Each year, the National Garden Bureau (NGB) selects an annual, bulb, vegetable and perennial to be showcased. The selected plants are chosen for their popularity, versatility, and simplicity. NGB is predicting 2016 to be the Year of the Carrot, the Year of the Begonia, the Year of the Delphinium and the Year of the Allium. All of these have not only been popular for years, but are great plants to grow in our Midwest conditions.
This year’s bulb is the allium. These unique flowers give your garden a pop of color that is like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Ornamental alliums are globe-shaped flowers that rest on the top of green, leafless stalks. Much like your tulips, there are many varieties of alliums that range in height, color and flower size, giving you an allium for any situation in your garden.
Another perk of alliums is that they are deer and rabbit resistant due to the pungent ordo and bitter taste that they release when the animals chew on their foliage. Both insects and animals avoid munching on them, but bees and pollinators love the flowers and their sweet nectar.
The most popular and common alliums are the larger varieties known as “Globemaster” and Gladiator.” These deep purple, globe-shaped blooms are typically about six inches in diameter and overall grow to be about three feet tall. They put on quite the show in late spring, giving you pops of color you missed during the winter months.
There are other colors available, though the purple is definitely the most popular. Alliums also come in shades of plum, blue, pink and white. There are even yellow alliums that bloom midsummer. The bloom color, size, shape and bloom time can all vary depending on which type you plant, giving you endless options for your allium garden.
Believe it or not, alliums are part of the onion family, so if you let your chives go to bloom, they too will get a small globe-shaped flower that looks like a miniature allium. In fact, these non-bulb alliums have been growing in popularity in the past few years. You often see them blooming late summer in gardens alongside rudbeckia, heuchera and mums.
No matter what type of allium you choose to plant, all alliums need good soil drainage. If you are planting the bulb alliums, you will need to get these planted in the fall, preferably in groups. Other non-bulb alliums can be planted throughout the growing season. Both types like a spot in the garden that has more sun. While your alliums will not bloom all season long, with so many varieties to choose from, you can mix and match your alliums to keep a display going throughout the season.