Bulbs Dried flowers

Extending the Beauty of Alliums

Spray-painted alliums add punch to the summer garden. Photo: Jana Last, Flickr

The genus Allium offers a host of plants of interest to gardens. First, such edibles as onions, garlic, leeks and chives, then summer and fall blooming perennials like A.‘Millenium’, A. senescens ‘Blue Eddy’ and A. thunbergii ‘Ozawa’.

Drumstick alliums in bloom. Photo: www.americanmeadows.com

However, the most widely grown ornemental allies are fall-planted, late-spring or early-summer flowering bulbs, including a whole host of tall alliums bearing beautiful balls of blooms on a straight stem, like A. giganteumA. ‘Purple Sensation’, A. ‘Globemaster’, A. ‘Mount Everest’ and many, many more. 

Drying on the Spot

You can just leave the seed heads as they stand for summer-long interest. Photo: NIgel Dunnett, Twitter

It’s the latter that are of interest here: the tall drumstick alliums. As the flowers fade (by then, the leaves are long gone), they leave upright stalks of dried flowers slowly turning into seed capsules, dried flowers you can harvest for indoor decoration … or leave standing in the garden for the summer.

I just leave them where they stand: wheat-coloured balls of beauty that last until winter.

Paint Them for Extra Color

These are not blooming alliums, but spray-painted seed heads. Photo: www.canr.msu.edu

However, the latest trend is spray paint drumstick alliums in bright colors for added punch.

You can use a paper plate with a slit in it to spray seed heads where they stand without coating nearby plants with paint… but I still suggest doing this indoors. Photo: www.canr.msu.edu

I’ve seen people do this on the spot, directly in the garden, but then you tend to get spray paint on nearby plants. It’s therefore best to harvest them and spray them indoors, in a workshop or in a garage. You can then put them outside again, inserting the solid stalks into the ground. Spray paint helps preserve them, so you can then bring them back indoors in the fall as a winter decoration, then put them outdoors again the next summer. 

Just choose the color or colors of your choice. Photo: ellishollow.remarc.com

Spray painting alliums: never thought you’d be doing that, did you?

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

8 comments on “Extending the Beauty of Alliums

  1. Pingback: Autumn Bouquets - Laidback Gardener

  2. Patricia Evans

    My alliums have already fallen over and seed themselves so prolifically that I cut off the flower heads and toss them. And I detest the painted versions, so that isn’t gonna happen here.

  3. Oh my! No you didn’t! This is excellent. We did it to dried lily-of-the-Nile flowers a long time ago, and I am still embarrassed about it. (It was the neighbor’s idea.) They did not stand up straight, even though I plucked off all the pods. These alliums look weird, but I would like SO do this (if I grew alliums), and then blame the neighbors.

  4. Hi, if i were to just leave them to spread their seeds, would i get new and more alliums the next year?

  5. Jan Bushfield

    I have mid-size alliums…no idea what cultivar…and they seed around too freely to leave them standing in the garden. Their stems are not strong enough to just insert in the heavy soil of my garden after painting either. BUT…they look fabulous inserted into a Christmas tree! Just like little starbursts or fireworks. And I love them in a vase too.

  6. No, I never heard of that. 🙂

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