March 30, 2015

Plant of the Month: Drumstick Allium

allium5

Do you grow Alliums in your garden? Of course you do, if you grow onions, garlic, chives, shallots, or leeks. But there's an entire class of ornamentals in the Allium genus, grown for their beauty, companion-planting value, and pollinator-attracting abilities.

starts2

What's that popping out of my otherwise barren, mulch-covered potager? Why, it's Drumstick Alliums (A. sphaerocephalon)! They're sometimes surprising in the timing of their appearance each year (they seem early this year), but they never let me down.

I take them for granted so much that I don't have photos of them at their classic peak of interest. That's embarrassing. For beautiful examples, please click here and here. (Note to self: Grab the camera this year when the Alliums are blooming.)

There's always something more showy blooming when they're at their peak, which makes them great companions and "filler" flowers in late spring/early summer bouquets.

allium1

I do have photos of them at the bud stage.

allium2

Also, a mediocre shot showing them green and just about to add their colors.

Here's a little information of interest: Drumstick Alliums are happy in USDA zones 4 to 8, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. They prefer full sun and dry to medium levels of moisture. Their height ranges from 2 to 3 feet, with a spread roughly half that, although they have a definite tendency to spread and naturalize. With shallow roots, however, they're easy to lift, transplant, and share.

Like most ornamental Alliums, they're colorful and fragrant. But some of their best qualities: They attract butterflies, they repel deer and rabbits, and they're drought- and Black Walnut tree-tolerant.

allium4

Do you grow Drumstick Alliums in your garden? Any other species of ornamental Alliums?

46 comments:

  1. Why yes I do, Beth, lots of them. They are a great garden plant, but I don't see them until May. None showing here yet. The bees await...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember seeing them featured on your blog, Donna. I'd like to try some bigger ones, too, but I have such a small plot of sun. All the Alliums are great in floral arrangements, too! I'm surprised mine are so mature already. Much ahead of last year--but last winter was much colder than this winter.

      Delete
  2. When i see umbels like that i know they are alliums, but alliums normally don't bloom in hot climates. That is the reason we are a perennial importer of the cooking and table alliums, Alium cepa. i saw some of those wonderful ones in New Zealand. I wonder why yours are described as 'drumstick'?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't realize that (about the hot climates). A. cepa (garden onions) grow very well here, too. In fact, I plant them around the perimeter of my garden and use them as scallions, and later harvest some as larger onions. I believe the A. sphaerocephalon are called "drumstick" because of the shape and size of the stems with the flower heads. When just maturing, the flower/seedheads are round and about 1-1.5 inches and resemble the ends of drumsticks. My photos don't really show them at that stage, but the links I included do.

      Delete
  3. Every year I think I should add some drumstick Alliums but for some crazy reason, I never do! I grow plenty of other Alliums tho, mostly for the bees but a few just for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm that way with other species of Alliums, Kathleen. I really like some of the larger Alliums, but with my limited sun for sun-loving plants, I don't have good spots for them. I wonder how they would do in partial shade?

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Yes, the color is pleasing. I agree. The plants also complement other plants in my potager that like the sun. :)

      Delete
  5. I love drumstick alliums, and must plant more of them - yours do seem to be crazily early though!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, they seem much earlier than last year; I was kind of surprised. They are near the house and get baked by the afternoon sun. Last year's winter was much colder than this year. Plus, that layer of thick mulch must help, too. I'm pleased, I guess, because they'll give me some early flowers for pollinators and floral arrangements. I'm guessing they'll bloom about a month earlier than they did last year. Weird.

      Delete
  6. I just planted the ornamental alliums last fall so I'm waiting to see how they do in my garden. Mine aren't coming up yet. I love the chive blooms that grow in my kitchen garden which inspired me to add the Alliums to my perennial beds. I love that they are deer resistant...always a bonus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, deer and rabbit resistance is a definite bonus for me, too! I like chive blooms, too--they look similar to the Drumstick Alliums until they fully bloom, when the latter are larger and more bright pink/purple. I'll look forward to posts about your new Alliums. :)

      Delete
  7. I fancy garlic in the garden and a few varieties. I like them very much, despite the garlic smell. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've always been curious about growing garlic. I love the taste--on all vegetables! If I ever have a huge sunny garden again, I will make room for garlic!

      Delete
  8. I do let the onions and chives bloom from time to time and love the color and interest in the beds. This reminds me of allowing artichokes to come to full bloom....have you ever tried it? They are positively hallocinogenic! (sorry, spelling....)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do let onions bloom sometimes, but I've never grown chives or artichokes. Now I'm curious about the artichokes! ;-)

      Delete
  9. I love these allium and actually all allium, both ornamental and culinary varieties. My Drumstick allium won't be blooming until just about summer. Other allium will come up in spring though. I do not recall them naturalizing though and I have had them planted for at least 5 years....I will check them this year to see if the clump has grown in size.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to add more species of ornamental Alliums--maybe one of these days. I need more sun! My Drumsticks seem to multiply most years. They stay in the same general area with a little spreading, but there are so many bulbs! I'm surprised at how early they are this year.

      Delete
  10. I have drumstick alliums that I love. They are such cool plants. :o) Last fall I added fall blooming 'Millenium' alliums that I'm excited about. I also have spring and recently added fall chives. I love how tough alliums are. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Millenium' Alliums--I will research! Yes, I enjoy their hardiness, too! Plus, they're so beautiful when in bloom. I have a little trouble weeding around them, but otherwise I enjoy them very much.

      Delete
  11. Many of the Alliums, like Christophii and Schubertii, which I love, seem to do well for a while and then disappear. The drumsticks come back reliably, as do nectaroscum (I guess no longer technically an Allium) and 'Hair' (a real oddball cutie). Wish I kept better track of photos, as I have a really good one of the drumsticks...somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to know, Ricki. I've never tried other Alliums, except for various onions. I'll research the ones you mention. I'd like to eventually add more Alliums to my garden. I've been pleased with the Drumsticks for many years. I thought I had some photos of them at that middle time of blooming, and also in floral arrangements, but I couldn't find those shots in my photo collection. Now I know when to be ready this season. ;-)

      Delete
  12. Wow! What a beautiful color that is. I'm not familiar with the drumstick alliums,but they are quite lovely--as are those photos. I was given some Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum, last fall. I know they spread, but they bloom in August, which is our tough time of year and the bees love them. I couldn't ask for more than that.

    Yours are wonderful though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Yes, I like the color, too. It's very complementary with the bright oranges and pinks of the other flowers I grown in the potager--Zinnias, Lamiums, Cosmos, Marigolds, and Cleomes, among others. I think I need to add some late-blooming Alliums, for the pollinators. That's a good idea!

      Delete
  13. I do grow these and I do love them but they are somewhat thuggish, taking over if one is not careful. They look lovely coming up through the yellow foliage of a Tiger Eye Sumac. I am glad to hear you got away for a bit. I did as well but that hasn't stopped my weather whining. In fact, it has made it worse! I will practice gratitude today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I can imagine they would be attractive with the Sumac! Yes, I would agree that they can be thuggish. Fortunately, they pull up rather easily, too. Regarding the whining, I get it. I was all thrilled to be back, and then we had a cold snap and snow. I had no patience for that, after being able to walk outside without a coat for several weeks. Still trying to figure the best time to be away from this climate. If I could, I would choose all of February and most of March. I don't want to come back to snow, but I don't want to miss the Crocuses and Snowdrops,either. ;-)

      Delete
  14. Like Layanee I also found them thuggish. But I have rabbits and black walnuts so perhaps I should reconsider.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I must agree about the potential for thuggishness. My biggest challenge with them (which was kind of embarrassing and might take too long to explain in the post) is when they come up a little later and they're surrounded by grass. It makes it hard to weed around them--discerning which blades are grass and which are Alliums! ;-) Fortunately, this year, they popped up very early, and my cardboard and mulch (hopefully) will keep the early grass and weeds at bay. The one good thing is that they pull up easily--the roots seem rather shallow.

      Delete
  15. I used to grow alliums and I loved it. Hope, maybe next year will have them around again, meanwhile I'll have to use my friend's!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would like to grow more. Maybe my next place will have more sun. Yes, it's good you have a friend with Alliums so you can enjoy them, too. :)

      Delete
  16. Marvelous! This could be the year I add alliums to the garden...

    Well, I did already so some chive seeds outdoors. Let's see what pops up :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck with the Chives! I'm picturing Alliums of various sizes and colors amid your wonderful collection of plants!

      Delete
  17. I had many different alliums in the bed that for a short while got renamed the rose bed, but I dug them up and gave them away last year in preparation for the roses. Now that I am going to make a new garden I will definitely add a few ones as I really like them. Some are absolutely huge and I love the different colour ranges you can get them in, from proper blue and purple to pale pink and white. I don’t like so much the fact that the leaves die down before the flowers are finished flowering, that makes them look rather untidy – best to plant them between other plants to hide the mess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really enjoy the large ones, and I've been wanting to add some. Maybe I can slip some in with the Drumsticks. All of the Alliums are so great for cut flowers! Yes, I think Alliums are best planted among other flowers. They are good filler and accent plants.

      Delete
  18. I do love the alliums--they have such a different shape than most of my other flowers, so they provide a nice contrast. I couldn't pick a favorite--I have the drumstick allium, also the larger ones, Purple Sensation, I think, and some allium rosaceum (I think it's called) with sprays of pinkish-white blooms. You've given me another lesson for this season in the garden in remembering what is planted where: I forgot all about the drumstick allium yesterday when I was cleaning up one flowerbed. I sure hope I didn't pull it out, thinking they were grass!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I'm imagining all those Alliums interplanted with your other lovely plants, Rose. Regarding weeding around Drumstick Alliums--no that can be challenging. The foliage does resemble and get mixed in with grass. Fortunately, this year for some reason the Alliums are up and sprouting, while the grass is still dormant. Not for long, though!

      Delete
  19. Very pretty. I can see how they might get overlooked, though, once the spring bulbs are in full bloom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Heather: Yes, I guess I do tend to overlook them once all the other colorful blooms get going. :) Large swaths of them, however, are hard to miss when they're in full color.

      Delete
  20. I love Alliums too. I am growing A. schubertii this year for the first time after seeing it in a friend's garden. It's not blooming yet but you can bet I'll be there with the camera. :) I love drumstick alliums because they really attract the honeybees. Great post and thank you for visiting my blog so often. I hope you're having a great spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting here, Grace! It's a pleasure to see your photos on your blog and witness your gardening enthusiasm. Each growing season, my potager is full of pollinator-attracting plants, along with a few veggies. It's fun to watch them on a warm spring, summer, or fall day. :)

      Delete
  21. I don't grow drumstick Allium, but I have grown 'Globemaster' and 'Purple Sensation' for several years. Last Fall I planted 'Summer Beauty' and the native Prairie Onion, really looking forward to seeing them this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason: You are an experienced Allium-grower! I've long wanted to add some larger ones. My sunny space is limited, but I'm thinking maybe I'll slip in a few of the bigger ones this year. Yes, I'm looking forward to all the emerging and blooming plants in the very near future!

      Delete
  22. I grow lots of different alliums, they are so useful and showy, although some can be very invasive. The drumstick Allium is a lovely one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to try some new ones...eventually. In the meantime, I'll continue to work with/enjoy the Drumsticks I have in the garden now. They're great filler for cut flower arrangements.

      Delete
  23. A very useful plant in the garden and reliable here. Loved by all the pollinators, which is a must.
    Unlike some of it's ornamental cousins, this one is well priced and a large bag of bulbs can be bought here for a couple of pound in autumn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it does attract the pollinators--especially when it's at the point shown in the first and last photo. A good reminder to delay deadheading until the flowers are faded and browning. Those bees and butterflies need all the help they can get.

      Delete

Thanks for stopping by!

(Your comment might not appear right away. PlantPostings uses comment moderation, and we read every comment before we publish.)