Alliums are one of the best and easiest bulbs to grow in the gardening world, but often overlooked. Gorgeous, show stopping blooms, easy “how to grow” requirements, and amazing architectural shape make these perfect for any gardener, beginner or seasoned veteran. The large round or oval flowers are borne on single stalks that tower over the garden from 1-4 feet, usually in mid spring to early summer, but there are varieties that bloom even in the fall. Flowers can be tiny little globes, or large 6 inch giants. One of the best traits of the allium over other spring and summer bulbs is that most animals will avoid eating them. Apparently, people aren’t the only ones who want to avoid onion breath! That’s right, amazing alliums are simply ornamental, or flowering onions.
Don’t let images of big smelly onions growing in your garden dissuade you, these plants are nothing of the sort, with a gorgeous, sweet scent. Beautiful as cut flowers as well, alliums come in whites, blues, purples, pinks and even yellow. Your tulips and daffodils may still get top billing in the spring, but make sure you tuck some alliums into your flower beds as well. Here is how to grow alliums!
How To Grow Alliums
- Buy allium bulbs from a good nursery or online resource. You want healthy bulbs with no cuts or soft spots. Research varieties to include several varieties of different bloom times to keep the show going!
- Most varieties are hardy zones 3-9.
- Like most bulbs, these look best planted in groups.
- Plant the bulbs in the fall, before the ground freezes. Plant them to a depth of 3 times their diameter in a sunny or mostly sunny position. Generally, 6-8 inches.
Photo by ‘Dutch Flower Bulbs‘.
Photo by ‘Fine Gardening‘. Allium “Jeannine”.
- Fertilize at planting and yearly in spring with bone meal or a bulb food.
- Water well, then leave till they burst out in flower in spring and summer! After flowering, allium foliage will wither, brown, and go dormant.
- Plant them under, behind, and around other perennial plants whose growing foliage will cover the allium foliage later in the summer when it browns.
- Do not cut back the browning allium leaves until fall, that is how they store energy for flowers the next season. (This is why planting foliage plants around them is important.)
Photo by ‘Gardener’s Supply‘.
Our Favorite Allium Varieties
Gladiator – A giant variety. 3-4 feet tall, this showstopper blooms with 6 inch flowers in May-June. It prefers sun but will tolerate partial shade, and has a sweet scent. From ‘Eden Brothers‘. If you are looking to grow alliums that make a statement in your garden, this is it.
Globe Master – This one is the biggest giant we know of, with blooms topping out at a foot across! 36-40 inches high, it’s a gorgeous pick for any spring to early summer garden. Blooms are slightly more blue than Gladiator. From ‘American Meadows‘.
Allium obliquum – This unusual shade of yellow in a small flowered allium is a perfect selection for a naturalized planting. Growing to just 24 inches high, it’s fragrant and blooms late spring to early summer. From ‘Dutch Bulbs‘.
Mount Everest / Purple Sensation – Long the standard for garden alliums , “Purple Sensation” has 4-5 inch globes and grows to 24-30 inches high. It’s white partner here is “Mount Everest”, perfect in combination because they grow to similar sizes and have similar late spring – early summer bloom times. From ‘Longfield Gardens‘.
Twinkling Stars – This giant pink variety has 5-6 inch blooms and 3 1/2 – 4 foot stems, making it perfect for the back of the border. Blooms in May – June. From ‘Breck’s Bulbs‘.
Pink Jewel – A later blooming allium, starting in June into July. This light pink selection grows to 24 inches high, and has 3 inch blooms. From ‘White Flower Farm‘.
Drumstick Allium – Our last selection is the drumstick allium, an oval shaped reddish bloom that grows to 24 inches high. This allium can actually be grown down to zone 2! Blooms early spring to early summer. Another variety great for naturalizing. From ‘American Meadows‘. So which is your favorite?
Now that you’ve learned how to grow alliums, jump on over to our post on How to Grow Lavender like the French!
one of my allium flowers seemed to be growing at odd angles and the flower was devided into several bits. Then bulbils developed in the flower. Unfortunately the stem was blown over in the gales but i have saved it standing in a pot of water. Can I plant our the bulbils and get new plants next year?
I didn’t plant them in the fall. I live near Atlanta ga. I put them in the freezer to give them some of the freeze that they need and plan to plant them by mid April. Will they still bloom normally
bonjour, j voudrais suivre vos coseils, et planter des alliums de plusieurs couleurs et grandeurs, je ne sais pas ou trouverces fameux bulbes de bonne qualité dont vous parlez ??? pouvez-vous m’indiquer une adresse sérieue, d’avance Merci
I’ve been wanting to get some of these for years. Where can I buy good quality bulbs?
I you want a source online, we love Dutch Bulbs!
Hi wondering if you can help. I have like 6-7 globe master or gladiator aliums. I forget which one I put where. Anyway the plants send up a shoot with a head on the shoot but the head never opens up and eventually the shoot Browns and withers. A few have done this for a couple of years. Is this common?
We haven’t heard of this… anyone out there had this happen?
Do they have to be dug up every fall and saved indoors over winter or can they be left in the ground? If left in the ground how often do they need to be dug up and divided?
They can be left in the ground to zone 4, and dived every 3-4 years… Hope that helps!
The flowers leave seeds in the dried pods, can you grow plants from them ??
You can, but they won’t grow true if they are hybrid varieties.. they will revert back to the parent plant, which don’t usually have the same color flowers or other attributes… Also, they can take months to germinate! Better to dig up the bulbs and divide the little bulblets, then replant them!
The beauty of the allium is one of the reasons National Garden Bureau named 2016 as the Year of the Allium! What a statement they make! And pollinators love them!
I have the Drumstick Allium but I found they reproduce like crazy so much so that they’re a bit viral in my gardens. Do the big Alliums spread like that?