A Beginner's Guide To Alliums

I am excited to share that The National Garden Bureau has chosen the allium as the bulb of the year! They pick one annual, one perennial, one bulb crop and one edible to be celebrated and featured annually. The selection is based upon versatility, adaptability, growing ability and popularity. The allium is an easy-to-grow ornamental bulb that adds a bit of whimsy to every garden.
Chosen by the National Garden Bureau
My Story
Ever since I was a little girl, I have shared a fascination for alliums with my father. He isn't big on gardening and can't tell the difference between pansies and petunias, but there is something about this flower that he loves. We've always shared that feeling that there is just a magical factor about their brilliant blooms. Each year, I strive to plant more allium bulbs to wow my dad. I love the look of happiness and the sweet smile I see appear on his face when he gets to enjoy the alliums blooming. That same smile appears on my face too! What amazes me is how flowers you plant can continue to bloom year after year bringing back the wonderful memories time and time again. It's truly something money can't buy.
My love of alliums passed down from my dad
Atropurpureum & Nigrum alliums
About Alliums
Perhaps you have edible crops in your own backyard. If so, this flower may look very similar to something you already grow! Allium is actually the Latin word for garlic. The ornamental allium is a genus of flowering plant in the same family as edible onions, garlic and chives. Many people are familiar with the pastel purple flowers these bulbs produce. Alliums also come in white, yellow, blue and pink. Each variety can vary in height anywhere from 12 to 36" tall. These Dr. Seuss style bulbs are extremely hardy and deer resistant. While a plethora of garden critters may feast upon your coveted tulip and daffodils, these bulbs will be left alone. The scent that these ornamental onions give off isn't appealing to animals. They don't have trouble with disease and aren't bothered by common garden pests. These are like gardening gold to the pollinators! Butterflies, bees and beneficial garden insects are attracted to these ethereal blooms. If you've ever dreamt of growing a plant that looks just like flowering fireworks, this is the plant for you! Most varieties can be grown in zones 3-9 depending on what species you select. This fascinating flower begins blooming in late spring to early summer. There are also different types of alliums that can flower from late summer to fall. With a little research, you could have different varieties of alliums blooming all season long!
Purple Sensation
Globemaster alliums
His Excellency alliums
Drumstick alliums
My Favorite Varieties
There are over 700 different types of alliums to choose. With such a wide selection, here is a condensed version of my top 5 varieties.
Purple Sensation: This is one of the most easily recognizable allium varieties.
-A rich violet color with sparkles of blue and pink
-It is affordable with long-lasting blooms
-They boast round, 4 to 5" globes with 24 to 30" stems
-Does best in sun
-Blooms in late spring
-Zones 3-8
Graceful: This allium has clusters of small, white flowers with lavender accents.
-Has a lovely, soft fragrance
-Makes a wonderful cut and dried flower
-Grows to be 10 to 12" tall
-Does best in partial sun/shade
-Blooms late spring to early summer
-Zones 4-8
Gladiator: This variety is sure to amaze with it's large 6" diameter flower heads.
-Nicknamed "the giant"
-Beautiful blue-violet tone
-Prefers full sun
-Grows to be 32-36" tall
-Blooms late spring
-Zones 3-8
Christophii: This flower has a dazzling display of spiky little florets.
-Also known as Star of Persia
-Violet-pink color with a dusting of silver shimmer
-Large 8-10" blooms & 18-24" high
-Does well in sun to partial shade
-Blooms late spring
-Zones 3-8
Drumstick: This allium has egg-shaped blooms
-Great companion for ornamental grasses
-Maroon on top fading into green below
-Bloom slowly putting on a lengthy show for weeks
-20-24" Tall
-Plant in sun to partial shade
-Blooms in late spring
-Zones 3-8
Beginning to bloom
How To Grow
Most alliums are planted during the fall right before the ground freezes. Once you have chosen your variety, dig a hole 8" deep and make sure to loosen the soil around where you will place your bulb. I like to give my bulbs a pre-drink and snack before the final watering. Moisten the soil, add your fertilizer, then place the bulb in the hole. If possible, add new soil over your bulb and gently pat down once bulb is completely covered. Now you can give your bulb one more drink of water. Don't forget to mark the spot you planted them so you won't forget next spring! Try not to plant your bulbs in an area that stays soggy. These bulbs prefer rich, well-drained soil. Time to sit back and wait until next season's spectacular show!
Summer Beauty alliums
I hope you give growing alliums a try! These flowers are so unique and transform any garden into a wonderland. Do you have a flower or plant that is near and dear to your heart? I'm already so excited to plant more of these in the fall. I'm thinking of adding the Globemaster variety and surprising my dad next spring! If I add a new kind of allium each year, my garden will put on one striking and spectacular show!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Debra Athas
    on May 7, 2016

    They are wonderful. Is there any hope for them in Zone 10?

    • Debra Athas
      on May 8, 2016

      Great I see them. Wouldn't have realized to search for that. Thanks very much!

  • Lee Hernandez
    on May 7, 2016

    This a great post. I will try Alliums! It would be great if you had photo of your yard when they are at their best.

  • Teresa Clippard
    on May 9, 2016

    Love these. I came across some of the Purple Sensation Bulbs two years ago I believe. I ordered them for my good friend whose son had passed away, he had Cystic Fibrosis and Purple is the color for this horrible disease. She has a beautiful yard and I felt this would be wonderful to have this blooming in her yard. However they didn't bloom and I was so disappointed. I am going to send her your website so maybe they can be saved or maybe we can get some more. Thank you, Teresa

Join the conversation

2 of 28 comments
  • Kay
    on May 11, 2016

    A friend of mine cuts a slit into a paper plate and puts it around the uncut dried head of the flower and spray paints it any color she wants. This is while it is still in the garden. Extends the flower and looks great. I have seen her do pink, silver, gold, bright yellow, purple, lime green etc. Great pop of color at the end of the flowering season.

  • Anita
    on May 25, 2016

    Neat idea !!!

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