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It's hard to believe this stunning flower is a close relative of the onion. Allium holds its stunning bloom high above the foliage, adding whimsy and drama to any planting beds. With hundreds of species available in the onion family, it is quite easy to have blooming alliums every season in the garden.
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Part Sun, Sun
From 6 inches to 8 feet
6 to 12 inches
Because alliums have fairly unobtrusive foliage that blends in quite well with surrounding plants, they are extremely easy to mix and mingle with other plants in the garden. The amazing variety of colors, shapes, and sizes also adds to their ease of use. The colorful balls of blooms are actually composed of numerous smaller flowers to create Dr. Seuss-like displays of lollipops throughout the garden. There are also many allium varieties that have flat-topped or domed blooms that can also add a nice geometry to garden designs. Other varieties still have more explosive blooms reminiscent of fireworks throughout the garden. Once these magnificent blooms are done, many varieties provide extended interest with the dried blossoms. Some can be spray painted and placed back in the garden as a sort of natural art!
Allium Care Must-Knows
Alliums are tough, rugged plants that have quite a few tricks up their sleeves. Since alliums are onions, these blooms are associated with that trademark smell. This smell works great as an animal deterrent and, coupled with their taste, prevents alliums from being eaten by creatures like pesky rabbits, deer, and other browsing animals. Many gardeners take advantage of this and plant them among other plants to act as a barrier to troublesome critters. Try planting some at the front of garden borders, or surrounding tender lily bulbs. The fact that most alliums are also bulbs also works to their advantage. By storing water and nutrients, these plants are extremely drought tolerant and can survive long dry spells that might kill other plants without the benefit of a storage root.
Because alliums generally form bulbs, they need well-drained soils. Alliums make great additions to gravel gardens and hellstrip gardens, and dwarf varieties also make great accents in troughs and small containers.
For the most productive display of blooms, plant alliums in full sun. This will assure sturdy stems so flowers will be less likely to flop. Some of the giant varieties can benefit by being planted near a wall or fence for some protection from strong winds, so you won't have to worry about your stunning blooms snapping in a storm. Some varieties may be tolerant of part shade, but they will definitely perform best in full sun.
There are very few pests or problems with alliums, and very little maintenance is required. While most alliums act similarly to tulips and daffodils and other spring bulbs where their foliage dies back after blooming, some varieties are truly perennial and keep their clean green foliage throughout the entire growing season. Alliums that hold on to their foliage typically bloom later into fall. They also form dense clumps rather than individual blooming plants. When they are finished blooming, removing spent blooms can encourage the plants to store more energy for next year's show, but it is not necessary. Leaving the old blooms on can add interest and encourage re-seeding if you are hoping to increase your stand of allium plants. They also don't require dividing, so there is no need to dig them in the fall, unless you simply want to divide them up to plant in other locations.
Most of the work happening with alliums is actually with the perennial types that keep their foliage all season. These tough garden plants keep clean and are bothered by very few pests and diseases. They are also extremely reliable bloomers, but generally have smaller blooms than the popular giant types. Many new varieties coming out have deeper, richer colors, as well as longer bloom times.