Skip to Content

Star of Bethlehem Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Star of Bethlehem Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The Star of Bethlehem flower – more commonly known as Ornithogalum – is a popular religious symbol that gives the Star of Bethlehem meanings of purity, innocence, forgiveness, redemption, modesty, and uprightness. 

Keep reading to learn more about what does the star of Bethlehem mean, the flower’s uses and characteristics, and other important information.

About the Star of Bethlehem Flower

The Star of Bethlehem – Ornithogalum umbellatum – is a perennial Ornitholgalum genus member of the Hyacinthaceae family made up of around 150 species of flowers.

This plant is native to Europe and South Africa and suitable for contained beds or gardens. But the star of Bethlehem bulbs can become invasive, requiring careful monitoring to keep in check. 

History and Origin

You can find variations of the Bethlehem star growing native around the globe. Many of these species became widespread due to established trade routes dating back to medieval times. 

This plant was introduced to North America in the early 1900s. The purpose was to use the plant for ornamental landscaping. However, the Star of Bethlehem weed spread fast and became invasive quickly in many areas. 

Common Name

Although most known for its common name of the Star of Bethlehem plant, it’s also called the star plant, Florist nightmare, Arabian starflower, Wonder flower, and Dove’s dung. 

The genus name of Ornithogalum is Greek for bird’s milk flower – ornithos (bird) and gala (bird or milk). The common name of the Star of Bethlehem comes from the biblical story of the star that led to the baby Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem.


The Bethlehem flower grows on slender stalks, reaching 20 to 30 centimeters in height. There is a wide variation in what does the star of Bethlehem look like, but most species have flowers in a star shape, with petals in a lanced shape. 

The leaves resemble grass, while the star flowers have six petals surrounding a pistil with 5 to 6 stamens. 

Many variations have an enjoyable, strong sweet aroma that makes an excellent aromatic to add to bouquets. It’s most common to see flowers in white or orange. But specialty breeding has also created a few other colors like the purple star of Bethlehem flower.

Star of Bethlehem Flower Care

The Star of Bethlehem is an easy species to grow, requiring minimal care. However, if you don’t want it to take over everything, you will have to maintain the growth regularly to keep it in control. 

Your plants will require full sun with moist, fertile soil that doesn’t become muddy. Plant the bulbs 5″ to 6″ apart. If flower growth becomes invasive, the easiest way to control the problem is to dig the bulbs up. It is resistant to herbicides, and trying to cut the plant back will not kill it. 

Uses Throughout History

Because of its connection to the religion of Christianity, the Star of Bethlehem flower is common as decor for religious ceremonies like christenings, baptisms, and weddings.

Within the complex genus of Bethlehem flowers, some varieties have been a source of food. And some species are toxic to animals and people. 

Many Star plants have been used for culinary purposes for thousands of years. But it’s now known that these flowers contain glycosides, which are dangerous for the heart. So some people use the starflower in limited quantities as a medicinal herb.

The rich aromatic fragrance of the flower makes it a fantastic choice for butterfly gardens and to attract pollinators and bees. 

Star of Bethlehem Flower Symbolism

Star of Bethlehem flowers has a few popular meanings, with the most renowned one being of Christian origins as a Biblical reference.

Another Star of Bethlehem flower symbolism is miracles and wonders. For example, the Greek translation of Ornithogalum is bird’s milk because it was once believed that birds like white doves nursed their young with milk. But because it was never witnessed, the event became symbolic of a wondrous miracle. 


Victorians linked the Starflower to the meaning of purity, as was a common occurrence with many white flowers. Use white Stars for outdoor baptisms, wedding ceremonies, and births.


The flower also represents hope, including wishing for better times.


The Bethlehem plant also symbolizes forgiveness and giving someone another chance. It’s the perfect way to tell someone that you’re ready to take them back after a disagreement. 


Honesty is another symbolic meaning of the Star of Bethlehem plant and innocence. You can use this flower to tell someone you’re sorry and ask for a second chance. 


Star of Bethlehem plants was commonly associated with innocence during Victorian times. It can still have the same symbolism today when chosen for a white flower

It was a common flower to use in bouquets sent to young females to represent innocence, purity, and chasteness, leading to the common use of this flower in wedding bouquets.

Religion: Christianity

In Christianity, it’s believed that the Star of Bethlehem is what guided the three wise men to baby Jesus so they could present him with presents. Since the infant represented purity, innocence, and redemption, it gives the flower the same symbolism.

God created the star as a map to his son. And once it served its purpose, the star’s beauty inspired him to repurpose the star on earth. So, he broke it into pieces, which he scattered to different parts of the world. From each piece of star, a Bethlehem flower grew.

Cultural Significance

The most significant cultural significance of the Star of Bethlehem flower is its prominent role in Christianity and England lore.

Star of Bethlehem Flower Color Meaning

The color of the flowers can also determine the Star of Bethlehem flower meaning. It’s most common to see flowers in white or orange, but you can also find yellow and red types.


White Star of Bethlehem flowers represents purity, mourning, innocence, healing, and hope. It’s also a spiritual color, playing into the symbolic meanings of Christianity. Use white to gift someone or to decorate for special events or wedding ceremonies.


Orange Bethlehem blooms mean excitement, warmth, joy, fun, cheerfulness, and friendship. While not as common as white flowers, it’s excellent to give to someone you want to see smiling and happy. 


Yellow Star plants are symbolic of fun, pride, celebration, and youthfulness. But it can also mean hope, innocence, purity, joy, and optimism. It can be a gift for any occasion to anyone you love, family or friend.


A blue Star of Bethlehem accentuates the flower’s meaning of honesty, but it can also mean respect and trust. It’s an elegant and graceful colored flower for garden or home bouquets.


Purple Starflowers represent beauty and royalty. This color flower is unique due to its look and symbolism. Use this flower for a special someone in your life who has captured your heart.

Star of Bethlehem Flower FAQ

Want to know even more about the Star of Bethlehem flower? Check out these frequently asked questions. 

When Should You Give Someone a Star of Bethlehem Flower?

You can give this flower as a gift to celebrate weddings, apologize or ask for a reconciliation, or demonstrate forgiveness of someone.

What Does a Star of Bethlehem Flower Tattoo Represent?

A Bethlehem star tattoo can be a permanent way to show forgiveness for someone in your life. Or a star of Bethlehem tattoo can mean you’ve gotten over a challenging time, sincerity, a promise for better things to come, or represent honesty or hope.

Are Star of Bethlehem Flowers Poisonous?

The flowers and bulbs of Bethlehem plants have toxic glycosides that can harm pets and people. So it’s best to keep them out of reach of pets and children who chew or put things in their mouths.

Are Star of Bethlehem Flowers Annuals or Perrenials?

Star of Bethlehem plants grows as a perennial in USDA zones 8 through 10. But in zones 1-7, this plant grows as an annual unless you keep it in pots where it can be brought indoors in winter. 

Final Thoughts

If you have the space and dedication to keep the Star of Bethlehem growth under control in your yard, this elegant and symbolic flower can make an excellent ornamental. Or grow them in pots for easier containing and perennial behaviors that last year-round.