period. Organic and mineral fertilizers, like horn shavings or compost are beneficial.


The shooting star doesn’t really need a prune. Only faded flower stems are cut off, simply to prevent self-sowing and to ensure that the plant does not overspend during seed formation. The formation of seeds is at the expense of growth. Many stored nutrients are used up, which are then missing elsewhere.

  • Only remove dead flower stalks.
  • If you like, you can trim the plant a little after flowering


There are different varieties of the small perennials, but there are hardly any differences when it comes to care. In the right location and with a good supply of nutrients, the shooting star is an easy-care highlight in your garden.


You have three methods to choose from to propagate your plant:

By Sowing

The best time to sow is in autumn or February. If you would like to sow in February, then choose a frost-free day and place the seeds in the ground directly where the plant will grow later.

You can also first germinate the seeds in a container:

  • Cover the container with the seeds with foil. This ensures a high level of humidity.
  • Every now and then ventilate or poke small holes in the foil.
  • As a cold germ, the seeds need a long time, often months, before the seedlings become visible.
  • Provide plenty of light, but avoid direct, blazing sun.
  • Once the first leaflets have formed, the plants should be pricked out.
  • The plants can then be planted out in summer.

Note: The seeds need a cooling phase before they germinate. Put the seeds in a bag with damp sand. At about 5 °C / 41 °F you simulate the cooling phase. The refrigerator would be a suitable place. After 6 weeks you can sow as described above.

By division

A simple and problem-free way to propagate the population of this plant. It is divided after flowering. The perennial is dug up and carefully divided into the desired number of plants or pulled apart. Then the plants are dig in again in the selected places.

By root cuttings

In early spring pieces of about 5 cm (2 in) are cut off from the rhizome. Then cover the cut surface with charcoal powder and simply let it dry. Dig in the piece in a container with a peat-sand mixture, water it and stretch a foil over the vessel. Pay attention to the direction of the shoot. If the first roots form, you can start repotting. When the plant is hardened and strong enough, it can be planted outdoors. Usually the shooting star is propagated by division.

Diseases and pests

Is the shooting star exposed to excessive moisture, e.g. if it is too much watered, it can develop root rot. Root rot, in turn, attracts root lice. These then tend to nestle in the root area. If your plant is sick, the root rot must first be treated. Only then it makes sense to rid the plant of the lice.

If the plants are attacked by roundworms, they unfortunately have to be disposed of immediately with the surrounding soil, there is no rescue for them. The roundworms prevent the roots of the perennial from absorbing the nutrients and moisture they need. The plant starves and dies of thirst.

Like many other plants, snails can also be dangerous to the shooting star. A snail ring can prevent snails from attacking and destroying the plants.


In normal winters, the shooting star is hardy. Still, it makes sense to protect them a little. It is enough to put a few pine or fir branches over the planting site. This protects against prolonged frost without a blanket of snow, but also against too much moisture, which the plant does not tolerate well.

Use in the garden

Since the shooting star retreats into the ground in summer, it is ideal for underplanting light trees. There it fascinates in early summer as a large group or in small tuffs. Barrenworts (Epimedium) and lilyturf (Liriope muscari), but also small sedges (Carex) and ferns are beautiful partners. It also looks great in pots or in rock gardens.

The catch: it doesn’t tolerate the midday sun and wind very well.

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