It's hard to believe this stunning flower is a close relative of the onion. Allium holds its stunning spherical blooms high above the foliage, adding whimsy and drama to your garden. With hundreds of species available in the onion family, it is quite easy to have blooming alliums every season in the garden.
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 plants that have quite a few tricks up their sleeves. Because alliums belong to the onion clan, these blooms are associated with that trademark odor. This smell works 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.
Related: Tips for Growing Alliums
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.
More Varieties of Allium
Allium aflatunense features big, spiky flower heads packed with purple blossoms on thick stems in late spring. It grows 30 inches tall. Zones 4-8
Allium carinatum pulchellum
Allium carinatum pulchellum blooms in late spring, showing off clusters of nodding reddish-purple flowers on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 5-8
Allium cyathophorum var. farreri
Allium cyathophorum var. farreri is a vigorous selection with clusters of deep violet-purple flowers in summer. It grows 1 foot tall. Zones 4-9
More commonly known as chives, this traditional herb is grown more for its tasty foliage than its purple blooms. Zones 4-8
Allium schubertii is one of the most dramatic alliums. It shows off volleyball-size clusters of lavender flowers on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 4-10
Allium oreophilum is a tiny star for the rock garden. This petite onion features airy clusters of rosy flowers on 4-inch plants. Zones 4-7
Allium senescens subsp. montanum var. glaucum
Allium senescens subsp. montanum var. glaucum is perfect for the rock garden or front of the border. It has blue-green leaves that grow in a spiral and clusters of purple-pink flowers in late summer. It grows 6 inches tall. Zones 5-9
Allium stipitatum blooms in early summer with 4-inch-wide clusters of lilac flowers. It grows 4 feet tall and is sometimes confused with the similar showy allium. Zones 4-9
Another tasty allium, garlic chives are not quite as commonly used as standard chives. These have a flat leaf blade where standard chives are a hollow tube. White blooms are borne in early summer. Zones 4-8
Allium triquetrum bears clusters of drooping white bells that flourish in partial shade and will spread in moist soils. The flowers unfurl in late spring on 18-inch-tall stems. Zones 3-9
Allium giganteum is one of the largest varieties. It bears large globe-shape clusters of purple flowers on 6-foot-tall stems. Zones 5-10
Allium ursinum is noted for its 2-inch-wide shaggy white flower heads that appear on 18-inch-tall stems in summer. Zones 4-9
Allium caeruleum delights with airy bunches of delphinium-blue flowers on 18-inch-tall stems in late spring. Zones 5-7
Allium sphaerocephalon offers egg-shape reddish-purple spheres in early summer on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 5-9
Huge stalks reaching 4-5 feet tall are topped with softball-size purple blooms in early summer. Zones 4-7
Allium 'Globemaster' is a dramatic selection with 10-inch violet flower heads on 3-foot-tall stems in late spring to early summer. Zones 4-9
Allium moly produces bunches of star-shape, bright yellow blooms that spread their sunshine in rock gardens in late spring to early summer. It grows 12 inches tall. Zones 3-8
Allium 'Hair' is the most unique allium around. Rather than petals, this plant bears spidery green leaves atop its 18-inch-tall stems in late spring. Zones 4-8
'Ivory Queen' allium
Allium karativiense 'Ivory Queen' shows off 6-inch orbs of white flowers over wide, blue-green foliage. It grows 10 inches tall. Zones 5-8
Allium 'Millenium' features 2-inch-wide lavender-rose flower spheres above clumping green foliage for several weeks in late summer. It grows 12 inches tall. Zones 5-8
'Mount Everest' allium
Allium 'Mount Everest' bears tennis-ball-size white flowers on 4-foot leafy stems. Zones 4-9
Allium neapolitanum is a summer-blooming species that has 2-inch-wide clusters of white flowers. It grows 16 inches tall. Zones 6-10
Allium cernuum is a North American native that has clusters of pink flowers in summer on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 4-10
'Purple Sensation' allium
Allium aflatunense 'Purple Sensation' bears giant ultra-violet flower globes that radiate whimsy and cheer on 3-foot-tall stems in spring. Zones 4-8
Allium rosenbachianum offers 4-inch-wide globes of purple flowers in summer. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 4-10
'Silver Spring' allium
Allium 'Silver Spring' bears clusters of white flowers marked with a red-purple eye. This dramatic selection blooms in early summer and grows 2 feet tall. Zones 4-8
Allium cristophii bears distinct silvery-lavender flower globes measuring 12 inches in diameter atop tall 2-1/2-foot stems in late spring. Zones 4-9
'Summer Beauty' allium
Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty' shows off clusters of dark lavender-blue flowers in midsummer on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 4-9
'Summer Skies' allium
Allium tanguticum 'Summer Skies' bears lavender-blue flowers in midsummer on 2-foot-tall stems. Zones 4-9
Allium karataviense bears loosely clustered red-and-white flowers on 10-inch-tall stems in late spring. Zones 4-8
Garden Plans for Allium
Summer-Blooming Front-Yard Cottage Garden Plan
Create charm and curb appeal in your front yard with this lush, beautiful cottage garden plan.
Soften a Fence with This Lush Border Garden Plan
The exciting plants included in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"
Beginner Garden for Full Sun
This easy-care, sun-loving design is a great introduction to perennial gardening.