Plant of the Month for July, 2015

(AL-ee-um MO-lee)

General Information:

Allium moly is an plant that most people do not recognize as being an onion or garlic. It is short with fairly wide leaves unlike most onions. It also has very vibrant yellow flowers. This great garden plant should be in every garden. It grows just about anywhere, sun, shade, wet or dry – but maybe not in a bog.

Allium moly; photo by Robert Pavlis

Allium moly does not seed around too much, like some alliums, but it does spread slowly. The bulbs are easy to remove in any area where they are not wanted.

The name of this plant is confusing. Both the Encyclopedia of Life and The Plant List, as well as other reliable sources have two species listed; Allium moly and Allium luteum. But in the trade, both species seem to be the same plant. In fact you can find plants named as Allium moly ‘luteum’ or Allium moly luteum. I guess these last names are used by people who are also confused about the name.

To make the naming more interesting, there is a plant described as Allium moly ‘Jeannine’ which was discovered in 1978 by Antoine and Michael Hoog. This named cultivar is said to be more vigorous, has yellow flowers instead of the yellow-green flowers of the species, and it has two flower spikes per bulb. All of the bulbs being sold have a very vivid strong yellow colour. I have purchased the plant under different names, including ‘Jeannine’, and they all seem to be the same.

Allium moly; photo by Robert Pavlis

The Encyclopedia of Life has two accepted pictures which show off-white flowers that could be considered to be yellow-green ( I wonder if all bulbs in the trade are in fact Allium moly ‘Jeannine’?

Common names include; golden garlic, golden onion, yellow flowering onion or lily leek. All parts of the plant can be eaten, but it is not regarded as a good kitchen onion. Some reports say it is quite mild, and others claim that it has a very strong garlic flavor.

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: 30cm (1ft)

Bloom Time: mid June

Natural Range: France and Spain

Habitat: badlands, on mountain ledges and in forest clearings, mainly on calcareous soils

Synonyms: Allium obliquum


Light: full sun preferred by grows well in shade

Soil: not fussy

Water: drought tolerant

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3– 8

Propagation: seed, bulb offsets

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): usually

Allium Moly

Allium: Perennial Bulbs and Plants
Planting Bulbs in Fall:

  • Choose a location in full sun with a rich, well-drained soil. Alliums are long lived plants so be sure to choose a location where they may grow undisturbed for many years.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • It is a good idea to add fertilizer, such as bonemeal, when you prepare the soil. Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil so it does not come into direct contact with the bulbs.
  • The general rule for planting is to cover the bulb with soil to 3 times its vertical diameter. In very cold climates, or where the soil is very light and sandy, plant a little deeper. In heavy soils, or in areas with a high water table, plant slightly more shallowly. Plant all bulbs of a kind, when grouped together, at the same depth so they will bloom at the same time and attain the same height.
  • For planting clumps of bulbs in beds and borders, dig a hole large enough to hold all the bulbs in one group or drift. Set them upright at the bottom of the hole, tops up (pointed side up), and space properly. Press the bulbs into the soil and cover with the prepared soil to the recommended depth. You can also use a trowel to dig individual holes.
  • Alliums should be planted 3-6 inches apart, 4-6 inches deep.
  • After planting water thoroughly to settle the soil and to encourage the start of root growth. Sufficient moisture is vital to the health of your bulbs; lacking ample rain, it may be necessary to water new plantings once a week in fall. The roots will continue to grow in fall until the soil freezes.
  • Be sure to mark where you planted your bulbs so you know where they are in spring.
  • Add 1-3 inches of mulch for winter protection after the ground freezes.

Planting Potted Plants in the Garden:

  • Select a location in full sun with rich, well-drained soil.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock.
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
  • Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth.
  • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker.
  • Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination.
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Careful watering is essential in getting perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry. One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge.
  • Until plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, higher rates may encourage root rots.
  • Remove and discard foliage after a hard frost in fall.
  • In general allium clumps may be left undisturbed for years and only need to be divided when they are too crowded to blossom freely.

Allium Species, Golden Garlic, Lily Leek


Alpines and Rock Gardens



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)


6-9 in. (15-22 cm)


USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 °C (-40 °F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 °C (-35 °F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bright Yellow

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Denver, Colorado

Ashton, Illinois

Washington, Illinois

Olathe, Kansas

Lexington, Massachusetts

Pinconning, Michigan

Croton On Hudson, New York

Belfield, North Dakota

Bucyrus, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio

Eugene, Oregon

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Rapid City, South Dakota

Magna, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Tremonton, Utah

Newport News, Virginia

Kalama, Washington

Mountlake Terrace, Washington

show all

Latin Name Pronunciation: al’ee-um

Bulb size: 22-24 cm/12-14 cm/6-8 cm (depending on variety)

The genus Allium (the Latin means “garlic”) includes many garden plants that grow from bulbs or bulb-like rhizomes. Allium flowers form dense balls of color at the top of strong stems, and they make excellent displays in the garden or in bouquets. Allium flowers range from purple, burgundy, lilac, silvery amethyst, pink, blue, to yellow and white. Some varieties have scented blooms, but their perfume is usually pleasant and not the least oniony. The scent of the bulbs and leaves, however, may remind you of onions.

Light/Watering: Most Alliums grow best in full sun, with at least 6–8 hours of direct sun a day. Those we offer require well-drained soil and are longest lived in locations where the soil is on the dry side during summer dormancy.

Planting: Plant Alliums more shallowly than comparably sized bulbs, just 1–2 times the diameter of the bulb deep.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Alliums prefer well-drained, fertile soil. Fertilize in fall and spring with any bulb fertilizer.

Continuing Care: The leaf tips of many varieties, especially the tall ones, begin to brown before bloom time. Remove the spent flowers (except from varieties that are sterile, such as ‘Globemaster’) if you wish to prevent them from self-sowing.

Pests/Diseases: Alliums have few problems except when planted too shallowly or in wet soil.

Companions: Place Alliums behind heavy-foliage plants such as Peonies and Iris. Good for bedding, and in mixed borders. Flower heads are good for drying.

Dividing/Transplanting: Alliums rarely need transplanting or dividing, but this can be done when the bulbs are dormant.

Allium is a superb flower, famous for its surprising ornamental floral scapes.

Key Allium flower facts

Name – Allium giganteum
Family – Liliaceae (lily family)
Type – perennial

Height – 8 to 40 inches (20 to 100 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary

Flowering – May to July

Easy to grow, it is perfect in flower beds or in pots and garden boxes to decorate your terrace or balcony.

Planting allium

Allium giganteum is planted in fall more or less 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) deep in light soil.

  • Allium loves high sun exposure.
  • Soil must be light and drain well, and even poor soil is fine.

A good tip to know how deep to plant it is to multiply the height of the bulb by 3. If it is 2 inches (5 cm) tall, plant 6 inches (15 cm) deep.

  • Proceed to group 10 or 15 bulbs close together to create clustered spots of color.
  • Plant bulbs more or less 8 inches (20 cm) apart.
  • Look up our advice on planting bulbs.
  • Learn how to plant bulbs in flooded or clay soil.

Pruning and caring for allium

Caring for allium is extremely easy, since the needs of this perennial bulb plant are not complicated.

In both pots and in the ground, they will bear nice flowers without asking you to care for them.

  • Cut wilted flower scapes as they die off, cutting the stem off as short as you can.
  • Only cut leaves back when they have already turned yellow because that is when the bulb is stocking up on nutrients for the next blooming cycle.
  • No need to add fertilizer.

Note that allium leaves tend to turn yellow before or after the blooming of the large umbels, and so it helps to plant ground-covering perennials around the giant onion plants, to cover the wilted leaves and only let the flower stem stick out.

As for pot-growing allium, remember to water regularly because water needs are higher due to the fact that potted plants tend to dry off faster.

All there is to know about allium

Allium is a perennial that grows quite easily which will produce very beautiful purple blue flowers that can be up to 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) across.

Native to Europe and Asia, this ornamental onion belongs to the same genus as the following species: edible garlic, onion, shallot, chives and belongs to the same family as leek.

The different Allium varieties all boast superb flowers bunched up in balls and the size and color of this ball depends on the variety.

In flower beds or along edges, and also along a wall or simply plunked in the middle of the yard, the ornamental impact of this plant is guaranteed!

  • Allium giganteum, thanks to its tall bearing, is perfect to line the back of a flower bed.

It is also used in flower bouquets, because the foliage and the flowers both can be used to make appealing bouquets.

Smart tip about allium

For the taller species you can stake the stem to keep it from folding under the wind. Nice for this is to use bamboo, it is perfectly suited and actually enhances the visual impact of the plant.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Allium blooming close-up by Dean Moriarty under license
Field of allium by merica under license

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