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Amazing alliums

In this new learning resource on May flowers, Catrinel Wright of Edington Flowers talks us through the range available in the humble onion, or allium, family and why they bring some drama to arrangements.

Alliums growing on the Chiltern Sky Flowers flower farm.

Purple Sensation (photo Chiltern Sky Flowers)

Many people are familiar with Allium Purple Sensation, which blooms in May, but there are so many other types, which makes this genus a very versatile inclusion in the cutting garden at Edington Flowers. Alliums have a unique globe shape amongst all other flowers, and add a touch of drama and playfulness that few other flowers can achieve. I call them “fireworks in a vase” because they really do sparkle!

Alliums bridge the gap between the end of the tulip season and the start of the summer flowers, although if you pick the right types, you can have alliums until July and into August. Most alliums last at least 2 weeks in the vase, the exception being the smaller species ones. The dominant colour palette is purple, but more recent introductions include white, such as Allium Silver Springs, and for a dark red look at Allium atrogiganteum or Allium spherocephalon. Another interesting member of the genus is Nectaroscordum siculum, with umbels in green and a light shade of peachy-pink.

Tuckshop Flowers May arrangement in a concrete bowl with tree peony and an allium nectaroscordum sicculum curving over the top.

An allium nectaroscordum curves over a tree peony in this arrangement by Tuckshop Flowers.

Alliums are very easy to grow, but need a well drained soil in full sun. If they like you, they will multiply over the years, both by division and self-seeding if you let them go to seed. However for the latter it takes about 3-5 years and extra care to get the seedlings to a size big enough to produce flowers.

Because  of their unique shape, they mix well with most other flowers and combine with more colours than you may immediately think. Some of my favourite combinations are Allium  Purple Sensation with salmon ranunculus, or Allium Metallic Shine with pale yellow alstroemerias, but frankly, the possibilities are almost endless.


Alliums are not easily found in shops and almost never in supermarkets, I suspect they do not transport well over long distances so are another great reason (if you needed one!) to get friendly with your local florist farmer to have your pick of the crop!