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Autumn Planting, Spring Flowering: Allium

This article discusses bulbs: the history, uses and occasionally the philosophy that surround the humble bulb.

Alliums come in various sizes, from the tall 1.5-1.8 to short 20cm plants but all naturalise readily. The first thought that comes to mind when thinking of alliums is the giant purple ball alliums (Allium Ambassador), which although they provide a fantastic display are a small selection of the alliums available!

These bulbs come in a range of colours from blue to purple to even white, and there are a few really unusual flowers that can be found, like the Necteroscodrum.

Alliums are spectacular plants that make great feature points in the garden. They have a strong onion-garlic scent and are good when used as both flowers and seed heads.

Allium Ambassador are easy to naturalise, reasonably inexpensive and provides a fantastic display.

The one thing to remember with alliums is the tips of the leaves often start to die back before the flower, so they are best planted behind other plants to hide this and take full advantage of their colour.


As with all Alliums, they appreciate a well draining rich soil and in these conditions can naturalise happily. Plant at double the depth of the bulb or deeper to anchor them well as the taller bulbs can be blown around a bit. The tall bulbs are best at the back of a border where they do not obstruct other plants. They do well either in clumps or as specimens.


Alliums rarely get diseases or pest problems and are very hardy. The only problem that is seriously damaging to them is white mould which you can get on edible onions as well, so try not to plant both on the same area. As flowering alliums are planted deeper in the soil than edible onions, where it is dryer, they are less prone to the disease unless it is in the soil with them already.

Fun Fact

The genus’s name, Allium, is the Latin word for garlic. It’s thought to have been derived from the Greek verb, aleo, which means to avoid. Possibly due to garlic’s strong smell.

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