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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Wild About Alliums

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Alliums - also called ornamental onions - fill Mid-Atlantic Region gardens with goofproof beauty that's quirky and dramatic.

Alliums attract pollinators such as bumblebees.

Alliums, also called ornamental onions, ignite floral fireworks in the garden. The spherical blooms spark conversation and add drama to planting beds. Each allium flower head features many small, individual blooms that attract pollinators by the dozens.

Like daffodils, alliums are perennial bulbs. Planted in fall in the Mid-Atlantic, ornamental onion bulbs bloom the following spring and return year after year. These hardy onion cousins are some of my favorite bulbs. Here's why.

Allium nigrum survived a late-winter snowfall

Early Risers
Ornamental onions appear early in the season. Last February this trio of black garlic (Allium nigrum) survived late-winter snows.

Even with flower buds fully visible, alliums have weathered hard freezes in my Mid-Atlantic garden.

And while many early perennials prove easy targets for deer and rabbits, alliums - loaded with onion flavor - don't appeal to wildlife.

Allium aflatunense 'Purple Sensation' buds open as early as mid-May.

Easy to Use
You don't need a design degree to create beautiful plantings with ornamental onions. Plant bulbs in groups of three and you're guaranteed a gorgeous show.

Purple Sensation (Allium aflatunense), is one of the earliest large-flowered alliums, opening buds in mid- to late May.

Raspberry and Cream shows how alliums easily combine with other plants.

Perfect Partners
Ornamental onions combine easily with other plants. You even can position different alliums together, like this 'Raspberry & Cream' allium blend.

You also can pair alliums with perennials such as roses, campanula, lady's mantle or centranthus.

As other alliums, 'Globemaster' seed heads linger well into fall.

Multiseason Interest
Count on alliums for a season-long display. Flowers fade to form dry, stiff seed heads that linger well into fall.

Some gardeners spray-paint seed heads to create striking orbs of color. I let my alliums age naturally. I've had seed heads remain through early-winter snows.

My Favorite Alliums
I grow the following alliums (bloom times in parentheses):

  • ‘Purple Sensation’ (mid- to late May)
  • ‘Globemaster’ (mid-May to early June)
  • Star-of-Persia (late May to early June) –See photos in my blog about a garden path.
  • ‘Raspberry & Cream’, which includes black garlic (late May to early June)

What are some of your favorite bulbs?