Allium Growing Tips For Blooms & Bees in Spring


Ornamental alliums are tall, perennial flowering bulbs that attract bees and butterflies in spring. Part of the onion family, they are generally not enticing for deer or rabbits.

This is part of my Best Flowering Plants for a Cottage-Style Garden series.

Purple allium flower with bee.

Growing Alliums

Large purple allium flowers blooming in the garden.
Purple alliums in spring garden

I love alliums in spring and so do the bees! Just as the early spring tulips and daffodils are finishing up, it’s allium time.

There’s nothing quite like these tall, bold flowering plants with their giant purple or white flower heads.

As winter fades out, there are few food sources available, and the bees go wild for them, marking the transition to the warm growing season.

Alliums are bulb plants. Planted in fall, they will flower in spring, and provide blooms for several years to come.

The bulbs will gradually multiply, and the original bulbs will gradually weaken or die off.

At some point you may need to divide the bulbs to give the babies adequate growing space.

Allium flowers also produce seeds, which may sprout in the garden as well.

I’ve certainly found that alliums spread around my garden (which I love), but I’m not entirely sure if it was by seed or bulb, or, more specifically, from squirrels digging them up and moving them.

Deep purple alliums in garden.
Deep purple allium flowers

Growing Tips

Purple alliums behind pink peonies in garden.
Pink peonies and purple alliums

What’s the best time to plant alliums?

The best time to plant allium bulbs is in fall after your first frost but before the ground is frozen.

Follow the directions on your bulb pack or plant at a depth 3x the size of the bulb. If the bulb is 2-inches tall, plant it 6-inches deep.

How much light do alliums need?

Alliums can grow in full or part sun. Keep in mind, that they need the light in early spring before some leaf canopies on trees have opened, so this allows more planting options.

Blooms may be slightly delayed in part sun.

Light Exposure Definitions

Full Sun To Shade: How To Assess Light Conditions In Your Garden

What soil conditions are best for alliums?

As with any bulbs, ornamental alliums need well-draining soil because they rot if waterlogged.

When do alliums bloom?

Alliums bloom in spring and the flowers last for several weeks.

Should I cut back alliums after flowering?

Alliums should not be cut back after flowering. The post-flowering stage is the time when the plant replenishes energy for the next blooming cycle. It’s best to let the flowers and stems die off naturally. When dry, seeds can be saved and flower heads can be preserved as decorations.

When can alliums be divided?

You can divide the bulbs any time the ground is workable. It’s recommended to do so before or long after flowering so you don’t disrupt the flower cycle.

Ornamental white allium blooms.
Ornamental white allium flowers

Allium Seed Sowing Tips

Allium flower head turning to seed.
Allium turning to seed after flowering

Allium seeds are slow growing—that’s why it’s more common to grow from established bulbs. It can take years from seed to flower.

If your seeds come from a cultivar in your garden, they may not grow flowers true to type but it’s always fun to see what you get.

Some species need cold stratification to germinate. This would occur naturally in a cold climate garden when they spend the winter in the ground.

In your home, you can use the stratification method shown here for delphinium seeds.

If you don’t know if they need stratification, try a germination test first to see if the seeds will sprout without this process.

Alliums naturally disperse their seeds in fall, winter, and spring. Seed packets recommend sowing after last frost in spring. Be sure to mark the location with long-lasting plant tags since growth will take several years.

Allium Plant Facts

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Genus: Allium

Common Name: Allium, Ornamental Allium

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

Cultivars: Between 200-900, depending on how it they are categorized; the taxonomy of allium is poorly understood

Origin: Northern hemisphere, Asia, Africa, South and Central America

Type: Herbaceous geophyte perennial with true bulbs

Height: 5-150 cm (up to 60 inches: 5 feet tall)

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Well-drained soil

Flower Times: Late spring to early summer

Colors: Light to dark purple, some are reddish-purple

Fertilizer: Depends on your soil—get a soil test to learn any nutritional needs

Attracts: Bees and butterflies

Avoided by: Deer and rabbits

Propagation: Plant bulbs in fall after first frost but before ground freezes

Planting depth: 3x the height of bulb

After blooming: Allow foliage to die off naturally as it provides fuel for next year’s growth. Seed heads (old, dry flowers) look lovely in winter garden.

Divide bulbs: Before or after flowering.

Toxicity: None known. Ornamental alliums are related to edible onions. Research first.

Trivia: The word allium is Latin for garlic. Allium sativum means “cultivated garlic.”  Some alliums are edible; some are strictly ornamental. The pungency of edible alliums is determined by the sulfate content of the soil: the more there is, the stronger the flavor.

Resources

Find Your Frost Dates & Hardiness Zone

  • Plant Hardiness Zones | United States flag United States | Canadian flag Canada
    These are listed on seed packets and plant tags to guide your choices.

Have onions stored in your kitchen sprouted?
See how to regrow them.

DIY Garden Art Alliums

Homemade garden art allium flowers in the garden.

This craft project is made from recycled items including old nails and a softball. Follow the tutorial to make decorative alliums for your garden.

How to Make Garden Art Alliums

Book cover: Growing Vegetables: A Weekly Indoor and Outdoor Seed Sowing Plan by Melissa J. Will

Growing Vegetables
A Weekly Indoor & Outdoor Seed Sowing Plan for Beginners

by Melissa J. Will

About This Ebook

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Creative & Frugal Garden Ideas ebook cover.

25 Garden Art Projects & Ideas

by Melissa J. Will

Grab the top garden art DIY projects and tips from Empress of Dirt

About This Ebook

This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.

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~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛



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