Allium flowers, also known as ornamental onions, are spectacular and odd-looking flower heads that are sure to add interest to any garden space. These flower bulbs have been enjoying a surge in popularity over the past few years and for all good reasons. However, they are equally adored for their culinary potential and beauty. Planted in a kitchen garden, they’ll add a pleasing aroma and flavor to your dishes. Planted in a flower garden, these ornamental onions are bold and architectural, with tall stems and large flower heads that come in oval, spherical, or globular flower shapes.
They bloom in magnificent colors that are sure to fill your bouquets with beautiful purple flowers, lavender, pinks, and more delectable hues. But, however you enjoy your allium blooms, what you’ll love more is how easy they are to grow as well. In this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about allium flowers, including their meaning, symbolism, history, origin, popular strains, and top tips to grow these exquisite flowers in your garden.
About The Allium Flower
Allium flower is a perennial plant that originates from the allium genus family. It belongs to the Allieae tribe of the subfamily Alliodeae under the Amaryllidaceae family. This allium genus includes hundreds of species of flowering, herbaceous, and perennial plants. The most popular include culinary varieties like garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, and chives.
Allium Flower Origins
Alliums are native to parts of Northern Africa, Western and Central Asia, and Europe. There’s also a handful of species found in South America and over a hundred species native to North America, including Allium cernuum, allium unifolium, and Allium stellatum.
Characteristics of ornamental alliums
Alliums are herbaceous plants that grow from bulbs. They have a distinct oniony or garlicky odor and flavor. Its plant produces green foliage that varies from straight or coiled to board. In addition, they produce several blossoms with globe-shaped or cascading blooms.
The blooms feature clusters of small star-shaped flowers in shades of purple, pink, yellow, red, blue, and white that add to the joyous rite of spring. This ornamental onion is also popular with pollinators. In addition, they provide a reliable supply of food late into the fall when other sources are scarce.
What Is The Meaning And Symbolism Of Allium Flowers?
In the language of flowers, allium blooms have a variety of general symbolic meanings. Since many flowers blossom from a single sprout, they represent unity. They are slow to bloom, which symbolizes patience. In addition, they represent good fortune, prosperity, and humility. The color of an allium flower also holds a significant meaning.
- Purple alliums symbolize royalty and respect. They also carry a strong air of admiration and tradition.
- Lavender alliums symbolize youth, grace, and elegance
- Blue alliums symbolize honesty, peace ad tranquillity
- White alliums represent purity and innocence
- Pink alliums convert gentle love, femininity, affection, and happiness
- Orange allium flowers symbolize vibrant feelings like excitement and passion
- Yellow alliums represent joy, happiness, and friendship. They help to spread cheer.
Popular Types, Species, And Cultivars Of Allium Flowers
The most popular alliums are edible alliums: onions, garlic, chives, shallots, and chives. Ornamental alliums have also grown in popularity as well. Some of the most popular include:
Also known as Allium senescens ssp. This plant yields warping blue-green leaves that mimic its name. Unlike other plants that grow from a bulb, corkscrew allium grows from a rhizome. Each rhizome produces 2-inch lavender flower heads that form flattened balls in mid to late summer.
If you are looking for a flower to ramp up your garden, these globe-shaped blooms are hard to top. The Globemaster allium is a cross between Allium cristophii and Allium Macleanii. This allium blooms massive purple flower heads that are a sight to see. Plus, they come with the added advantage of an intensely sweet scent that is hard to miss.
Purple sensation, also known as Allium hollandicum, is a favorite for many gardeners. This striking ornamental onion is one of the earliest blooming alliums. It blooms 3-inch diameter raspberry-purple flower heads that stand on 24-30-inch stems. Also, most purple sensation alliums multiply naturally and can be left untouched in the same area for many years.
This variety is an elegant giant. Its flower head is made up of tiny star-shaped flowers that come in vivid purple. This plant flowers up for five weeks in early summer through late summer. This allium grows 140 cm tall.
Allium Schubertii is a standout allium thanks to its unique arrangement of the petals that burst out and away from the center to resemble an explosive sparkler. Note that this variety is not cold-hardy. It can grow up to about 20 inches tall and does not mind a little shade.
This giant allium variety produces huge flower heads that are about 20cm or more in diameter. Each bulb head contains countless miniature florets, each a rich rose-purple or rich pink. Allium Gladiator is also one of the tallest varieties and can grow to 140cm or more.
Another allium cernuum, the nodding onion, produces flopping mop heads of flowers in pretty shades of purple and light pink. This plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall in partial shade.
A discussion of ornamental alliums wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Allium sphaerocephalon, the drumstick allium. Drumstick alliums are shaped like the mallets that drummers use on toms and cymbals, hence their name. The floral head of a drumstick allium starts out green and gradually transitions to a reddish-purple. The plant can grow up to 18 inches tall.
Note that the drumstick allium flower tends to bloom later in the season, starting in early summer.
Uses And Benefits Of Allium Flowers
The allium plant has been used throughout time for many purposes, including:
Alliums are a key ingredient to enhancing the flavor of almost any meal. They can be cooked or eaten raw and make savory additions to nearly everything from fried beef to green salads. The alliums used for culinary purposes worldwide include garlic, chives, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots. These species are popular in every culture cooking, and they drive part of the agricultural crop economy.
While we love culinary alliums for their strong flavor and aroma, other alliums are cultivated for the inherent beauty of their blossoms. Many varieties are grown purely for ornamental purposes. Varieties like giant allium (allium hollandicum) and Persian star (allium christophii)produce distinctive globe-shaped flowers, making for excellent flower arrangements.
With their star-shaped flower heads, these taller allium varieties are now one of the stars of the ornamental alliums world. Their stiff lollipop-shaped heads are perfect for off-setting sharp vertical leaves, tall star-shaped flowers, and the softer form of flowing grasses, while their rich, usually purple color is beautiful. These
Allium bulbs not only look good when in full bloom but if left to dry, the spent flowerheads provide architectural interest through autumn and winter. Likewise, the globes look spectacular when covered by a hard frost. Alternatively, cut the flowers fresh and mix them with iris and flowers for an eye-catching arrangement. These plants have the added bonus that their pungent smell confuses pesky insect pests and aphids, so they search elsewhere for food.
In herbalism, allium Sativa, popularly known as garlic, has some of any plant’s strongest, natural antimicrobial properties. Eaten whole or taken as an oil, garlic helps to ward off fungal bacterial and viral infections. It is also used as an expectorant, antihistamine, hypoglycemic, antispasmodic, and more.
To Ward Of Vampires
Legend has it that garlic is one of the best ways to ward of vampires. Maybe, just maybe, its famously pungent garlic breath is what does the trick?
Most pets do not like the distinct garlic aroma of allium plants. As such, it can be used to keep gardens safe from insect pests, pesky rabbits, and deer. Just be careful with your pets around alliums, as they can be toxic to dogs and cats.
How To Plant Ornamental Alliums
Correct planting is a key part of nurturing healthy alliums. Here are some basic requirements to grow alliums:
Ornamental alliums grow best in spots with a lot of sun with rich, well-drained soil. Plant in full sun or part shade, depending on the variety.
Rich, Well-Draining Soil
Well-drained soil is important as the bulbs are huge and susceptible to rotting with too much moisture. As such, they work best in a more sandy site with excellent drainage properties. To get the really sumptuous big heads, they will need to be well-mulched. On the other hand, If your garden has heavy soil or ground that tends to be wetter than normal, it will help to work horticultural grit into the planting area to increase drainage.
Doing this will help prevent your bulbs from rotting over winter, which can be a problem in wetter areas. If you are planting in pots, allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Allium flowers handle short episodes of drought well. In addition to this, if you are planting your bulbs in poor soil, apply a potash feed in early spring. Potash feeds allow the bulbs and roots to form. It also helps to prolong the life of the flowering bulbs.
Proper Depth And Spacing
Allium bulbs require proper spacing while planting to ensure they have enough room for growth. This also ensures there is enough space for fresh air to circulate, significantly reducing the chances of the plants getting diseases. Also, make sure to plant the bulbs to the required depth. Planting deeply helps to improve the perennial habits of the plant. Hence, plant smaller to medium-sized varieties 3-6 inches in the ground. Larger varieties require more depth, 11-17 inches, depending on the variety.
Other than these requirements, Allium flowers are easy to grow and come back year after year with little maintenance here and there.
How To Plant Alliums From Seed
Alliums are easy to grow from seed. However, the germination period is lengthier when compared to growing alliums from bulbs. The length of germination may also vary depending on the variety you choose.
Step 1: Gather the allium seed heads
Cut each dry head off, leaving about 2 inches of the stem.
Step 2: dry the seed heads
Spread the seed heads on a sheet of paper or place them into a paper sack to dry for about 10 to 14 days.
Step 3: Harvest the seeds
Remove the dried seeds from the flower heads by gently tapping them with your finger.
Step 4: Check the viability of the seeds
Fill up a basin with 2-3 inches of water. Put the seeds in the water. Discard all those that float and retain the seeds that sink. Place the seeds onto a paper towel to air dry for about 24 hours.
Step 5: Planting allium seeds
Place the seeds in a seed-starting tray filled with a soil-less seeding mix. Push the seed about 1/8 of an inch into the seeding mix. Space the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart. Put the tray where it will remain approximately 70 degrees F for three weeks. During this period, make sure not to over-water the seeds but keep them moist by misting the seeding mix as needed.
After the first three weeks, transfer the tray to a place where the temperatures will not plummet below 50 degrees F or rise above 70 degrees F. The tray should stay here for the rest of the germination period. Depending on the variety of allium you grow, germination can begin in about 12 months.
How To Plant Allium Bulbs
The best time to plant bulbs in your flower garden is in the fall, and this is why. Bulbs need spans of coldness to begin flowering. As such, they need 10-13 weeks of temperatures that are below 40 degrees F to flourish. During this period, the bulbs put down healthy root growth, necessary to sprout leaves and flowers.
Proper root formation is necessary for healthy allium bulbs since they nourish the plants with water and minerals from the soil. Make sure the ground is thawed enough to dig to allow chilling to take place. Ideally, soil temperatures for planting bulbs must be above 40 degrees Farenheight for proper root formation.
Dig individual holes for each bulb. Ideally, the planting depth should be about three times the depth of the bulb or up to 15cm deep in the soil. Place each bulb in the hole without pushing them down hard. Instead, ensure the growing part is pointing upwards. Cover the bulbs with soil and mulch. Apply mulch after sowing to prevent the bulbs from being pushed out of the soil due to alternating freezing and thawing of the ground. Ensure your planting beds are in full sun or an area with partial shade.
Harvesting Glower Stalks
The harvesting of allium flowers starts anywhere from late spring through summer. Like with any bulbous plant, do not cut or clear away the old foliage after flowering. They are needed to photosynthesize and feed the bulb for the next year.
Most allium flower bulbs are not hardy. So you need to harvest them before the first frost. The general rule of thumb is to cut them when flower heads are one-fourth to one-half open. This way, the flowers can continue to bloom in the vase, extending the vase life of the flowers.
Store your flower cuttings in a cool, dry place with low humidity, away from heat, frost, and direct sunlight. Do not put flower bulbs in a freezer. Poor storage conditions can cause your bulbs to dry out or become moldy.
Managing Allium Pests And Diseases
Generally, flowering alliums are healthy, low-maintenance plants with little to no issues with pests and diseases. They actively repel rabbits, voles, deer, and other garden critters. But that doesn’t mean they do not have any problems at all.
In humid weather, for instance, they may suffer from white rot as well as downy mildew. Also, being a member of the onion allium family, they sometimes get attacked by onion fly. A common early sign of onion fly insect pests in your flower garden is yellowing foliage. Its maggots eat away at the root causing the plant to collapse suddenly.
These pests are quite hard to treat since they are right down in the soils and even in the bulb itself. To control onion fly, dig up any affected plants so that the maggots are elect to pupate – turn into adults and produce more grubs.
When looking to grow alliums in your garden, the choice on offer may feel overwhelming. First, try to keep in mind how much space you have available. Also, consider your climate, soil condition, and what purpose you want them to serve. All these factors will help you narrow your choice and select the perfect flower heads for your garden.
People Also Ask Questions
Do Alliums Spread?
While some species spread vigorously through bulbs or seeds, most varieties do not spread at all. On the other hand, most alliums multiply readily and are easily propagated.
Do Alliums Come Back Every Year?
Yes. Alliums are perennials meaning they return reliably every year for a long time. They multiply naturally and can be left untouched in the same area for many years.
Are Alliums Ok In The Shade?
Nearly all alliums like a spot in full sun and well-draining soil. However, some of the smaller alliums can tolerate a little shade and
How Long Does It Take To Grow Allium From Seed?
Many ornamental alliums take up to 12 weeks to germinate. After that, it will take 2-3 years to reach the flowering size.
When Should I Start My Allium Seeds?
Sow your allium onion seed when the soil is somewhat thawed and dry in late spring to early summer and not completely saturated by heavy seasonal rains. In areas with mild winters, you can sow your seeds in late summer to mid-winter.
Where Do Allium Flowers Grow Best?
Alliums are regarded as sun-loving plants. This is because they adore sunlight and will perform best when they can bask in it all day long. Not
Do You Have To Dig Allium Bulbs Every Year?
You do not have to dig allium bulbs every year. Instead, divide them every 3 to 4 years for new growth. During that period, dig around the plant to lift the bulbs out. Then, gently separate the bulbs to replant.
Do Alliums Bloom More Than Once?
No. After your plant flowers, you should cut the flower stalks down to allow the plant to focus on storing energy in the plant’s bulb. However, dried flower heads are just as attractive as live flowers, and you can keep them standing for long.
Are Ornamental Onions Good For You?
Ornamental onions are edible but are rarely grown for food. As such, they can be grown in either a flower or a vegetable garden.
When Should I Cut Back Allium Seed Heads?
Simply cut back the seed heads when the foliage fades and the flower heads turn dry, usually in the fall.
What Are The Best Growing Conditions For Alliums?
Alliums are not fussy about soil quality as long as it has reasonable drainage. However, these plants do prefer full sun.
Where Should You Plant Alliums?
Plant alliums in kitchen gardens, flower cutting gardens, rock gardens, and perennial gardens. You can also plant them in well-draining containers.
What Growing Conditions Are Suitable for Allium Flowers?
Allium bulbs are winter hardy and do well in growing hardiness zones 3 through 8. However, their performance in each zone varies depending on the species you grow.
When Are Allium Flowers In Season?
Depending on the species and your growing zone, allium flowers bloom in late spring to early summer.