Grow Alliums for Spring Blooms Deer and Squirrels Won't Eat

purple Alliums

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Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths get all the spring-blooming bulb publicity, but I wanted to put in a word for the alliums since it is allium season in my garden. Alliums, like most spring blooming bulbs, get planted in the fall, but now is a good time to start thinking about adding some of these bulbs to your garden.

You can plant alliums that bloom at different times throughout the season, but my favorites are the spring-blooming ones like 'Purple Sensation' which looks like a purple lollipop. These relatives of the onions you and I eat bloom from May-June and reach a height of 20" and are one of the most affordable of all the alliums available.

In my garden they’re an important food source in early spring for native and European honeybees among other pollinators. If you can bring yourself to cut them they also make excellent flowers for bouquets and dried floral arrangements.

I don’t see many deer on the West Side of Chicago, but if your garden is plagued by deer that see it as salad bar, alliums should survive grazing because they don’t like the taste of onion. That isn’t to say that deer won’t eat your ornamental onions. A hungry animal will eat anything that it can keep down, but given a choice allium aren’t very high on the list.

The biggest pests in my garden are squirrels, the occasional rabbit, and rare raccoon. Neither bothers my allium bulbs even when they’re lying above ground. And I suspect the reason that my tulips, crocus and hyacinths aren’t eaten to the ground (or dug up) is because I have so many alliums planted among them. Instead of spraying chemicals to deter pests in the garden plants bulbs and flowers that will naturally deter them.

Buying and Propagating Alliums

The best time to buy alliums is in the fall when you can buy a pack of the bulbs for less than $10.00. I have found the second best time to look for them is in June when the potted alliums at garden centers look ragged and the blooms have faded. During these times I’ve sourced allium bulbs for as little as $0.25 a piece on clearance. The seeds that develop at the tip of each flower are easy to harvest and you can just sow them into the ground where you want more alliums to grow. It will take between 3-4 years before each seed turns into mature bulbs but it’s worth the wait to get free blooms.

Other Alliums I recommend

In my opinion you can't ever have too many alliums in the garden. Other alliums I recommend are, 'Globemaster,' 'Mt. Everest,' 'Gladiator,' and 'Cristophii.'