Does your perennial garden give you a non-stop parade of flowers from spring through fall? If your answer is "yes", please take a bow! Continuous color a lot more difficult to achieve than it sounds. Every type of plant blooms according to its own schedule, and flowering times also vary by variety, growing zone and weather conditions.
For many gardeners, one of the most confounding bloom time gaps happens in late spring – after the tulips have flowered and before the peonies are open. Sometimes that in between time can last several weeks, and it seems like a long time when you're eager for flowers.
Fortunately there’s an easy fix: alliums. Here’s why every perennial garden can benefit from these carefree bulbs:
1. Late Spring Color. Most ornamental alliums flower in May, when it’s no longer spring and yet not quite summer. By planting several different types, you can stretch the show for months. You'll find colors, heights and bloom times here: Planning Guide for Alliums.
2. Lots of Variety. There are more than a dozen garden-worthy alliums that can be called into action: short ones, like Allium karataviense and Allium schubertii, are perfect for rock gardens or lining a walk. Others, such as Allium Purple Sensation and Allium Mount Everest, are the ideal height for a mixed perennial border. Giant alliums, like Allium ‘Christophii’ and Allium 'Globemaster’, produce enormous 6 to 8” globes. You'll find photos and descriptions here: Types of Alliums.
3. Problem free. Deer, voles, chipmunks and squirrels have no interest in eating alliums. Insects don’t bother them either (except for bees and butterflies, who love the nectar). Alliums are also virtually immune to disease problems.
4. Easy and reliable. Like most flower bulbs, alliums are born to bloom and need no special care. Just plant them in fall, any time before the ground freezes. Most species thrive in zones 4 to 7 and will return to bloom again year after year.
5. Long-Lasting. Allium flowers are long lasting in the garden and in a vase. The seed heads are also attractive and can be dried and painted gold or silver for holiday arrangements.
6. Happy personalities. There’s something lighthearted about alliums. Whether they remind you of lollipops, balloons or bubbles, they are always a pleasure to have around.
The time to plant allium bulbs is fall -- at the same time you’re planting tulips and daffodils. Consider nestling the bulbs among other plants to help hide the alliums' fading foliage. Next year, you may find that late spring has become your garden’s finest hour!