Alliums belong to the onion family. When crushed, they have a faint garlicky smell, which makes them unappealing to animals and a good choice for gardens bothered by hungry rabbits or deer. These showy plants, which feature a large, round or umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers atop a tall, slender stem, are usually grown as ornamental plants. There are more than 850 species in the allium genus, according to the Pacific Bulb Society. That means there is probably one that is the perfect fit for your home garden.
Alliums thrive in almost every climate except those that are very cold or very hot. Most alliums grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 10, according to the University of Illinois. Some varieties, like the Golden Garlic, are cold hardy to USDA zone 3. The Star of Persia, a showy allium that features a flower head almost a foot across, is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8.
Alliums need sunshine for optimum blooming, just like other spring-flowering bulbs, according to the Seattle Times. Plant them in a warm, sunny location where they will be exposed to at least six, but preferably eight to 12, hours of sunlight per day. Fall is the best time to plant for late-spring blooms.
Soil and Water
Alliums prefer moist, hummus-rich soil, according to the University of Illinois. The soil should be well draining. Overly wet soil will cause the bulbs to rot, so never plant these bulbs where standing water collects. Mulch around the bulbs to keep the soil moist without having to water often. In many cases, normal spring rains will be sufficient, but give supplemental water during periods of drought.
You can clip off the flower heads when they fade, but you also may choose to leave them alone, as they gradually fade to paler colors but still remain upright, according to the Seattle Times. Do not cut the stems or foliage until they die back to the ground. These bulb flowers need the nutrients from the foliage returned to the bulb for next year's growth.
Alliums make spectacular dried flowers. They will dry on their stems in the garden if left alone, but you can also pick them and dry them indoors. Place them in a vase with about 1 inch of water. They will slowly dry as the water evaporates. When the water is gone, use the alliums as a dried flower display or in a craft project.