Ornamental Allium

This summer marks five years in our home.  We have created quite the oasis in your backyard and every spring I look forward to the bulbs rising, multiplying, and showering our yard with color upon color.

At the end of last summer season, I scored some ornamental perennial onion bulbs and had no clue how they would do in our yard.  All I knew is that in magazines, these little ball-like flowers appeared to look like something out of the Lorax movie...and I LOVED IT!  Little did I know, these flowers are resilient, easy to grow and add a beautiful dimension to any garden.  Photos definitely don't do these beauties justice, they're simply stunning in person.


About allium

Allium plants are members of the Allium family; including chives, garlic, leeks, onions, scallion, and shallots.  Plants from the Allium family can be distinguished by a long stem and sphere-shaped flower head.  Most varieties are grown for consumption prior to flowering however, true Allium bulbs are primarily grown for their flowers.

Allium flowers vary in shades of blue, purple, white and yellow.  In the right conditions, they will bloom in early summer and last for about three weeks.


scoring bulbs & planting

With over 700 varieties out there, all in an array of colors and heights, you are bound to find the perfect fit for your yard.  When deciding upon which bulbs to grow, consider a few things; the amount of sunlight you have, the height space available, and the surrounding foliage.  Although they don't require a lot of space width wise, some varieties can grow up to 4.5 feet tall!

Like most bulbs, Allium does best in the Northwest when planted early to mid-fall.  They don't require a lot of sunshine, but if you really want to see them flourish...the more sun, the better!  Select a spot with good drainage, as with most bulbs, these will rot if left in marshy soil.  Most importantly, locate a place that has an abundance of shelter to protect the top-heavy blooms from the wind.  Planting around ornamental grasses or shrubs will do the trick.

A good rule of thumb when digging your spot is to place the bulb down about four times the diameter of the bulb.  If you're lacking on yard space, a deep container or pot works just the same.


My varieties

I planted three varieties this year; 'Gladiator', 'Mt.Everest', and 'Drumstick'.

Mt. Everest
Mt. Everest

Gladiator is by far my favorite, and it's easy to see why.  The blossoms measure 5 inches across and they outgrew my preschooler in height!  The blooms lasted just shy of three weeks and even though the purple coloring is gone, the blooms are still strong and beautiful!

Mt.Everest is a close runner up.  Similar to the Gladiator, it too is beaming in height and their snow-white blooms demand all the attention in the yard.  I haven't cut them yet, but from everything I read, they make great cutting flowers and can even be dried.

The vote is still out on the Drumstick Allium as they won't fully bloom until early July.  Most Drumsticks have a two-toned, burgundy-green egg shape at the top and sprout 2-3 feet.  I can't wait for them to flower as they remind me of picking Indian Paintbrush in Eastern Oregon as a child.



Once the flowers have faded, you can deadhead the blooms. Leave the foliage in place, though, as the leaves need time to fade naturally, gathering energy into the bulbs for next season’s growth. The leaves may look a little straggly, so it’s a good idea to plant Alliums in a bed with later-blooming flowers.  You can easily hide the lifeless looking foliage with ground cover or smaller shrubs.

One huge mistake that I made was that I trimmed back their foliage right after the bulbs finished their bloom.  This is a BIG no.  Duh!!!  It's a bulb!! Just like any other flowering bulb, you should deadhead the blooms once they begin to dry and leave the foliage in place until it becomes wilted.  This process is what allows the plant to multiply.

Because I trimmed mine prematurely, I plan to leave them in the ground for the winter.  TIP: If you care for your Allium properly and wait for the blooms and foliage to start to frail, you can actually dig and divide as your bulbs will have had a chance to multiply.  You should consider dividing your Allium every few years as overtime you may end up with more foliage and fewer blooms.  Not a fan of digging your bulbs?  No sweat, just cut back the foliage prematurely like I did and you should maintain a similar number of blooms.


My only regret (other than trimming the foliage too early), is that I didn't plant more!  They are such a wonderful hybrid between the first spring blossom and those all summer bloomers.

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