Wild About Allium – Step Aside Tulips


Another short post with tips on planting a favorite long-blooming bulb…


Yep, the tulips were toppled. The onions now reign supreme over the garden kingdom.


The rabbits and deer find Allium just plain yucky.


Yet tulips are a tasty treat. I do love my tulips, but Allium is the queen in the May garden for me. Allium requires minimal effort and tolerates poor conditions. Any plant that lives in horrible clay soil and can even be planted upside down and bloom next spring, is a great plant for just about any gardener.

Onion is easily integrated with perennials to become part of the sequence of bloom to last through most of the months of the year. Even dry they persist and add interest. For tips on what to plant with Allium and the varieties in my garden, see the post Gardening With Allium. Some great ideas from my garden and a few famous gardens.


Bulbs that multiply like Allium do need room where they won’t impede on well-behaved plants. Determine how tall the perennial foliage gets, and put tall bulbs behind tall perennials, so the bulb foliage can brown without being unsightly. The large Allium leaves are really unsightly, going yellow before the plant even is in full flower.


Place Allium in the back of a border and have your perennials or low shrubs like boxwood to cover its dying foliage. You can see I have done this in my garden. The iris and lilies cover up the Allium foliage and the boxwood keep all tidy. I have more designer tips on doing this coming up. Just consider the time of bloom, the height of the flowering bulb and the height of the perennial. (A designer will sneak bulbs in to the back of the planting hole when digging in a perennial. The perennial planted in front of the bulbs will hide the dying bulb foliage as I mentioned.) Remember this one.

Allium comes in oval, spherical, or globular flower shapes all blooming on tall stems. The rounded shape of their bloom makes them great partners for interesting garden combinations.

Iris-BedIn late spring, the squat Turkestan onion flowers. It stands only 1 foot tall with a large, long-blooming flower of pale silver-lavender. I have it coming in early June.


The chives are always an onion to welcome since used in cooking. The Allium is a very versatile, design-worthy plant. They make great additions to dried arrangements too.


See my upcoming post, Lush Gardens of June Can Leave Gaps in the Garden. I will tell you how designers avoid these gaps.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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42 Responses to Wild About Allium – Step Aside Tulips

  1. I love alliums too and have a ton in my perennial beds. They are very happy and self sow. You can actually pull the yellowing foliage off without hurting the bulb for next year, but I place them in the middle of the bed to hide the leaves. I wouldn’t be without my tulips but not the big kind—i love species tulips that come back every year. Although I have had similar results with Darwin Hybrids–no rabbits or deer though.

    • All my early tulips are species. The yellow tulips (West Point) have been in the garden for 6 or more years now. I get most of them back even really finicky ones like Queen of the Night. That is if squirrels don’t find them. All tulips are planted really deep for that reason to thwart the squirrels.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the bulb planting tips! I visited Longwood Gardens last week, and the allium was planted among large fern. That combination was very effective, yet confusing! I wonder if allium would grow in the shade with MY ferns!

    • I have seen them in the fern too. It is a nice look. Maybe just get the early May Allium, like Al. jesdianum (May) Al. aflatunense (May-June), AL. albopilosum (May-June) or A. cowannii (white in May). Early varieties are growing even before all trees get their leaves. I get Allium mid May all the way through June. I have lots of varieties.

  3. You’re right. I can’t grow tulips, but the rabbits leave my allium alone.

    • Rabbits got my other friend’s tulips too. Rabbits are in my neighborhood too, but luckily they have avoided tulips. The squirrels one year beheaded every tulip. They don’t even eat them either. The heads just lie on the ground next to the stems.

  4. Himali Shah says:

    woooooowww. wonderful flowers and beautifuly captured

  5. Nick Hunter says:

    Good post Donna. A friend in the landscape maintenance business gave me Allium bulbs last fall, saying even I could grow them, and they would perk up my dreadful landscape. She was right. They’re a vivid reddish-purple — beautiful! (I’m sure you have tons of pics but if you need this color in your collection I’d be happy to send you a photo)..

    • Thanks Nick. Post it in the comment for all to see! Maybe only the link will work of it on your blog or the link to the image. I never tried to post a photo in comments, but a link will surely work. BTW, my other blog, Nature and Wildlife Pics, on my sidebar showing recent posts might be more of interest to you. It is more on animals and nature. Check it out. I have been doing almost all garden here for a while now. Only in the colder months does the eagles get highlighted on GWGT. Other birds, here and there.

  6. Nurse Kelly says:

    Allium has always been one of my favorites! Just like Ladies Slippers! They have that fairytale, whimsical feel to them as well.

  7. These look great and have just missed my wild ones!

  8. Marna says:

    I’m a first time visitor to your bog and really enjoyed this post. I had an allium invasion this year. They were rampant. I wasn’t expecting the seeds to travel some distance into the shade gardens and into the lawn. I usually enjoy self seeders so many of these will remain where they blew only a few must go to prevent over crowding other plants. Your orioles are beautiful. I had one visiting the yard this spring but haven’t seen him since.

    • Thank you for visiting, Marna. Sorry to here you had so many self-seeding onions. Some places they would get aggressive in a garden. Here they multiply, but not to an great extent. Some even die out over time. Thank you, the orioles are a pretty bird. Glad one visited you.

  9. lula says:

    I love alliums and I had them in my garden in Majorca. I wilkeep in mind your suggestions for my next garden, hopefully next year!

  10. Emily Scott says:

    The allium family are much loved by bees and other insects too 🙂

  11. alesiablogs says:

    You will be impressed…I am weeding! Thinking of our soldiers today who gave the ultimate sacrifice….

  12. bittster says:

    Great pictures, as usual! I like alliums more each year, they’re easy to fit in and the flower stalks give a nice height and from to late spring plantings. I agree the dying foliage needs a little covering… and I’m not usually one to complain about yellowing bulb leaves!

    • I don’t remove them as Carolyn mentioned. I just hide them with other foliage. I like them coming back as large as when they went in. I found removing foliage makes for a smaller bloom.

  13. I am with you Donna…I love alliums and they are just coming up and beginning to flower…such a great look in the gardens….I like the hints especially planting a bulb in the back of hole dug for a perennial.

  14. Pingback: Ornamental Allium | Nick's Nature Pics

  15. See Nick’s post, https://nicksnaturepics.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/ornamental-allium/. The red/purple variety is pretty. Not sure which Allium it is since it is not deeply red.

  16. I obviously need to add more Alliums! These are lovely, Donna. Thanks for sharing the beauty!

  17. Annette says:

    I’m mad about them too, Donna, and have lots of different ones but ‘Globemaster’ and ‘Round and Purple’ have outperformed them all this year – they just keep flowering for weeks, stunning, and the bees love it as well.

  18. Loretta says:

    Gorgeous post, I didn’t realize allium were so easy to grow. Standing upright and proud they have to strut their stuff I suppose :). I wonder if you will be posting on Asiatic lilies anytime soon? I acquired a bunch of them from a garden I volunteer at, and being in the city, my garden space is very limited. I put them in pots for the moment, and they are about to burst with blooms….I’m not quite sure what I will do with them in the Fall. I have a fence like yours, and a friend suggested I plant them against the fence, but it is so hard to figure out what it will look like. I enjoy your posts and all the information you provide.

    • Allium is a very easy to use bulb for gardeners. I will be highlighting Asiatic lilies when they bloom starting in a few weeks. Many of them multiply and live harmoniously with the Allium and the iris. Iris and lilies need to be thinned out every three to four years. The iris are the only plants that is more difficult to dig up. I really don’t look forward to dividing them. Lily bulbs are planted in fall here, but if in pots, anytime works fine. Summer is OK if you make sure they are hydrated and installed on an overcast day to avoid transplant shock. Just avoid those very hot days. More on this in a later post. Thank you for reading.

  19. Alliums are one of my personal favorites…You did such an amazing job of capturing the uniqueness of this bloom and the color that is so pleasing.

  20. Alliums are very nice, but Tulips are forever the Empress of Bulbs, even after they have withdrawn into dormancy. You’ve offered lots of good tips here for working Alliums into a garden design.

    • Why are tulips, “forever the Empress of Bulbs, even after they have withdrawn into dormancy”? When they are gone, there is nothing good to look at. Tulip leaves are large like Allium, but much harder to hide in a garden. I suppose if treated tulips as an annual, they would be less trouble, but some years tulips only last a couple of days. Too short a time to be #1 in my book. The species tulips are my favorite for “lasting time’.

  21. I liked your idea of planting the alliums with the irises. I liked how the alliums looked with the white irises. That was really stunning. I’m trying to let some of mine go to seed, but they just don’t look as large as the original bulbs. Thanks for sharing your ideas and photos!

    • Sue, the white iris is first, but the lavender and purple ones come later. By next week they will be blooming. The bed is under constant change. I have glads growing in there too, but they will be along after the Asiatic lilies bloom, which some years bloom with the later iris.

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