Sleepydick, sleepydick. How I hate thee, sleepydick.

No, not a rant about erectile dysfunction.

Ye gods. Tis the time of year that I start seeing dark green, glossy tendrils working their way up through the warming earth of my back yard. Yay spring! Are they wild onions?

No, they are not. They are sleepydick, *Ornithogalum umbellatum*, a horrible invasive plant from Europe. Oh, they are deceptively pretty. That’s why we didn’t take the nuclear option the first year we lived here. “Aw, look at the pwetty harbingers of Spring! Yay Spring! I love flowers! Let’s go have sex!”

Fast forward to last year. Uh oh. Didn’t we just have a few of those things last year? Why does it appear that we have several hundred now? So we attacked it with trowels and light hearts.

Hmmm…I hadn’t quite realized the scale of this. Every bulb of this crap I pull up (if I can even get a trowel down that far. These suckers live deep. You have to get the blade underneath them, and lever upward. Otherwise, the foliage just breaks off, and you lose the bulb, and you’re fucked.) seems to split into many smaller bulbs, all of which are sprouting independently. Well, heck, we were going till up this section anyway. I’ll just till the crap out of it, then we’ll go through and look for bulbs.

“Oh my God. Are you seeing this? Every handful of earth I pull up has multiple sleepydick bulbs in it! There must be thousands!”

At first, I expressed my displeasure by crushing bulbs between my fingers. Bad idea. They’re slimy. They’re filled with a pus-like goop that squirts all over you like a monstrous zit. They stink. AND, come to find out, they’re poisonous. As in, keep animals and children away from the plants, because all parts are potentially dangerous. Hooray!

“Well, sweetie, I know we’re trying to convert this into a native plant garden with minimal chemicals, but we’re obviously up against the wall here. Maybe we can just paint the shoots with glyphosate. That’ll get 'em!”

That did not get 'em. They loved it. They never even fucking WILTED.

OK. Nuclear option. We’re newspapering the entire area with multiple layers, and then thoroughly mulching. Take that, bitches! See you in the Spring!

(There was no time for sex. We were fighting the alien invasion.)

This year. Ho. Lee. Shit. What the heck have we done?! These goddamn things are EVERYWHERE. Six inches under the surface of the soil must be a seething, slimy, pulsing orgy of sleepydick bulbs, bumping against each other and shoving each other out of the way in some horrible, mindless vegetative urge to destroy my garden. It’s like something from Lovecraft. In the patches where we spent hours upon countless hours carefully sifting through every gram of soil, ruthlessly pulling out bulbs, there are now more shoots than ever. Thousands. Tens of thousands. They are coming up through cracks in the sidewalk. The brick walkway. Newspaper and mulch? Hah! A pathetically inadequate barrier.

Good God, how do you kill this vile, evil, horrible shit?! Quick, before I find it growing out of my kitchen floor, or my cat, or my bed.

Will you absolutely not use chemical defoliants?

Have you tried carpet bombing with Round Up?

Well, now I have lots of other, native plants to which I’m attached. And glyphosate did not work. Far from it. What else ya got?

Round up is primarily glyphosate. No luck.

Sir, that’s not sleepydick. That’s raging, prolific, fertilepecker in your garden.

Huh. I did a little reading up on your pesky plant, and from what I saw, Round Up and digging up the bulbs look like the only solution.

Lye/Lime? Pour gasoline on it and burn it? Pee on it every day? I don’t know…but there has to be a solution there somewhere.

I can’t get over how many sites have users looking for an eradication solution and in most none is forthcoming.

From the U of Ark. - Div. of Ag.: *To intentionally plant star of Bethlehem in the garden is to flirt with danger; more often when questions arise concerning this plant they center on how to kill it. While time consuming and tedious, digging out the bulbs is the most practical approach for small areas.

I’ve watched various lawn care companies battle a stand of star of Bethlehem in a zoysiagrass lawn for over 20 years, and to date they have been unable to achieve complete eradication. The conventional broadleaf herbicides give only about 20 percent control whereas, according to research using some of the newer and more effective products, control using the best products is still only 80 percent. Effective chemical control requires perseverance and patience. *

It is evil, evil, evil.

Oh crap. I found a little patch of it in my flower bed last year. . . I await with dread my new sleepydick overlords.

Look at it this way. If they take over your whole yard, you’ll never have to mow again. And the garden pests (moles, gophers, and the like) will probably disappear, too, if they’re that poisonous.

Yeah, okay. I got nothin’.

OK, hold onto yourselves, because this is both dangerous and foolhardy, but it works. IF you go this route, I take NO responsibility for your injuries.
Do you happen to have a blowtorch handy? I’m dead serious. If so, properly attire yourself and have someone of responsible age go with you, with either a bucket or water or sand, just in case.

Proceed to area.

Light torch.

Hold over stars of B, until you watch them literally wilt and wither (bit like the Wicked Witch of the West here). Once you have that, move on to another area.

Once you have done that, apply concentrated Round-Up (be precise with this–you don’t want to kill a tree) and a THICK layer of newpaper and mulch.
I wish you luck. I know this works. Don’t ask me how. I have not burned down anything yet (except for a bit of phlox and some grass). Wear thick boots when doing this.

It is literally the scorched earth policy, but it works (For me). YMMV and please, please, please, don’t be a dufus with a blowtorch.
ETA: Little patches are best dug up and placed in a place (like the garage) where they can dry up. Do NOT compost Stars of B.

I’m sure if you flood your garden under a foot of water from now until fall they’ll die. The muck farms sometimes do this. They used to sterilize soil with steam. Sometimes the old ways work, and we just can’t use them.

Didn’t the Romans sow salt in Carthage? Sure, it will kill off the other stuff, but what do you now want more, dead dick or fertile pecker?

Overplant with kudzu or wisteria.
No, don’t really do that unless you want to lose your house under the garden in two years.

If all else fails, there is the true nuclear option. You might be able to pick up some cheap uranium on ebay.

At what point did you do the glyphosate treatment? Early on in the sprouting period?

If so, I wonder if doing so later - when they’ve begin to bloom, and/or when the flowers are dying down and they’re in “grow long leaves, store food for next year” mode, might work better? That’s assuming they proceed like daffodils and tulips do after blooming, that is (flower dies off, leaves get longer). Seriously - repeated treatments every week or two so you increase your chances of getting them at a more vulnerable stage.

“painting” is a good choice, to reduce the changes of nailing anything you want to keep.

Sorry you’re having such trouble with these deceptively-pretty things. Closest I ever had was thistles. GAHHHH!!! now those things were HORRIBLE (and not even pretty. Well, the flowers were, once the damn prickly things got to be 4 feet tall). They got a really good foothold one summer after my daughter was born and I had no time/energy to do gardening, and took over about 1/3 of our postage-stamp backyard, and it was at least 4 years before they were remotely under control. Pulling and digging up roots did nothing - just made 'em mad. And made 'em spread worse. I ultimately had to go out in the back yard with Roundup and drench every one in the mulched area, and comb through the grassy area and spritz every new shoot. Weekly. For months. That finally cut down on the population (unfortunately the yard adjacent had developed a problem as well so they spread back into my yard at every opportunity). I’d have welcomed the sleepydick as an improvement, believe it or not (though I admit I might have regretted that!).

Nuke the paved areas with roundup, weekly. If there are areas where it’s just sleepydick - or at least sleepydick mixed with stuff you can replant easily like grass - nuke that weekly as well. Spray carefully, obviously. Where you want to mulch, maybe put down a layer of plastic as well. That way if they do try to sprout next year, they won’t be able to get through the plastic - newspaper may have dissolved enough to let the shoots through.

Another thought: Do these plants develop seeds at all? I know seeds aren’t a big part of the propagation of bulb-based plants, but some of them do produce a few seeds. If so, that might be part of the way these are spreading - so consider removing the flowers as soon as they bloom, before they can go to seed. That’s another angle of attack to reduce the spread.

I fear you have a labor-intensive process this year, and next as well, but if you keep up with all the attack modes you will eventually get rid of them.

Oh - any chance these are spreading in from a neighbor’s property? If so, you and the neighbor(s) may need to work in concert.

Mental note: never piss off eleanorigby.

(avoiding work, here): Did some googling and the herbicides may not work well, per this cite:



I do wonder if a year or more of black plastic + mulch won’t make a big difference.

Also - pulling the shoots early (before the bulbs have a chance to store a lot of food) should help a little in reducing the spread.