The Pacific Northwest Home Gardener
Growing Edelweiss

Edelweiss Plant History And Flowers

Of all the Edelweiss varieties and those close relatives in the North American Antennaria family, Leontopodium alpinum is the most beautiful and most sought after in the World. There are more than 30 species and subspecies of Leontopodium or Lions foot, and most are well adapted to climatic extremes. Their deep fibrous roots and the felt like covering of their leaves protect them from drought, the ravages of winds and the potentially damaging sun shine.
The alpine Edelwei´┐Ż, which in the German language means noble and white, is found generally at altitudes from 1700 meters to 2700 meters. Edelweiss prefers light limestone soils with excellent drainage and southern exposure, where it likes to form herbal mats, growing from 8 cm to 20 cm tall. Edelweiss plants are classified as short lived perennials, and after their flowers have been picked during a number of growing seasons from the same area, are unable to propagate by self seeding and will disappear from their established areas.
Edelweiss plants do not produce snowy white blossoms, as the lyrics to the song "Edelweiss" suggest, and like snowflakes, no two flowers are alike. The showy, hair covered rosettes aren't flower petals but are modified leaves, silvery white in color with a tinge of green. The actual flower centers are golden yellow from pollen dust which is only a fleeting feature.

How to Grow Edelweiss Flowers

The Edelweiss is a white perennial flower. Edelweiss plants are an alpine plant and are perennials that are native to the Alps of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France. Edelweiss flowers are quite rare in the wild and, in many areas, are considered endangered in several countries. These famous flowers, subject of songs and legends, grow naturally in rocky crags in the Alps and are best cultivated in a rock garden that mimics their natural habitat. Grown in partial shade, these plants will develop beautiful woolly flowers which, with a ring of silvery white leaves surrounding them, look rather like large snowflakes. Edelweiss flowers are reasonably easy to propagate from seed and quite hardy if grown in conditions that suit them.

Growing Edelweiss

  1. Preparing to grow Edelweiss plants must begin with the proper soil, good seeds, and the proper conditions. As these flowers grow naturally in limestone mountains, Edelweiss plants thrive in loose soil that is rich in lime. Soil that is too heavy or hard will choke the delicate, hair-like root system of the plant. Edelweiss likes to grow in a partly shaded part of the rock garden in a gritty loose soil that is close to neutral (pH 6.5 to 7.5).
    Mixing up a planting medium that combines one part lime, with one part very small pebbles, and the third part sand as a base, then adding some peat moss makes an ideal soil mix for Edelweiss plants to thrive.

  2. If growing Edelweiss outdoors from seed, sow the Edelweiss seeds on the soil surface. This should be done in the spring before the last frost, as a period of cold is necessary for the seeds to germinate. The tiny seeds should be sprinkled on the surface of the soil.
    If you plan to first grow Edelweiss plants indoors then the process should start about two months before they are due to be transplanted into the garden following the last frost of spring. The seeds should be conditioned by placing the seeds, with some soil, in a black plastic bag, then placing in the fridge for three weeks. Seeds should then be sown out at a temperature of 12 Celsius; they normally take about two to six weeks to germinate. Once established they should be put out 10cm apart (small Leontopodium species) to 30cm apart (large Leontopodium varieties).

  3. Beginning the process earlier. Start Edelweiss plants inside, approximately eight weeks before they will be transplanted into your rock garden, which would be done after the last frost of the spring. Germinating Edelweiss seeds indoors requires conditioning the seeds which is necessary to provide the cold temperatures the seeds will need to sprout. This can be done by placing the seeds and some of your soil mixture in a black plastic bag and refrigerating it for three weeks. Your seeds then can be sown in nursery pots by sprinkling them on top of the container's soil. Then applying a water mist. Germination generally takes between two and six weeks.
  4. Keep moist: Whether sowing seeds indoors or outside, seeds must be kept moist, but not soggy, to germinate. Watering these tiny seeds must be done very carefully to avoid washing them away. For seeds planted in the rock garden, a very fine mist of water can be used. Seeds started indoors can be kept moist by spraying the nursery pot with water.
  5. Caring for Edelweiss: Blooming may not occur in the first season your Edelweiss plants are grown, but healthy plants should produce beautiful Edelweiss flowers by the second season. Simulating the natural conditions in which the Edelweiss grows as closely as possible will help ensure those beautiful blooms.
    Edelweiss like to grow in snow areas and so take a little looking after in areas that do not receive much snow. If this is the case you should surround the Edelweiss plant with leave mulch in the winter to simulate the snow experience. This mulch should be removed at the start of spring. If you live in a snowy area then leave Edelweiss be in the winter, but protect it from heavy rainfalls in any circumstances.

  6. Propagating Edelweiss: In addition to starting Edelweiss plants by seed, Edelweiss plants can be propagated by division, this should be done every couple of years because of the short life span of edelweiss. Separation can be done every two to three years once the plants have become established in your rock garden or Edelweiss flower display nursery containers. Edelweiss plants separated in this manner may be necessary to prevent these beautiful flowers from dying out after a few years.

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Edelweiss Seeds

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This page was last reviewed and updated August 8, 2023.