How to grow Alliums

Alliums give the late spring, early summer garden a punch like nothing else.

How to Grow Alliums

Over the years I have grown every variety I can lay my hands on.

Here are some of my favourites

Allium Varieties


Allium ‘Early Emperor’

Allium 'Early Emperor'
Allium ‘Early Emperor’ flowers 2 weeks earlier for me than any of the others.
followed by

Allium ‘Violet Beauty’

Allium Violet Beauty
Violet Beauty’ had scent, which is unusual in Alliums and looked particularly wonderful under planted and blooms slightly sooner than

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

If you have room for only one variety then it has to be Purple Sensation!

Allium Purple Sensation

When I first fell in love with this plant genus at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show they cost a fortune, happily this is no longer so and you can pick up packs of bulbs for as little as £1.

If you have the room, plant at least 15 bulbs together. But be careful to space wider than the bulb suggests to cater for the size of the flower heads, about 10-15cm apart for Purple Sensation.

Allium ‘Cristophii’

Allium 'Cristophii'

Allium ‘Cristophii’ bridges the gap between the earlier ‘Purple Sensation’ and the late ‘Globemaster’. The heads look just like a sparkler! In recent years prices have come right down and this is now a very affordable bulb. This looks great planted with Allium ‘Gladiator’ which is a good alternative to ‘Globemaster’.

Allium ‘Globemaster’

Allium Globemaster

My next best Allium is the ‘Globemaster’, flowering much later in early July it is a whopper. Truly magnificent!

They are more expensive, but you need less of them, just 3 planted among the fading heads of ‘Purple Sensation’ will still give you a wow! Even now I keep adding topping up 3 more slowly each year. Plant 30cm apart.

Allium ‘Sphaerocephalon’

Last to bloom in July /August is Sphaerocephalon

Allium Sphaerocephalon

This Allium is perfect for Wedding Bouquets and Buttonholes being the size and shape of a drumstick and is often referred to as the ‘Drumstick Allium’

White Alliums

Not only purple Alliums also come in White, the best Whites are Allium ‘Mount Everest’ and Allium ‘Nigrum’

Allium Mount Everest

Allium Mount Everest

Allium ‘Nigrum’

Allium 'Nigrum'



Alliums are a worthwhile investment and careful planting will make them perennial bulking up year on year.

On heavy soil add a layer of grit in the bottom to the planting hole, they won’t like sitting in wet waterlogged soil.

My soil is quite poor so I give all my spring-flowering bulbs a high potash feed in the early spring.

Bulbs should be planted in autumn at a depth of about four times the diameter of the bulb.

Don’t forget to space wider than normal depending on the variety to accommodate the flower head size which can be huge!


They look wonderful planted with Foxgloves which also disguise the leaves which, by the time the bulb flowers can look a little scruffy.

How to Grow Alliums

The Best of the Rest

For smaller flowers the pale pink Allium Unifolium is my favourite. It flowers for ages and looks wonderful in bouquets and spring arrangements. For white flowers try Allium Cowanii or Allium Graceful.
Allium Schubertii has a huge head which is much more airy than other Alliums and on a much shorter stem. I prefer this variety to Allium Spider which is very similar but I find need staking. Plant 20cm apart.
Allium Gladiator which is a good alternative to Allium Globemaster.
Allium Miami has dense dark heads that add drama.

Allium caeruleum is a blue allium, with  flowers in June and July.

Allium hollandicum aflatuense, this smoky mauve Allium is brilliant mixed with the deeper colour of Allium Purple Sensation

Allium hollandicum aflatuense, this smoky mauve Allium is brilliant mixed with the deeper colour of Allium Purple Sensation

Vase Life tricks

Alliums last up-to 2 weeks  as a cut flower, if you add a drop of bleach to the water you can minimise the oniony smell. For more information read Cutting and Conditioning

Zoe x
Wedding Flowers Bucks, Swan Cottage Flowers



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ali says:

    Some lovely varieties. You are right, it is hard to beat ‘Purple Sensation’. Christophii comes close.

    1. Swan Cottage Flowers says:

      I think you need both for extending the season. I’m trying Summer Drummer this year, can’t wait to see what it’s like!

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