Allium bulbs are members of the same Lily family (Liliaceae) as garlic, onions, leeks and shallots. Alliums are easy to grow, but not very popular. You could say they're underappreciated. Though not as dramatic as their cousins, the Lilies, with showy blooms and easy cultivation requirements Alliums belong in every flower bed.
There may be as many as 1000 species of Allium. In general, plants that produce bulbs usually come from areas where there are extremes of weather -- cold freezing winters or hot dry summers. These plants die back and use their bulbs to survive. All Alliums are perennial or biennial and can range in height from 4 inches to 6 feet. Each bulb is a clone of some incredibly old mother bulb that has grown and re-grown for hundreds of years.
Allium flowers, which are often quite fragrant, make good cut flowers and are long-lasting in water. Have no fear -- only their leaves have that onion smell. If you crush a leaf you'll find the smell of onions which is caused by the organic sulfur compounds. Pick the flowers as they begin to open, but leave the foliage behind to wither naturally and nourish the bulbs for next year's bloom and don't cut them back.
Alliums have 2 types of flower heads --spheres made up of tightly-packed blooms, (ball-headed) or those that bear loose clusters of blooms (the tufted Alliums). Their distinctive flowers blend well with other plants.
In the fall, prepare your soil by loosening 8 inches deep. Dig in a layer of compost and add a sprinkling of bone meal or bulb fertilizer. Your holes should be 3 times the height of the bulbs and spaced between 1 and 12 inches apart, depending on the size of the bulbs. Plant small Alliums in groups of 12 or more. Place the bulbs pointed end up, cover, water well and mulch. Fertilize in early spring with bone meal as soon as you see the stalks appear. Can be divided any time during the growing season. Some varieties will also self-seed freely. You can plant tall Alliums in the back of a flower bed. The shorter flowers in the front will later hide the Allium's dying foliage.
From dazzling Daffodils to terrific Tulips, Alliums and more, you are sure to find the perfect varieties for your garden.
Here are some ideas for your Allium bed:
Christophii - hardy in zones 4-8. At just 2' tall, its gorgeous purple globe-shaped flower can reach 1' wide.
Neopolitanum - (daffodil garlic) is a good Allium for the South, zones 7-10. Its sweetly scented flowers thrive under most conditions.
Oreophilum - early, fragrant bell-shaped blooms will make a nice edging for a bed of late spring Tulips.
Azureum - a later-blooming Allium (also known as Caeruleim), a blue globe onion.
Reminder: Now is the time to pot up last year's Amaryllis to hibernate for Christmas bloom. Check out our March 2011 Newsletter by clicking here for complete instructions for re-forcing Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs.
Early Bird Special: Save 10% on your Allium order. Offer good for fall season, expires October 31, 2011. To activate this offer simply enter promotion code Allium11 during checkout.
Blessings, Mary www.marysgardenpatch.com firstname.lastname@example.org