2016 Introductions have Arrived! Shop Now!


In the swirling cosmos of bulbs, alliums are the bright, stately planets of the garden. Alliums are never the first spring-flowering bulbs to bloom, but they are perhaps the season's most formidable flower.

Alliums are the ornamental cousins of onions; their flowers are characteristically clusters of blooms, often forming tight globes, but sometimes arranged in loose bunches of pendant bells, like tassles. Tall alliums, particularly 'Gladiator', which has purple flower-heads the size of a soft-pitch softball and stands every inch of 4 feet tall among the peonies, are not for shy gardeners, but the vast world of alliums also has a demure side.

The variety within the genus allium is astounding: about 700 species are known. Little Allium moly, sometimes called golden garlic, grows to only about a foot tall and produces dancing clusters of bright yellow flowers in early summer. Allium aschersonianum has very dark pink flowerheads about the size of a tennis ball and stands about two feet tall. Allium rosenbachianum, one of the earliest alliums to bloom, has round, five-inch flowerheads of purple, white, or a rich lilac. Even after the blooms fade, most allium flowerheads remain quite showy on their tall wands through early summer.

Allium flowers rarely smell like onions — it's the foliage that smells strong, and only when you crush it. They are all easy to grow; few spring-flowering bulbs are as undemanding as alliums. They bloom profusely in full sun, but tolerate a surprising amount of shade. Alliums can thus be planted to advantage among roses, peonies, hostas, and ferns and under trees and around shrubs. Small alliums make a lacy edge at the front of a border: chives, which are easy to grow from seed, make a perfect edging for an herb garden, and they look pretty in front of roses, in a rock garden, or along the edge of a flower bed, too. The largest alliums are like garden sculptures; they're tall enough to plant at the back of a flower bed, but put a few bulbs up front, too: you'll want to shake them by the stems, pat their fuzzy heads, and inspect their thousands of sparkling flowers up close.

Read the next Article: The Challenges of Deer

Related Categories

Personalize Your Site:

Enter your zip code to:

  • Find your growing zone.
  • See best products for your region.
  • Show accurate product shipping dates.
Clear my Zip Code

Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Are you looking to take your gardening enthusiasm and skills to the next level? Network with others who share your interests? Utilize your gardening talents to benefit local communities?
    If so, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service for information about the Master Gardener program in your region.
    For both professionals and gardening enthusiasts, the Master Gardener program provides invaluable training and educational opportunities. The volunteer aspect of the program helps improve and beautifying the local community.
    To find out more, check out these two websites or enter the words “Master Gardeners” to search any search engine. (Junior Master Gardener programs)