an onion by any other name.

Since quite a few of you liked the idea of Sunday mornings in the garden, I’m going to give regular Sunday garden posts a go.  So grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk onions.  I bet you didn’t think I’d start out with onions!

True, the Allium genus includes onions, leeks, garlic and chives …

I’m sure most of you are familiar with your basic chives.  I love cutting them fresh to sprinkle on baked potatoes, and recently Mr. Q added them to an omelet he made for our dinner.  But they aren’t a particularly pretty plant, are they?

Instead, I want to share ornamental Alliums with you today, and they are a pretty plant … and more importantly a really cool flower.

I had been gardening for quite some time before I discovered ornamental Alliums.  But now that I have, I absolutely love them.

I grow two types of ornamental Alliums, those that are planted as bulbs in the fall and those that are herbaceous and have a large root ball (and you can plant them any time in the growing season).

The bulb Alliums have foliage that comes up in early spring, produces the flowers, and then dies back to the ground after flowering.  Sort of like a tulip or daffodil.  In my zone 4b garden, these Alliums bloom in late May to early June and by now there is no trace of the plant left in the garden … unless I have left the flower stalks in place to dry.

Just in case that photo is confusing to some, none of the green plants around those dried flower stalks are the Allium, those are other plants.

Once dried, which usually just takes a few weeks, I pull the Allium flowers out and store them until late fall when I use them in my winter floral arrangements (much like the Astilbe that I mentioned last week).

The bulb Alliums are fantastic for intermixing with other perennials that will bush out after the Alliums are done and fill in the space around them.  I have mine planted with peonies, hostas and iris.

I have had great success with my bulb Alliums, the only maintenance they really require is removing the foliage once it dies back which is pretty effortless.  Most of mine are planted in partial sun, which seems to be working fine, but they can handle full sun.  And actually, I have some success with the bulb form in spots under deciduous trees where they get more sun until the trees leaf out.  Mine have been multiplying over the years, but I wouldn’t consider them invasive in any way.  In addition, much like my sister, deer don’t particularly care for onions, so that’s a plus for me as well.

I didn’t keep track of what variety of Allium bulbs I planted years ago, but I suspect they are Purple Sensation, which is fairly common.

In addition to that fabulous purple, bulb Alliums can also be found in white, yellow, pink, burgundy, and blue.  They also come in a variety of heights from 8″ tall all the way up to a whopping 50″ tall, and with bloom times from late spring to early summer.

So if you plan right, you can have bulb Alliums blooming for a month or more.

You can find Allium bulbs for sale in late summer to early autumn along with the tulips and daffodils, but in my experience there isn’t a great variety to choose from at most DIY stores (like Home Depot or Menards).  There are usually a few more options at nurseries, but even they don’t seem to have a great selection.

For that reason, I went online and ordered some more unique varieties to plant this fall.  I’ll try to keep you posted on that process, whether or not I like the place I ordered from (Longfield Gardens, and FYI I borrowed that graphic above from them as well), how well they grow over the next year, etc.

That brings me to the herbaceous Alliums, and these are blooming this week in my garden.

I have three varieties of the herbaceous form.  The one above is one that I purchased at a garage sale, and therefore I have no idea what it is.  I suspect it may be Millennium.  It has a lovely pale purple flower, and a nice compact form.

I recently planted two more varieties, Windy City

and Serendipity from Proven Winners …

This type of Allium plant grows more like chives, in a clump with foliage that stays green all season.  They tend to be shorter and with much smaller flowers than the more showy bulb Alliums.  Serendipity will get 15 – 20″ tall, Windy City will get 15 – 17″ tall.

I just planted the Serendipity Allium this week (I found it at Home Depot), and it doesn’t look too spectacular just yet.

Eventually it should look like this …

Of course, time will tell if these two newer Alliums will do well in my garden, but I’m optimistic about them.

How about you?  Do you grow Alliums?  And if so, do you have any specific recommendations for the rest of us?  Or maybe a favorite variety?  And if you don’t grow Alliums, have I convinced you to throw a few bulbs in the ground this fall and give them a try?  Leave a comment and let us know.

10 thoughts on “an onion by any other name.

  1. Well I feel awful. I have these growing out in my front yard and considered pulling them out 😬 There’s no sprinkler system there and got to looking pretty poorly. I won’t now though! I think creating a beautiful setting for them (and really all flowers) is essential to loving what’s in your gardens. So more love and attention for my alliums! Loved your Sunday garden post, Linda!


    1. So funny, I was just out in my garden trying to pull out all of the trumpet vine, which is crowding out the ‘good’ plants and I had that same thought. I definitely need to give more love and attention to my back garden!


  2. I planted several Allium at the lake because deer don’t like them. But, I’m pleasantly surprised at how great they look along the side of the cabin for landscaping. We just recently moved into an apartment and there are many allium plants lining the sidewalk.They’re tidy and neat and look great all season.


    1. I started getting deer in my garden several years ago when there was some major road construction happening near me. I suspect they got pushed out of their home turf. I;ve mainly had troubles in the spring when they eat my tulip buds. But this summer they’ve also been munching on my day lilies and a particular hosta that I have a lot of in the back garden (as you know, I have tons of hosta, but they seem to go for one particular variety). So for the first time I’m starting to feel like I need to look for deer resistant plants!


  3. I’ve been wanted to try the large ones, but haven’t yet. I don’t normally have lots of deer trouble, but this year, the bunnies are eating everything in sight! I love them (the bunnies), so I just sigh and go on about my day!


  4. First, thanks for giving me a lovely Sunday post to look forward to. So many blogs go silent on Sundays, when that is my big day to look for ideas and joy.
    Second, I think it is the economy, honey (not “stupid”) People have less and less discretionary money on hand now. That is why your gorgeous, inspirational pieces aren’t selling right now. I live in upstate CNY, check your map for Syracuse/Utica. Too far away for an order, sorry.
    And #3, the Alliums! The bulb kind are my youngest son’s favorite flower ever. And my bulbs have pretty much refused to come up in the last few years. I never realized there was another type to try! So, I will be pursuing them.
    Finally, the bunnies! Plus I have a big Momma Woodchuck and her sweet baby. Ate all the flowers and buds off my pepper plants. I managed to save a few tomatoes, but did you know woodchucks can climb trees, such as apple and pear, to get the young fruit? Yup, I can verify that.


    1. Oh my gosh, I had no idea that woodchucks could climb trees! Now raccoons on the other hand, they can get to anything. I once had a pergola over my deck with grapevines on it and the raccoons would climb right up there and eat the grapes. When the Asian beetles got to be such a massive problem here, we cut the grapevine down (it was swarming with them). I also learned recently that chipmunks will eat tomatoes. My neighbor caught one red handed in her garden … literally 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.