Alliums are one of the best and easiest bulbs to grow in the gardening world, but often overlooked. Gorgeous, show stopping blooms, easy growing 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, 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, they 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 those amazing alliums! Photo below by ‘Dutch Flower Bulbs‘.
Photo below by ‘Fine Gardening‘. Allium “Jeannine”.
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.
- 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 below 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 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‘.
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?Image Credits: American Meadows , Dutch Flower Bulbs, Fine Gardening, Gardener's Supply, Eden Brothers, Dutch Bulbs, Longfield Gardens, Brecks, White Flower Farm, American Meadows