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Fall Planted Bulbs - Alliums

Updated on January 19, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


The allium, or onion, family contains the familiar onions, garlic, shallots and leeks. However, not all of them belong in your vegetable garden. Ornamental alliums with their large, colorful, and in some cases, oddly shaped flowers are stars in your borders.


Ornamental alliums look a great deal like regular onions. They grow from bulbs which look and smell like onions and have strappy foliage like onions. The biggest difference is the size of the plants and their flowers. Depending on the variety they can grow to 3 feet high with flowers the size of baseballs. Other varieties are shorter with flowers that droop (nodding onions) or have stringy petals (hair allium). My personal favorite are the drumstick allium with smaller flowers that look to me like eggs.

Drumstick Allium
Drumstick Allium | Source
Dried allium flowers
Dried allium flowers | Source


Alliums are native to the Northern hemisphere so they have a large hardiness range from planting zone 3 through 9. Most ornamental alliums are hardy from zones 4 through 8. They are planted in the fall after the weather and soil cools but before the soil freezes. Planting your allium before the ground freezes gives them a chance to grow some roots and get established before winter sets in. The rule of thumb for planting depth is three times as deep as the width of the bulb. Plant the bulbs like you would onions, with the roots pointing down.

Ornamental alliums should be grown in full sun and in well-drained soil. They aren't susceptible to many diseases or pests but they are sensitive to moisture and will rot in soggy soil. Speaking of pests, allium are deer resistant. Deer don't care for their onion taste or smell.

Depending on the variety alliums can bloom in the spring (large globe allium) or summer (drumstick, nodding and hair allium). There is no need to deadhead them. They only bloom once. The flowers can left on the plants when they are exhausted. The seedheads are attractive and can be used in dried arrangements. Keep watering the foliage to keep it alive and making food for the bulb which is needed for foliage and flowers next year.


Every 3 or 4 years, you will notice that your allium aren't blooming well. They are telling you that it's time to divide them. Carefully dig up the bulbs and separate the bulblets on the sides. Replant them in another area of your garden until they have reached blooming size in a year or two.

More fall planted bulbs

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Elsie, they are not seen too often where I live in NJ either. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Very pretty looking flowers but not one I have seen in the gardens around here in NZ. I quite like the smell of onions in the garden especially when weeding. Thanks for sharing a nice shade of a colorful plant.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      You're welcome, Jackie! They are so easy to grow and come back every year. I love them. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      So glad to hear that you are inspired. I want my hubs to inspire people, so you have made me a very happy hubber! Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have been noticing these lately; think I would like to have some. Thanks for the info!

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 3 years ago from Canada

      I have always loved the look of these but have never tried them in my I am inspired :-)

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      There are indeed easy to grow. I'm happy to hear that you aren't afraid to plant some different bulbs. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      They are easy to grow and they look different from what the neighbors are doing.