What Are Galax Plants: Growing Galax Plants In Gardens

What Are Galax Plants: Growing Galax Plants In Gardens

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What are Galax plants and why should you consider growing them in your garden? Read on to learn how to grow Galax.

Galax Plant Information

Also known as beetleweed or wandflower, Galax (Galax urceolata) is a low-growing evergreen native to the Eastern United States – primarily in the deep or moderate shade of the Appalachian Mountain forests.

When Galax grows under deciduous trees, the shiny, heart-shaped leaves turn greenish-red or deep maroon in winter sunlight, then back to bright green with the arrival of spring. Racemes of dainty white blooms appear in late spring and early summer.

Growing Galax Plants

Galax is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 8. The plant doesn’t do well in alkaline soil, and doesn’t tolerate hot, dry weather. Galax plants prefer slightly moist, well-drained, acidic soil. In the home garden, Galax benefits from addition of mulch or compost.

Galax plants can be propagated by seed, root division or cuttings.

Seed: Collect Galax seeds as soon as they ripen in autumn, and then plant them directly in the garden after the first frost. You can also plant seeds in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. Move the seedlings into individual pots and let them mature for at least one winter before planting them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.

Root division: Late spring and early summer are the best times to propagate Galax plants by root division. Simply dig up the plant, gently pull it apart or and plant the divisions.

Cuttings: Take 3- to 6-inch (7.6-15 cm.) softwood cuttings from a healthy Galax plant in summer. Remove the bottom leaves and place the cuttings in small pots filled with moist potting mix, perlite or vermiculite. Cover the pots with plastic sheeting or a plastic milk jugs, then place the pots in a warm room, away from direct sunlight.

Galax Plant Care

Once established, Galax plant care is minimal. Just water as needed to keep the soil moist but never soggy. Mulch with pine needles or another acid-rich mulch. Divide whenever the plant outgrows its boundaries.

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Plant Profile: Wandflower (Galax urceolata)

Also called beetleweed, this evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to southeastern US from where it grows in the forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. It is a member of the Diapensiaceae family, a small family of only twelve species. The plants have red rhizomes that spread to form colonies with basal rosettes of foliage consisting of shiny, leathery green leaves that become tinged with bronze in the winter. The heart shaped leaves are five inches across, have round toothed margins, and are carried on long petioles. The tiny five lobed white flowers are produced from late spring to early summer in two to five inch long spike-shaped racemes on top of slender stems eight to sixteen inches long. The leaves are very attractive in flower arrangements and have been over-harvested in some areas for the floral industry. A good choice for a ground cover in a shady location. The generic name, Galax, comes from the Greek word gala meaning milk and may refer to the white flowers. The specific epithet, urceolata, is the diminutive of the Latin word urceus, meaning pitcher.

Type: Evergreen herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Two to five inch long spike-like racemes of tiny white flowers on eight to sixteen long slender stems from late spring to early summer

Size: Leaves 3-6” H , flower stalks 12-18” H x 12” W

Light: Partial to full shade

Soil: Fertile, moist, well-drained, acidic

Hardiness: Zones 5-8

Care: Low maintenance mulch to maintain consistent soil moisture

Pests and Diseases: Anthracnose, sooty mold, snails, slugs

Propagation: Divisionin late spring to early summer, fresh seed, softwood cuttings in summer

Companion Plants: Virgina bluebells, Trillium, lungwort (Pulmonaria), Dicentra exima, ferns, hosta

Plants→Galax→Beetleweed (Galax urceolata)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Sun Requirements: Partial or Dappled Shade
Water Preferences: Mesic
Dry Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Strongly acid (5.1 – 5.5)
Moderately acid (5.6 – 6.0)
Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 6a -23.3 °C (-10 °F) to -20.6 °C (-5 °F)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 7b
Plant Height : 1 to 2 feet
Plant Spread : 2 or more feet, spreading
Leaves: Evergreen
Flowers: Showy
Flower Color: White
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Late spring or early summer
Inflorescence Height : 1 to 2 feet
Foliage Mound Height : 3 to 6 inches
Underground structures: Rhizome
Propagation: Seeds: Sow in situ
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Stolons and runners
Miscellaneous: Monoecious

There is only one species in this genus of Galax. This Round-leaved Wandflower or Beetleweed is similar to its relative of the Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia). Wandflower forms a basal rosette of shiny, tough, leathery, evergreen, rounded heart-shaped leaves with long leaf stalks that turn red-brown in winter. Tiny white flowers bloom on the single spikes in late May - June. Its native range is from the mountains of Maryland to east Kentucky down into northern Georgia & Alabama, plus the coastal plain of southeast Virginia in dry to moist woods. It has escaped cultivation in some spots in Massachusetts. In cultivation it needs rich, loose, acidic, humusy, moist, well-drained, sandy to silty soils. It does not do well in regular landscape conditions. Seed can be sown as soon as ripe. The plant produces reddish rhizomes so that it becomes a small colony. It can be divided in spring with soil adhering to the roots. It is sold by some specialty nurseries. I've only seen it once in an arboretum, so it is rare.

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These “Galaxy” Flowers Hold Entire Universes On Their Petals

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