What do you imagine when you think of spring-flowering bulbs? Does your mind conjure up scenes of bright red tulips in front of a white picket fence or a field of yellow daffodils swaying on a breezy spring day? Or do you imagine drifts of tulips and daffodils in a multitude of colors winding their way through shrub and perennial borders? Were there alliums in your garden of imaginings? There should have been!
Alliums, commonly called ornamental onions, are cousins to onions and garlic but flaunt enchanting sculptural flowers atop slender sturdy stems in a wide range of colors and sizes.
Ornamental onions are easy to grow in a sunny or mostly sunny spot with well-drained soil. Plant bulbs about three times deeper than the diameter of the bulb.
In spring, green strappy leaves form an attractive arching mound. Sturdy stems rise and present globe-shaped flowers in sizes from as small as a marble to as large as a softball. Alliums bloom from late spring to early summer depending on the variety.
Alliums are rarely bothered by pests or diseases, and they are not appetizing to squirrels, chipmunks or other garden bandits.
Need more reasons to plant alliums? First, they are long lasting in floral arrangements. Next, if left in the garden, their dried flower heads remain attractive the rest of the season. Finally, they multiply offering more and more blooms every year.
Now that I have convinced you to plant alliums, which ones should you plant? Well, all of them of course! But here are just some of my favorites to get you started.
Allium christophii, commonly called Star of Persia, grows up to two feet tall, boasts silvery amethyst flowers, and is pretty popping up through a bed of ground cover.
Referred to as the giant onion, Allium giganteum is among the tallest of the ornamental onion family. Large round heads of lilac-purple flowers bloom at the top of three to four feet tall stems.
Another titan of the family, Globemaster quickly grows up to 4 feet and shows off magnificent 10-inch orbs densely packed with silvery violet-purple flowers. I have Globemaster planted in light shade and it performs quite nicely among hostas and other shade-loving plants.
Called the tumbleweed onion, Allium schubertii sports gigantic spheres – up to 12 inches across – filled with loosely-arranged rose-purple flowers resembling exploding fireworks. Spent flowers are dramatic as they capture rays of summer sunshine.
Alliums stand like works of art in the late spring and early summer landscape. When choosing bulbs at your local garden center remember spring is for more than just tulips and daffodils. Garden with me!