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Ornamental Alliums Add Color and Aroma

Alliums are colorful little balls extended on long stalks that add color and aroma to the garden

Alliums are running in high gear as a popular stalk. Their delicate flowery heads cap the stem and range from beautiful lilacs to pastel yellows, snowy whites, and gorgeous blues. In fact, the palette seems limitless, as do the many allium species. You'll find the majestic "architectural" varieties that can grow to six feet. Many smaller border types are also quite appealing. (more below...)


To enjoy successful allium growth, it's important to pick those that are suited to your region and to the soil. Location is important as is avoiding under- or over-watering. Many alliums will do better if left a little dry. In the right conditions you can expect to be beautiful perennials, through Zone 5. Even better, once they have flowered, you can just leave the late summer alliums to provide dried color when warmer weather turns to cold.

The larger-headed alliums are called "Amazons." They are typically relegated to a Zone 8 and won't thrive elsewhere. Generally, colors may be limited in any regional setting and the most stunning azure blue is very difficult to find anywhere. Some will bloom in or around March and others later in the year.

One of the interesting aspects of alliums is their lineage. They're related to onions, garlic, and chives. Indeed, if you rub the stalk or bruise a leaf, there is a familiar aroma. These are great critter repellents; even deer tend to avoid them. Don't worry, some of the actual blooming parts are more pleasant. The experts refer to them as flowering onions.

Don't count on the existing leaves to fill in, either. Many times, the foliage begins to die away even before blooms arrive. That's why alliums are wonderful filler plants. They add spikes of color that can be interspersed with low-profile greenery. With a healthy planting, you can expect the seeds to disperse for a larger crop the following year.

Alliums are readily available at local garden centers and from Internet garden suppliers.

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