Great Balls of Fire

Allium 'Mt Everest' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Allium ‘Mt Everest’ (photo: Kathy Diemer)

I love orbs of all kinds; from glass globes to granite balls and anything in between, especially alliums.  The Latin word for allium is garlic, yet alliums are from the onion family (genus), including edibles such as chives, leeks and yes, garlic. Most alliums are happy in sunny, well drained zones 4-9, and come in a wide range of colors (white, purple, pink and yellow), heights (inches to several feet) and sizes (cotton ball to volleyball). Alliums not only add whimsy, funkiness and drama, they are great cut or dried flowers, attract bees and butterflies, are easy to grow, generally pest resistant from above ground critters (below is another story!) and are guaranteed to ignite your landscape. So, are you ready to hear some suggestions?

Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’: A well known, bright purple 4″ globe up to 30″ late May to June.  Purple sensation gives the most impact when planted in groups of five or more.  Be sure to plant within bed to hide foliage after bloom. (Zone: 4-8)


Allium cristopii in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Allium cristopii (photo:

Allium cristopii or Stars of Persia:  Cristopii was one of the first alliums to grace my spring gardens with her amazing star-clusters of amethyst flowers loosely formed into one round head the size of a softball.  Stars of Persia are shorter in stature (15″), so plant them (individually or group) toward the front of the border with other petite plants. Cristopii is one allium whose orbs retain shape months after the blossoms pass, so let it be and enjoy. (Zone: 3-8)

Allium stipitatum ‘Mount Everest’: I can’t get enough white, and ‘Mount Everest’s’ dynamic snow capped  6″ globes are the perfect choice to light up a dark area (groupings of 5 or more).   Everest grows up to 3′ and works perfectly in the middle of a bed of shrubs and perennials.  The blooms (June) stand erect until the fall, which adds another textural element if desired.  (Zone: 5-8)


Allium stipatum 'White Giant' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Allium stipatum ‘White Giant’ (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Allium stipitatum ‘White Giant’: Yes, another white option, a little bit taller (up to 4′) and slightly larger spheres up to 8″ across.  This spectacular June blossomer is showy en mass and fabulous when centered in perennial bed retaining the same upright structure as Mount Everest. (Zone: 5-8)

Allium ‘Globemaster’: This is my second year experimenting with Globemaster (cousin of cristopii), a mammoth purple sphere over 8″ across that towers above the others at around 3′ tall.  Blooming in late May to June, Mr. Big’s long lasting flowers love to be partnered with peonies, baptisia and other spring blooming perennials.  Globemaster’s stems can withstand wind and rain, and the globes provide a wonderful resting spot for bees and butterflies. (Zone: 5-7)

Allium sphaerocephalon or Drumstick Allium: Great naturalizer with crimson-purple, egg-shaped 1″ flowers on 2′ stems; plant dozens in with summer perennials such as rudbeckia and echinacea for a splash of color contrast.  Drumstick alliums are short lived in my garden, but they’re inexpensive, so toss in dozens and sit back and relish your art work come July. (Zone: 4-9)

Allium Purple Sensation in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Best planted in fall, whichever allium you choose will be a welcome surprise come spring.  I suggest planting them among perennials or shrubs so they can pop up between, allowing the surrounding foliage to camouflage their yellowing leaves while they rest for next year’s fireworks.

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A Garden for All