Alliums, commonly known as Ornamental Onions, are popular perennials among gardeners because of their graceful flowers and ability to grow in many different conditions. Most Alliums are characterized by their tall flower stalks (up to 3 feet) that stand like sentries with big, round flower heads (up to 5 inches). Their prominent flower heads make Alliums very useful for providing a nice and attractive background to low-growing bloomers in flower beds.
Allium globemaster – Image by PKdon50 (flickr)
Growing Alliums should not be a big challenge even for beginners. They are drought-tolerant, resistant to pests, and low on maintenance. They also come in a wide range of variety in terms of heights, blooming period, and form and color of flowers. Alliums are grown from bulbs planted in the fall. Bulbs should be planted at a depth of four times the diameters of bulb. Alliums generally prefer a rich and well-drained soil under sunny conditions. If you are growing them in poor soil, feed them with a general fertilizer in early spring or top up the soil with a layer of compost [Also read: How to prepare your own compost].
Most varieties start blooming from late summer to early summer. Flowers, especially of late blooming verities, last longer. Both fresh and dry flowers make excellent addition to flower arrangements. As end of season approaches, leaves start straggling and should be cut back, if required. Once flowering is over, bulbs can be lifted and stored for the next harvest.
Popular varieties of Allium include:
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ produces large (3 inches or more) purple flowers on tall (up to 3 feet) stalks.
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ / Image by Farrukh
Allium caeruleum or ‘Blue Allium’ produces very attractive flowers of sky-blue color in spring and summer.
Allium schoenoprasum or Chives is a useful herb that produces nice pink flowers from mid to late spring.
Allium ‘Globemaster’ is a popular variety known for its huge flowers of purple color.
Allium ‘Millennium’ is a great bloomer for the late summer season. This variety is known for its long lasting lavender flowers.
Allium tuberosum or Garlic Chives are attractive border plant because of their delicate form and nice white flowers.
Allium aflatunense is known for its large and prominent pink-purple flowers that sit on tall flower stalks.
Other popular species are: Allium moly (Golden Garlic), A. cristophii (Stars of Persia) and Allium ‘Mount Everest’.