Bloomin’ Onions: Beautiful Flowers of the Allium Family

Updated: Apr. 24, 2020

On our Facebook page yesterday, we featured a “mystery photo” of a flower bloom head and asked readers to identify

On our Facebook page yesterday, we featured a “mystery photo” of a flower bloom head and asked readers to identify it. Anyone who reads this blog regularly would have recognized it, because it was the bloom from fellow blogger Noelle’s not-so-successful onions, which she featured in a post last week. The onions might not have turned out the way Noelle hoped, but there’s no doubt blooms from onions, which are members of the Allium family, are downright gorgeous, and many other species in this family are grown just to enjoy the lovely flowers.

Noelle’s Bloomin’ Onions

Plants in the genus Allium usually grow from bulbs. Some species have been cultivated over the centuries for their edible properties, giving us onions (Allium cepa), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), and garlic (Allium sativum). Others, such as Allium gigantea, have been prized and grown specifically for their beautiful blooms. Either way, the flower heads are umbels, made up of a globe of short-stalked small tiny blooms. They come in a variety of colors, and create a striking show in the garden.

An ornamental variety of Allium

Allium bulbs are planted in the fall for spring or summer blooms, and can be grown in almost any garden. Flower heads and stalk heights range widely, from varieties like ‘Graceful’ which grow 12 – 16 inches with two-inch bloom heads, to those like ‘Globe Master’ which grow to almost four feet and have blooms the size of your head. They like well-drained soil and full to part sun, and are considered very deer-resistant. Most are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.

An accidental onion bloom by Birds & Blooms reader Bella Hooks, who said, “Took an onion out of the vegetable bin in the refrigerator and planted it once it started to sprout leaves. Never thought it would produce such a beautiful flower and a drive-by dinner for so many butterflies!

For those trying to grow big onion bulbs for harvest, the sight of an onion flower is a disappointment. Once an onion puts up a flower stalk, the bulb usually ceases to grow, even if the flower stalk is removed. This is generally triggered by cool temperatures at the wrong point in the growing season. Click here to learn more about growing onions for harvest instead of flowers.

The unexpectedly lovely bloom of a garlic bulb, photographed by Birds & Blooms reader Faedawati Vermillion

Do you grow alliums or ornamental onions, scallions, or chives to enjoy their blooms? Give us your growing tips in the comments below!