Allium flowers are equally beloved for their beauty and their culinary potential. Planted in a kitchen garden, they’ll add a pleasing aroma and acidity to your dishes. Planted in a cut flower garden, they’ll fill your bouquets with beautiful purple flowers, pinks, lavender, and more delectable hues. However you enjoy your alliums, you’ll love how easy they are to grow as well. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about Allium flower meaning, symbolism, history, origins, popular types, and top tips to grow these exquisite flowers at home.
- Allium Flowers — The Essentials
- About the Allium Flower
- The Allium Flower — Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
- Botanical Characteristics, Colors, and Fragrances
- Popular Allium Flower Types, Species, and Cultivars
- Etymological Meaning
- To What Regions Are Allium Flowers Native?
- When Are Allium Flowers in Season?
- Uses and Benefits of Allium Flowers
- Allium Flower Meaning and Symbolism by Color
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Allium Flowers
- How to Grow and Care for Allium Flowers at Home
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Allium Flowers
- How to Care for Fresh-Cut Allium Flowers
- Allium Flowers FAQ:
Allium Flowers — The Essentials
- The Allium genus includes hundreds of species of flowering, herbaceous, perennial plants. The most popular include culinary varieties like garlic, chives, onions, leeks, and shallots.
- Alliums have bulbs and rhizomes. They produce green leaves and blossom-topped scapes that vary in color, shape, and texture across species. All species of alliums grow natively throughout the northern continents except for a few alliums from South America.
- Ornamental allium flowers symbolize prosperity, good fortune, unity, patience, and humility.
About the Allium Flower
The Allium Flower — Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Allium is a genus of flowering plants that belongs to the Allieae tribe of the subfamily Alliodeae under the Amaryllidaceae family.
There’s a dispute over exactly which plants belong to the genus because it has a complicated taxonomy of evolutionary lines. As a result, species estimates range from about 260 to just under a thousand.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, and Fragrances
Allium flowers are herbaceous plants that grow from bulbs and have a distinct onion or garlic odor or flavor. They produce green leaves that vary from straight or coiled to broad.
They produce several blossoms with globe-shaped or cascading blooms in shades of purple, blue, pink, red, yellow, and white. Blooms feature clusters of small flowers.
Popular Allium Flower Types, Species, and Cultivars
The most popular alliums are the ones we eat: garlic, onions, chives, shallots, and leeks.
Ornamental varieties have grown in popularity as well. Some of our favorites include:
The Allium Universe
The Allium Giganteum
There are numerous other species and hybrids to be found as well including the likes of :
- Allium ‘cristophii’
- Allium ‘hollandicum’ or ‘Purple Sensation’,
- Allium ‘caeruleum’
- Allium ‘flavum’
- Allium ‘beau regard’
- Allium ‘rosenorum’
- Allium ‘millenium’
- Allium ‘round ‘n’ purple’.
The genus’s name, Allium, is the Latin word for garlic. It’s thought to have been derived from the Greek verb, aleo, which means to avoid. Possibly due to garlic’s strong smell.
To What Regions Are Allium Flowers Native?
Apart from a handful of species found in South America, all species from the Allium genus are native to the northern continents.
When Are Allium Flowers in Season?
Depending on the species and your growing zone, allium flowers bloom from late spring through early summer.
Uses and Benefits of Allium Flowers
Culinary Uses and Economic Importance
Alliums used in recipes around the world include onions (Allium sepa), garlic (Allium sativum), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), leeks (Allium ampeloprasum), shallots (Allium oschaninii), and scallions (several species).
These species are popular in every culture’s cooking, and they drive a large part of the agricultural crop economy.
We love culinary alliums for their strong flavor and aroma, but other alliums don’t have the same strong scent. We cultivate ornamental alliums simply for the inherent beauty of their blossoms – not for harvest.
Allium in Herbalism
In herbalism, Allium sativum, which you know as garlic, has some of the strongest, natural antimicrobial properties of any plant. Eaten whole or taken as an oil, garlic has been used to help ward off bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. It’s also been used as an antispasmodic, hypoglycemic, expectorant, antihistamine, and more.
Alliums & Vampires
Legend has it that garlic is also one of the best ways to ward off vampires. Perhaps famously pungent garlic breath is scary enough to do the trick?
Perfect for Pollinators
Most pests don’t like the distinct garlicky/onion aroma of allium plants, which keeps them safe from pesky deer and rabbits. Yet, their blossoming clusters of flowers are attractive to pollinators and will bring plenty of bees and butterflies into your garden.
Toxicity to Pets
While alliums provide popular cooking ingredients for humans, they’re toxic to dogs and cats. So, be careful with your pets around all allium plants including the ones we eat.
Allium Flower Meaning and Symbolism by Color
In the language of flowers, Alliums carry the symbolic meaning of good fortune, patience as well as grace. Since many blossoms sprout from a single bulb, they also represent unity.
In the Victorian Language of Flowers, the color of flowers holds a significant meaning. Different varieties of alliums bloom in shades of purple, blue, burgundy, white, pink, orange, and yellow. Including these colors in a bouquet conveys the following symbolic meanings:
Purple Allium Flower Meaning
This hue is classically royal and can represent royalty and respect. They also carry a strong air of admiration and tradition.
Lavender Allium Flower Meaning
Lavender symbolizes youth, elegance, and grace.
Blue Allium Flower Meaning
Blue flowers represent peace, tranquility, and honesty.
White Allium Flower Meaning
In the language of flowers, the color white holds different meanings that depend on the occasion. At a wedding or baptism, they symbolize purity and innocence. At a funeral, they represent sympathy and condolences.
Burgundy/Red Allium Flower Meaning
Shades of red flowers are strongly associated with romantic love. They can also convey respect and courage.
Pink Allium Flower Meaning
Pink flowers convey gentle love, femininity, happiness, and affection.
Orange Allium Flower Meaning
This vibrant orange color represents equally vibrant feelings like passion and excitement.
Yellow Allium Flower Meaning
This sunny hue represents joy, happiness, and friendship. Use yellow allium flowers to spread cheer.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Allium Flowers
Apart from their colors, allium flowers of any color have a variety of general symbolic meanings. Since many blossoms sprout from a single bulb, they represent unity. Slow to bloom, they symbolize patience. Additionally, they represent humility, prosperity, and good fortune.
People have cultivated allium plants (especially culinary varieties) for millennia. As a result, they’ve become culturally significant around the world for their use in cooking, medicine, and worship. They appear in the Bible and the Quran. William Shakespeare even references their ability to move one to tears in The Taming of the Shrew.
How to Grow and Care for Allium Flowers at Home
What Growing Zones Are Suitable for Allium Flowers?
Allium bulbs are winter-hardy in growing zones 3 through 8. Their performance in each zone varies depending on the species you grow.
Where Should I Plant Allium Flowers?
Plant allium bulbs in perennial gardens, rock gardens, kitchen gardens, and flower cutting gardens. Allium flowers can also thrive in well-draining containers.
Soil, Light, Watering, and Fertilizing Considerations
|Soil||Allium bulbs fare well in just about any type of soil as long as it is well-draining and never soggy.|
|Light||Alliums grow best in full-sun locations. They can tolerate some shade, so a garden that receives partial sun/shade should be just fine.|
|Watering||Alliums require only infrequent, moderate watering. In some areas, rainfall will provide plenty of moisture. It’s important that these plants do not sit in soggy soil.|
|Fertilizing||Use a basic nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium fertilizer with slightly higher phosphorous content. Fertilize newly planted bulbs at planting and just after the first shoots emerge. Fertilize established plants in early spring before they sprout.|
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Allium Flowers
As they represent good fortune and prosperity, alliums are the perfect flower for wishing a person good luck at any endeavor or new start in life. This makes them a perfect addition to a birthday, graduation, or new career bouquet.
In-season during May and June, allium flowers also represent unity and make a wonderful choice for spring wedding flowers, too!
How to Care for Fresh-Cut Allium Flowers
For long-lasting, freshly cut allium blooms, trim when the blossoms are about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way opened. Always use sharp, clean pruning shears and cut stems away at an angle.
Once trimmed, hang to dry right away or plunge the stems into a bucket of cool, clean water immediately after removing them from the plant.
Before arranging in a vase, trim away any spent blooms and foliage that will be submerged in the vase’s water. Change the water every two to three days or more frequently to prevent a grilled-garlic-and-onion aroma from filling your house — unless you like the smell of a greasy spoon diner.
Enjoy Your Popular Perennials!
Hang it from your bedpost. Cut it for bouquets. Grow it in your kitchen garden for fabulous sautés. However you plan to use your ornamental or edible allium flowers, you’re sure to have a wonderful time cultivating these popular perennials in your gardens for years to come.
Allium Flowers FAQ:
Do alliums come back every year?
Alliums are consistent perennial plants that will come back year after year to showcase their spectacular flowers.
When should allium bulbs be planted?
As a general rule, it’s best to plant allium bulbs in mid to late fall to allow sufficient time for them to bed in before the onset of winter. Younger plants can also be purchased in spring and planted if you missed the bulb season.
Do alliums bloom more than once?
Alliums bloom just once each season.
How much sunlight do alliums need to grow?
Alliums grow best in locations that receive full sun throughout the majority of the day. They can tolerate some shade, so a garden that receives partial shade in the morning or afternoon should be just fine.
Are alliums invasive?
Most allium species are not considered invasive. Be aware of Allium ursinum and Allium vineale however as they’re particularly well known for invading garden patches if left unattended.
Do allium flowers smell?
Being a member of the onion family you might be led to believe that Allium flowers carry a distinct fragrance. They’re actually very mild-smelling flowers, a little sweet but generally very pleasant.
What is the largest Allium?
Globemaster or Giant Alliums are generally considered the largest Allium cultivars. As well as producing very voluminous bulbs they can also reach around 4 feet in height.
What is the best allium?
My personal favorites include the award-winning Allium hollandicum and the Allium cristophii. Other noteable Alliums would include the Allium Globemaster and Allium Ambassador.
Is an Allium an onion?
Allium is a broad genus of onion bulbous herbs of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae).
Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant Guides:
Looking for a particular stem or in need of some inspiration on the best blooms for a certain occasion? Check out Petal Republic’s expert guides to Roses, Auricula, Ambrosia, Angelica, Lilies, Irises, Tulips, Orchids, Carnations, Gerbera Daisies, Gladiolus, Bluebells, Camellia, Coreopsis, and Peonies.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.