Using Alliums in the Garden

Alliums are often referred to as onions. However, there are many members of the allium family, including onions, ornamental onions, walking onions, chives, garlic chives, garlic, leeks, and prairie onions. Today, I will go over ones that are best used in the garden for ornamental interest, excluding giant alliums. 

Ornamental onion ‘Millenium’ in the author’s garden

Of these, the ornamental onions are really becoming popular, thanks to an excellent cultivar ‘Millenium’. This short, long blooming cultivar is great for use in mass plantings, borders, and in pollinator gardens. Insects of all kinds, but especially bees and wasps love this particular variety, which seldom produces viable seed, but is easily grown from divisions. 

Garlic chives in a drought tolerant landscape in KS

Garlic chives, although aggressive in nature, can be a good addition to cottage garden for their late summer blooms which are favored by pollinators. Garlic chive have been useful in breeding of new ornamental onion cultivars with their wide leaves and drought tolerance. 

Chives blossom and leaves are edible and tasty

Common garden chives are excellent used in salads and as a seasoning on potatoes, but their presence in the garden is not forgotten. They have wonderful blossoms, which are edible, and greatly used by pollinators. The plants form arching clumps which reseed easily.

Walking onions produce bulblets on top of the leaf stalks

Lastly, the walking onion. I originally came across this onion in my grandpa’s garden, and that is where I got my own starts of it. This onion sets bulblets on the top of the leaves, which then fall over. Where the bulblets land, they root into the soil and start a new plant, thus the “walking onion”. These are a great addition to any cottage or edible garden theme, both for their interesting reproduction method and their tasty bulbs. The onion bulbs are similar in size to leeks. All parts of the plant are edible. 

Ornamental onion ‘Millenium’

Happy planting!

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