Allium sphaerocephalon

  • Zone: 4-8
  • Bloom: Green changing to rosy burgundy
  • Height/Spread: 2-2.5’ / 1-1.5’
  • Site: Full sun / Well drained

Autumn is a perfect time to reflect back upon your garden. I often find myself critiquing and scheming on new plant pairings, areas that need to be edited or a spot that needs a punch. Luckily, fall is a time of the year where a little bit of work and planning will pay dividends next spring and summer.

A plant that I have fallen in love with over the past few years is the Drumstick Allium. This bulbous perennial is a striking addition to a perennial border, cutting garden or a spring bulb planter. If you are familiar with using large globe-like alliums in your garden, this plant requires the same general growing conditions: full to part sun and a well-drained soil. But where this striking perennial differs from its much larger cousin is a petite, slender shape and a size that pairs well with a host of perennials.

The drumstick allium is adorned with an egg-sized burgundy flower atop a stick-straight, slender 2-3’ stock. The inconspicuous bud emerges in mid-May, followed by a deep green flower that over a week’s time changes to a rosy-burgundy flower that the honeybees adore. The teardrop-shaped bloom lasts through June and July in the Midwest.

I pair this ornamental onion (or leek depending on whom you ask) with perennials that it can rise above to add an extra dimension of color and texture to the garden. The rosy-burgundy of the allium complements the blue-purple bloom of perennials like ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint and ‘Havana Blue’ geranium. I have also found that it looks great with the chartreuse color of freshly emerging Amsoina hubirchtii. Because the allium has such a splendid stature, it is best when planted to have a background of a taller perennial or hedge behind it to help enhance its beauty. On that note, I would also recommend planting in a mass or a grouping of 10 to 15 for the most dramatic effect.

Planting is truly a breeze for this bulb that has roughly the diameter of a quarter. I simply dig a 1’ x 1’ hole 3-4” deep and add 10 of the bulbs, cover and repeat. Could not be any easier. I generally plant my bulbs from the end of September to the week of Thanksgiving. If you are like me and have deer around every corner, this bulb is perfect because deer are deterred by the scent of onion and garlic.

Planting is simple for this bulb that is roughly the size of a quarter. To learn more about how to plant bulbs, see Planting and Storing Bulbs

Because of the drumstick allium’s long, straight stems, it makes a perfect cut flower by itself or in combination with garden roses or dahlias—either way it looks great.

In comparison to other bulbs, Allium sphaerocephalon is very inexpensive and I truly plant them by the thousand. I could not recommend it enough for a garden that needs a punch of color and texture next spring and for years to come.

Drumstick alliums are a striking addition to a perennial border, cutting garden or a spring bulb planter. This allium is also a favorite of many florists such as Mary Ernst McColgan from Rose Bredl flowers in Columbus, OH.

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