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Drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon)? Like it?

14 years ago

I grew allium 'Purple Sensation' this year and loved it so much that I want to try a few more varieties. Do you like Allium sphaerocephalon? I'm in zone 7b, and I see that it usually blooms in July. For my zone, that probably means June, don't you think?

Anyway, do you like it? Are the blooms large enough to enjoy? How many bulbs do you like to mass together?

Thanks,

Cameron

Comments (30)

  • 14 years ago

    Grew it about 10 years ago. very grass-like and the flowers were not very showy in my opinion. Finally got rid of it and that was a real job too.

    George

  • 14 years ago

    George - this was my concern. The photos in catalogs are close-up, so I can't judge the size of the blooms. I've never seen it growing around here. I love the alliums, but would like something to bloom later than May that has significant bloom size. My gardens are large, and anything small, just disappears.

    Thanks,

    Cameron

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  • 14 years ago

    It is perhaps my favorite of all the ornamental onions.....and seems to retain better foliage appearance than most. But it is also a smaller species and the flowers are not large compared to some - about the size and shape of a small egg. It is more of a front of the border plant. And I like it massed in groups of 10-15 or more to make a statement. Less plants seem to be more easily overlooked :-)

  • 14 years ago

    If you plant it you'd better like it. It forms hundreds and hundreds of underground bulbets, many smaller then a pea. The foliage is inconsequential and usually gone by the time it blooms, which is fine by me. I once had it planted around a mauvish/lavender rose called Angel Face and the two together were perfect in color and form. It's showy enough in its own right to be noticed by visitors, but really would look better with companion plants. I've had it so long now that I fail to note anymore when it's in bloom in my gardening journal, but it's probably June.

  • 14 years ago

    LOL Maryl has it right. I finally had to use Roundup on a large area to get rid of it and even that took 3 applications. It was worse than garlic grass which is a wild nuisance here.

    George

  • 14 years ago

    I like it in groups of 10 or more and as companion to other pinkish/purple or yellow flowers of foliage.
    Now I only have a few here and there left . They add interest to the garden, but not major features.

    If you like Allium, try 'Globemasters'. They have secondary florets that prolong the bloom.

    My most favorite of all alliums is actually A. albopilosum/cristophii. It is about 2 to 2 1/2 ft. tall. The flower head is metalic purple about 10" diameter. The flower head turns tannish in summer and stays put for the longest time. I let them be until the wind blows it away in the fall.
    {{gwi:20211}}

    {{gwi:233068}}

  • 14 years ago

    Here's a few later blooming Alliums to look into. Try Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty'. It's good foliage is about 12" tall, topped with 18" tall, 2 to 3" diameter pink balls, and it is just finishing blooming now in my garden. I'm also growing Allium senescens glaucum, which is just starting to bloom here, at 12" tall with silver green foliage, and Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa' that blooms in October here, with dark pink flowers on 10" stems.

  • 14 years ago

    I was pretty disgusted with it this year. The stems grew very long/weak and it toppled over on the ground or fell across any nearby plants. We've had unusually heavy rain this summer so maybe it won't behave so badly next year. We will see. Mine blooms at the same time as the daylilies. Good pairing.

  • 14 years ago

    'Globemaster' is an excellent large allium and the bonus is that it is sterile, so doesn't seed around. It looks nice for a long time, and also increases yearly. The large bulbs double. I like 'Ozawa' for its very late bloom time, in October here, maybe late September. It is a small allium, but very cute. Allium sphaerocephalon seeds around far too much and comes up everywhere. I got rid of mine.

  • 14 years ago

    Bean Counter: The daylily/Drumstick Allium would indeed be a good combination. Additionally the daylily foliage might keep the Drumstick stalk more upright as they do have a tendency to fall over (perhaps because the bulbs grow so shallowly). If you were to put the combo in a large container (and keep the Allium deadheaded), you wouldn't have the problem with the bulblets taking over your real estate. You could repot when either got to be too crowded. I grow quite a few daylilies in pots so this gives me another "container combo" idea.

  • 14 years ago

    Maryl - I was thinking about the container idea to try first to see how I like the little alliums. Good to hear that they can be planted that way... did you still plant them in the fall?

    Cameron

  • 14 years ago

    I will agree with others - really hard to get rid of once it sets in - still fighting to get it out of the one bed. I think the pot idea first sounds like a winner!

  • 14 years ago

    I didn't know the Drumstick Allium can become such a nuisance (i.e."little bulbets"). I planted some last Fall and they grew and bloomed beautiful this year but I don't want to fight them like I do the grape hyacinth. Ugh. Maybe I should pull them all up.

  • 14 years ago

    I bet you can eliminate half of the nuisance problem of the drumsticks by deadheading them after they bloom. They do tend to flop, and as their color fades, they don't look very good after bloom, to my eye, anyway.

  • 14 years ago

    Maryl, I'm not having trouble with the allium seeding. If it gets in the way, it isn't that hard to pull up. It's very like grass the first year. Purple Sensation reseeds more heavily and I've just pulled most of it up. It's the tendency for drumstick to just lay on the ground that I don't like.
    BC

  • 14 years ago

    My problem with the smaller alliums is they seem to disappear. I suspect it is me though, I think I am mistaking them for wild onions & pull them out.

  • 14 years ago

    I deadhead, so reseeding has never been a problem. It's the bulbs they reproduce underground;hundreds and hundreds of small bulblets..Cameron; I've never tried the Drumstick Alliums in a pot. I just thought it might be a good idea when combined with a daylily. I did try another type of Allium last year A. Aflatunense Purple Sensation, and since I couldn't find out how prolifically they might spread by offsets, I put a pot in the ground and planted them there last fall. I wouldn't do that with the Drumstick Alliums however because those bulblets are too small and might escape through the drainage holes. The Purple Sensation came up just fine this spring. I will wait until next year to see what, if anything, they do. Picture of the Purples Sensation below:
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  • 14 years ago

    This isn't a great picture, but it should give you an idea of the size and color of Allium sphaerocephalon. Pink daylily is Siloam Double Classic.

    {{gwi:254980}}

    Same bed (side view) earlier in season with A. giganteum.

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  • 14 years ago

    Maryl - I really liked Purple Sensation. First year in my garden. I hope it returns next year, but I will plant more bulbs this fall to be sure. I wasn't expecting the green orbs to last so long after the purple flowers were gone. Very cool!

    Leslie - thank you for sharing the photos. You have great combinations! With the large size of my garden, I should probably plant the taller, larger alliums.

    Thanks,
    Cameron

  • 14 years ago

    I haven't grown the drumstick allium so can't comment on it, my favorite to date has been Christophii, I've also grown Schbertii, Azureum, Purple Sensation and Lucille Ball. This fall I'm thinking of trying a new to me allium called 'Summer Drummer', bicolor pink/purple 7-8" balls atop 6' stems with corn like foliage. I will either love it or hate it so will only buy one to try.

    Annette

  • 14 years ago

    Hi Cameron,
    Similar to what others are saying, I love ALLIUM aflatunense Purple Sensation, Big showy heads on strong sturdy stems.

    Allium sphaerocephalon on the other hand flops and reseeds too heavily and is not as showy as the others.

    Allium giganteum blooms later than PS and is showier and pricier.

    Allium christophii is a real beauty - just gorgeous and one of my new favorites. Bigger heads than PS and the stars are showier.

  • 14 years ago

    Almost forgot another favorite of mine Allium karataviense, both the purple and white are really nice for front of borders, I love the leaves on this one, such a pretty Allium.

    Annette

  • 14 years ago

    Many years ago I read a rather prejudicial statement by a gardening non-american who said that American Gardeners were like babies. If it wasn't big bright and shiny we couldn't appreciate it. Well, I disagree-WAH! The point is that some of the seed heads of Alliums are also attractive in their own right (as Cameron mentioned about Purple Sensation) if you have an eye for such things. For instance I've used the Drumstick Allium heads in dried arrangements with success. Also at a teaching garden I was attracted to a group of medium growing large flower heads that looked like an explosion of fireworks had just gone off. It turned out they were the seed heads of Allium Schubertii. They were planted in front of an evergreen shrub border with competition from nothing else "bright and shiny" to distract, and their unusual form took center stage. The guide said that they stayed like that for at least a month or so. I've never seen them in bloom, but had I a similar set up, I'd certainly try the same combination.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Allium Schubertii

  • 14 years ago

    I love this allium. I live in Zone 8, and many of the alliums do not persist in our heat and humidity. This one does. It's pretty subtle and you do need to plant about 15 to get much effect. I've never had a problem with it reseeding (I wish it would) or taking over. I plan on ordering more this fall and mixing it in with cone flowers, agastaches, and salvias. I've included some pics so you can get an idea of the size in a garden setting.
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    {{gwi:266952}}

  • 14 years ago

    I love Allium sphaerocephalon. It spreads a bit, but it seems easy to pull out. I have it in many places in the garden - a few in each spot to poke up through other plants.

    the leaves are much to look at. What you basically have is a stem with a purple ball at the top.

    I grow about 20 types of ornimental allium and like most of them.

  • 14 years ago

    This is a follow-up on drumstick allium. I planted two groups of 25 bulbs (from High Country Gardens) and love the look! Mine are absolutely straight up and tall in full sun that is 12 hours a day in summer. Dry conditions.

    The allium looks great with agastache, especially the pink tones of 'Cotton Candy' or the blue tones in 'Blue Fortune'.

    Cameron

    Here is a link that might be useful: drumstick alliums in my garden

  • 14 years ago

    Cameron, I attended my first plant swap back in early May and the host had the most beautiful alliums. They were deep purple color and they were the size of a softball, and stood very stately and tall. Reminded me of those large drumsticks they use on those large steel drums. Oh, they were beautiful, as were her peonies and scilla. Her gardens were to die for! That is where I saw Red Charm peony and she has another one that was a beautiful apricot. I looked in Alderman peony gardens catalog and that one is named Somona Apricot and only cost $150..too rich for my blood, while the Red charm was only $26. I can afford that one.

  • 14 years ago

    I finally pulled the "remains" of allium christophii. It was very short in my garden, with huge orbs. The sparkling silver-lavender color looked good.

    I've held off on plants that don't like to be moved until I get my "new since 2005" gardens more settled. The trees are growing up and changing the light conditions. Peonies and crinum are on my "someday" list.

  • 14 years ago

    ah ha, cam,
    NOW I know what they can look like when grown in the right place.Think mediterranean; think NC?? (where?; there's alot of diff climates there, aren't there?)

    I do like mine very much but they all lean significantly on their 24" H wiry stems; saturated reddish purple 1" flower heads good w/ white gaura a wh. phlox.

    p.s. i just did a Dan Hinckley* with some of my christophii,removing the dry brown seedheads and placing them around on a neighboring large Red Dragon acer dissectum. i'll post a photo sometime!
    best,
    mindy
    www.cottonarboretum.com/
    * Dan did this once; spraypainting the dry christophii heads neon orange and placing them on July(past bloom) euphorbia that had previously had orange blooms!!!I daresay he actually fooled a few people with this farce.And I can tell you ,it was one proud moment for me when it did NOT fool me(this in the midst of a garden where I was continually surrounded by plants that i did not know and/or could not grow!)