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Allium (AL-ee-um)

Common Name:  Ornamental onion, Chives

Light:  - Full sun to part shade

Soil:  Average to rich, well-drained to dry

Moisture:  Average to dry, drought tolerant

Blooms:  Spring, Summer, or Autumn, depending on the variety

Zones:  Varies by species


Allium senescens 'Glaucum'

Allium Description and Cultural Information

Allium aflatunense, allium. 2 - 3'. This allium produces 3" spherical, deep-lilac flower heads in May above foliage which dies away early. 'Gladiator' is a hybrid with 6" rose-purple globes in May and June on 3 to 4' stems. Zones 5 to 8.

Allium christophii, star of Persia, Persian onion. 1 - 2'. These produce some of the largest flowers of all the onions, typically 10 to 12" purple globes atop tall stems. The foliage grows at the base and goes summer dormant, often before the flowers are finished blooming. 'Globemaster' is a hybrid growing 2 to 3' with 10" violet flowers. Zones 4 to 8.

Allium giganteum, giant allium. 3 - 5'. Stately plants with 5" purple globes well above a basal clump of wide, blue-green foliage. Zones 4 to 7.

Allium karativiense, Turkistan onion. 6 - 12". This Allium has 5" spheres of pale-purple borne just above broad, gray-green foliage. 'Ivory Queen' has dense, 3" globes above blue-green foliage. Zones 4 to 7.

Allium schoenoprasum, common chives. 1 - 2'. This popular, edible selection grows pungent hollow leaves in thick clumps. The attractive foliage is topped by 1 - 2" rose-lilac pom-poms during the summer. Plants self-sow profusely so it is best to deadhead them before they set seed. Zones 3 to 9.

Allium senescens 'Glaucum', curly allium. 8 - 10". This unique plant has a whorl of attractive blue-gray foliage and mauve flowers in mid-summer. Makes an attractive edging plant. Zones 3 to 9.

Allium tuberosum, garlic chives. 1 - 2'. These allium have white flower clusters above edible, grasslike foliage. The seed heads dry well, but may self-sow quite freely. Zones 4 to 8.

How to Grow:  Most alliums grow best in average to rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Some need excellent drainage and dry conditions after flowering. Plant new bulbs in the fall and divide crowded clumps after they are done flowering. Large bulbs should be set at a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Small bulbs should be planted at 4 to 6 inches. Chives can be divided in spring or fall. Remove spent flower heads to prevent them becoming rampant due to self-sowing.

Landscape Uses:  The taller alliums work well with mounding, clump-forming plants such as yarrow (Achillea), hardy geraniums, catmint (Nepeta), or with tall bearded Iris, peonies, and daisies. The larger plants will also serve to hide the yellowing foliage later in the season. Use the shorter alliums as border plants or as accents in the garden with lavender, short purple sedums such as 'Xenox', or silver plants such as lamb's-ears or artemisia.

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