Majestic Alliums

When to Plant Alliums

The stunning orbs of the allium are an absolute delight in a summer border.  So it is at that time that we often we have customers coming into the nursery asking for them.  Yet the time to plant them is autumn in bulb form.  Alliums are technically called ‘ornamental onions’ yet I really cannot think of a description which describes these beautiful plants less well!  Rather than being pungent and tear jerking, the Allium flowers, while still often spherical and purple, are striking and majestic.  These bulbs are grown for their beauty alone and sell alongside the tulips, daffodils and snowdrops that come up earlier in the year.  We sell them individually or in pre-packs during September and October. 

Favourite Varieties of Alliums

I have to admit to always going back to the most well known ones such as Purple Sensation, Christophii and Mars. I love the way they stand proud in the border.  There is something about the slender stem and the perfect orb that commands attention; the geometric beauty of the plant and how the tiny six starred blooms all merge together to take the shape of the sphere.  However, we also stock Karavataviense, Aflatiunense, Siculum and Nigrum so you can choose your personal favourite.


How to Plant Allium Bulbs

When it comes to planting remember that you only have one stem with one flower per bulb. So if you want a good ‘show’ you need a few together.  Most people recommend that you plant at least three at a time – although some planting schemes just dot single alliums at regular intervals.  Alliums like well drained soil, so if you have a heavy soil you may wish to dig in a handful of grit into the bottom of any hole you make.  It needs to be about 10cm deep.  Make sure that, if you have a few bulbs together, you make the hole wider and separate them within the hole.  Yes, we do have people ask us which way up the bulbs should go!  You put the point facing up and the furry roots down.  However I really think that nature will find a way.  It has been managing since the beginning of time.  So if you get it wrong don’t worry too much!

Alliums work as border flowers, cut flowers or dried seed heads.

That’s not all! – the allium works well as a cut flower too.  I tend to display a single stem in a tall vase that shows off the shape.  If you can resist the urge to pick the flower head, it will lose its colour but look stunning as a brown stem and seed head in autumn.  This is when I cut it and display it through the winter as a dried flower.  That way I have the joy of the allium all year round . . . .and hopefully it will remind you to plant even more for the following year!