Reprinted with permission of the National Gardening Bureau:
Alliums for Your Flower Garden
Does your perennial garden bloom non-stop from spring through fall? If your answer is “yes”, take a bow! It’s more difficult to achieve than it sounds. Every type of plant blooms according to its own schedule, and flowering times also vary by variety, growing zone and weather conditions.
For many gardeners, one of the most confounding bloom time gaps is late spring – after the tulips have flowered and before the peonies are open. Sometimes that in between time can last several weeks, and it seems like a long time when you’re eager for flowers.
Fortunately there’s an easy fix: ornamental alliums. Here’s why every perennial garden can benefit from these carefree bulbs:
1. Late Spring Color. Most ornamental alliums flower in May, when it’s no longer spring and yet not quite summer. Planting several different types — tall and short, early and late — will let you stretch the show for up to 6 weeks. See the bloom time chart below for details.
2. Many Types. There are more than a dozen garden-worthy alliums that can be called into action: short ones, like Allium karataviense and Allium schubertii, are perfect for rock gardens or lining a walk. Others, such as Allium Purple Sensation and Allium Mount Everest, are the ideal height for a mixed perennial border. Giant alliums, like Allium ‘Christophii’ and Allium ‘Globemaster’, produce dramatic 8” globes as big as gazing balls.
3. Problem Free. Deer, voles, chipmunks and squirrels have no interest in eating alliums. Insects don’t bother them either (except for bees and butterflies, who love the nectar). Alliums are also virtually immune to disease problems.
4. Easy and Reliable. Like most flower bulbs, alliums are born to bloom and need no special care. Just plant them in the fall, any time before the ground freezes. Most species will thrive in zones 4-8 and will return to bloom again year after year.
5. Long-Lasting. Allium flowers are long lasting both in the garden and in bouquets. After the blossoms lose their color, the seed heads continue looking good for a month or more. They can even be painted gold or silver for holiday bouquets and craft projects.
6. Happy Personalities. There’s something lighthearted about alliums. Whether they remind you of lollipops, balloons or bubbles, you’ll enjoy their good cheer as well as their good looks.
Alliums are gaining in popularity, but it’s still a mystery why they’re not more widely grown. The answer may be timing. Most perennials are planted in spring, but allium bulbs are planted in the fall, at the same time as tulips and daffodils. Remembering to plant alliums is the only thing difficult about them!
Consider adding a few alliums to your garden this fall. That late spring lull may become your garden’s finest hour! Want to learn more about growing alliums? Read Alliums: How to Plant and Grow.