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Alliums--the onion's showy cousins.

Plant bulbs now for flowers next summer

WITH BIZARRE BLOOMS ranging from fuzzy pink drumsticks to golden star bursts, ornamental onions (Allium) can make interesting, sometimes even dramatic, additions to garden beds.

This large group of flowering bulbs, related to edible onions, includes dozens of species. Here we give a selection of kinds, from large to small, that are handsome garden plants and widely adapted. Fall is the time to plant.

Flower height and shape are diverse. Some flower stalks grow to more than 4 feet tall while others reach only 8 inches. Most have low-growing, strappy leaves.

The flowers appear in late spring or early summer and range from purple globe-shaped blooms to loose clusters of blue, pink, yellow, or white flowers. Most are long-lasting when cut.


The varying heights of ornamental onions make site selection important. All prefer full sun and well-drained soil with ample moisture during the growing season. Group them in masses of 10 or more; don't use them singly.

Tall alliums look best interspersed with low- to medium-height ground covers and perennials. To set off the flowers, keep surrounding plants no more than 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. Good companions are white-flowered or gray plants.

A. 'Globemaster' grows to 4 feet tall with 10-inch round purple heads.

Giant allium (A. giganteum) grows to 5 feet with 5-inch-wide purple heads.

Medium-size alliums can be interspersed in garden beds or allowed to poke up through low-growing plants.

A. aflatunense 'Purple Sensation' grows 2 to 3 feet tall with 4-inch round purple flower heads.

Blue allium (A. caeruleum) grows 1 to 2 feet tall with 2-inch-wide blue flowers in round, dense clusters.

Drumsticks (A. sphaerocephalum) grow to 2 1/2 feet with 2-inch oval reddish purple heads. Flowers dry well.

Star of Persia (A. christophii) grows 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet tall with 6- to 12-inch round lavender heads.

Short alliums look best when scattered through rock gardens or grouped in masses.

A. neapolitanum grows a foot tall with white flowers in 3-inch-wide open clusters.

Golden garlic (A. moly) grows 12 inches tall with bright yellow flowers in 2- to 3-inch-wide open clusters.

Turkestan allium (A. karataviense) has wide, flat leaves 2 to 5 inches across with 4-inch round purplish to beige heads on 8-inch stalks.


Catalogs are free unless noted below.

McClure & Zimmerman, Box 368, Friesland, Wis. 53935; (414) 326-4220.

Smith & Hawken, 25 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, Calif. 94941; (415) 383-2000.

White Flower Farm, Litchfield, Conn. 06759; (203) 496-9600. Catalog $5.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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