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Portland Nursery

DODECATHEON: Shooting Star

Unusual, recurved petals in electric hues of pink to lavender make Dodecatheon look like the shooting stars of their common name. They are virtually pest and disease free – if sited properly, will gradually spread and colonize from self-seeding and are a cheery addition to the woodland or rock garden.

Dodecatheon emerges in the spring as a small, unassuming basal clump of oval, soft green leaves, followed by a slender flower stalk that rises a from a few inches to over a foot above the foliage.

What follows is spectacular: Arching clusters of vibrant color, purple/pink recurved petals flying out behind a bright yellow base and dark flower tube, looking not unlike a thrown dart or pointy badminton bird making its descent – and because all this is on a somewhat miniature scale (the petals are only ¼ - ¾” long) the effect isn’t cloying or overwhelming in the garden – an unusual and intriguing sight in the spring! 

The Shooting Stars most readily available to the home gardener emerge from early spring into mid-summer, flowering in the period late spring into early summer. They all appreciate ample moisture and good drainage in this period. Then, going dormant in the summer, it is important to reduce/withhold watering during this period. Over watering and poor drainage, especially in winter, is the most likely culprit if your Dodecatheon doesn’t reemerge in the spring.

One option, especially for the species that are commonly found east of the Cascades and/or at higher elevations (read, annually protected from winter wet by seasonal snow cover), is to put your Shooting Stars in a container that can be pulled under the eaves of the house or other protected area in the winter months.

Dodecatheon can be found throughout most of North America, and there are several species native to Oregon: D. alpinum, D. austrofrigidum, D. conjugens, D. dentatum (white flowering), D. hendersonii, D. jeffreyi, D. poeticum and D. pulchellum. Some are more obscure, and in a few cases endangered. D. hendersonii, poeticum and pulchellum are most commonly available in nurseries.

Dodecatheon hendersoniiD. hendersonii – Henderson’s Shooting Star – This is the Shooting Star frequently found in the cool, moist, shady areas of the Willamette Valley and into the lower elevations of the Cascade Range. In leaf March to July, it flowers generally April to June on slender stalks rising 12-18” above the basal leaf cluster, with 4-5 of the distinctive and bright flower nodding above. Brings a splash of color to the cool, mossy greens of the woodland garden. Summer dormant.
Dodecatheon poeticumD. poeticum – Poet’s Shooting Star – This species of Dodecatheon is found almost in every county in Oregon, and generally widespread throughout the region. This is the Shooting Star of more open, sunny areas and drier woodlands.  In the wild it is often found along seepages and other areas that give abundant springtime moisture followed by necessary dry conditions in summer, when the D. poeticum is dormant. The flowers (generally 5) cluster at the top of the slender flowering stem, but this one is shorter, rising only 2-10” above the leaves.
Dodecatheon pulchellumD. pulchellum – Few-Flowered Shooting Star – This may be the Shooting Star best suited for the rock garden or container garden; though it grows in a variety of conditions, it is the one found in sub-alpine meadows – suggesting the need for better than average drainage to help protect it from our soggy winters. As the common name describes, the small flowers that gracefully float 12-18” above the foliage generally number only three per flowering stalk.
Dodecatheon pulchellum

Dodecatheon pulchellum
'Shooting Star'

FACTS: DODECATHEON

Family: Primulaceae

Genus:  Dodecatheon

Common name: Shooting Star

Native Range: In our region, widespread from British Columbia south into California, in many different habitats and elevations.

Characteristics:  Basel clump of oval leaves, wiry flowering stem rising above. Flowers in few to several to a cluster; pink to magenta to lavender petals that are sharply recurved backward, similar in style to cyclamen. Spreads and colonizes from the base and from self-seeding.

Culture: Sun to shade, seasonally to mostly wet, depending on species. Well-drained soil.

Pests/Diseases: Virtually pest and disease free.