Flower Bulb: Allium

Flower Bulb: Allium

Allium mixes well with other hardy perennials with its unique flowers and bright colours

The striking blooms on the ornamental onion are real eye-catchers in the garden. They come in lots of different varieties too. Ornamental onions (Allium) like a sunny spot but will also thrive in part shade. The stately allium grows tall, sturdy stems and just adds that bit extra to any garden. Allium flowers also attract lots of butterflies and bees to the garden. The allium, as a cut flower in a hand-picked mixed bouquet, will also look spectacular in your home!

Allium ‘roots’

Allium originated in Europe, Asia and the Middle-East, where they can be found growing wild. The Latin ‘Allium’ actually means ‘sharpness’… referring to the flavour of onion in lots of recipes, but the name Allium has acquired various meanings throughout the centuries.

Ancient Egyptians considered the layers of an onion to be a symbol of eternity and they are often pictured in hieroglyphics on gravestones. It was the Romans who gave the Allium onion, or leek European connections. In Victorian times they were thought to bring luck and prosperity.

Alliums mix wonderfully well with other flowering bulbs like the Amaryllis (Hippeastrum), ornithogalum, lilies and others. Plant your allium bulbs in the autumn in a sunny spot in the garden for a spectacular show in spring and summer!

allium roots
alliums in a bouquet

Alliums are spectacular in a mixed bouquet

The allium family

The number of members in the allium family is pretty big with hundreds of varieties, including the edibles - onion, shallot, garlic, chives and leek. There is an even larger group that are show-stoppers in our garden. It’s really quite amazing just how many different shapes you can find in the Allium family! There are some truly huge blooms among them, as well as smaller ones with very delicate little flowers.

Examples of varieties of ornamental onion in a row (from left to right):

varieties of ornamental onion
  • Allium aflatunense, the most well-known, pretty, purple and round.
  • Allium ‘Ambassador’, a large and tough ornamental onion with purple flowers on stems up to 1.5m tall.
  • Allium caeruleum, growing star-shaped, sky-blue flowers.
  • Allium carinatum, a pretty uncommon, graceful white Allium that will stay green after flowering.
  • Allium christophii, a chic appearance, with silvery, pointy shaped flowers 20 cm across.
  • Allium flavum, such an elegant yellow Allium that looks ‘Mediterranean’.
  • Allium giganteum, the giant of the family.
  • Allium 'Gladiator', will grow fast to over one metre tall with large blooms.
  • Allium 'Globemaster, longest lasting, big full flowers.
  • Allium karataviense, fairly low-growing with cream coloured into lilac coloured blooms.
  • Allium moly, with cheerful yellow flowers.
  • Allium ‘Mount Everest’, as white as snow and grows to 120 cm tall!
  • Allium neapolitanum, a graceful flower in a star shape with white, scented flowers of about 10cm across.
  • Allium oreophilum, with frivolous pink flowers.
  • Allium roseum, has such cute pale pink blooms.
  • Allium schubertii, with long, open flowers – different to all the others.
  • Allium sphaerocephalon, sometimes called drumsticks (for obvious reasons). Purple flowers.
  • Allium unifolium, with quirky, pink, star shaped flowers.