Browning Allium Foliage

Jun 6, 2016 | Gardens

As perennial plant gardeners, one of the things we learn over time is how each plant behaves. There are perennials that look great before and after flowering (Heuchera) and those that look terrible once they’ve finished blooming (Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’). There are plants that flop open, exposing woody centers in mid-summer (Artemisia silver mound) and those that keep their form from spring to fall (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’). The gardener learns to work with each plants personality and habits.

One flower that draws my eye at this time of year are alliums. In 2015 I had the pleasure of being at Moss Mountain when Allen’s Allium were in flower, and I had an immediate attack of plant lust. I came home and immediately put in an order for several types from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

What's amazing about these lovely flowers is that they are equally interesting when they go to seed. And BTW, you too can visit Moss Mountain! Get information here: http://pallensmith.com/the-farm/

What’s amazing about these lovely flowers is that they are equally interesting when they go to seed. And BTW, you too can visit Moss Mountain! Get information here: http://pallensmith.com/the-farm/

 

But although the developing seeds on Allium plants are lovely, most of these plants have an unfortunate characteristic… their foliage begins to brown and die even as the flowers are just opening.

You can see the problem from this angle in my garden. Standing on my front porch and looking down from the "backside" of this garden, the declining foliage of these bulbs is clearly visible.

You can see the problem from this angle in my garden. Standing on my front porch and looking down from the “backside” of this garden, the declining foliage of these bulbs is clearly visible.

 

The key to using Allium in the garden successfully is to plant them in and among other perennials that are robustly growing when the bulbs bloom but not yet so tall as to obscure their flowers. So daylilies, for example, make the perfect garden companions for Allium bulbs.

From this angle the daylilies hide the browning Allium foliage. Perfect.

From this angle the daylilies almost hide the browning Allium foliage. I used white allium in this garden because I’m trying (with some success) to keep the flowers in this bed in the blue, coral, yellow and white range. 

7 Comments

  1. Vera Clifford

    I’ve just recently found your blog, books, wonderful info, etc.. by way of Lejardin blog. My dear hubby just gifted me A Garden Lover’s Martha’s Vineyard for my B-day!
    So happy to come upon such a wealth of gardening fodder for the soul. We are near P. Allen Smith but still haven’t been to Moss Mountain, hope to some day. Martha’s
    Vineyard has a such a fascinating charm …on my bucket list before I die, lol. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos and gardening advice.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      How nice to meet you, virtually, Vera! I hope that sometime you get up to Cape Cod to see my garden on your way to Martha’s Vineyard. (Hint: come in July for the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival or in August so you can go to Illumination in Oak Bluffs. These should be on everyone’s bucket list!) An get to Moss Mountain asap, of course. Allen Smith is a talented designer, interesting historian and a class act when it comes to promoting plants and gardening.

      Reply
  2. Charlotte Connor

    Hi my gallium flowers have gone from a lovely purple colour to a more brownish colour. Do you know what the problem may be? Thank you

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Charlotte,
      Allium flowers don’t last for long…if they were purple for about a week to 10 days, that is their normal time of flowering. But if not, they might have either dried out. The other things that can cause plants to brown quickly are fertilizer burn from too much synthetic fertilizer or getting hit with something such as an herbicide, hot water from a sun-heated hose, cleaning fluid from nearby house work etc. If you let them dry completely now on the plant, then pick them you can spray-paint them for indoor fun bouquets.

      Reply
  3. Linda Foster

    The leaves from my alium plants are turning white.Could you tell me why please

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Linda,
      Allium foliage naturally starts to die back even as the flowers start to bloom. Without seeing your plants I’d guess that this is what’s happening. It’s the reason that Allium are best planted in and among other perennials so that the emerging of the other plants hides the allium foliage as these bulbs come into bloom.

      Reply
  4. Marlene Y Douphinett

    Found your site when looking for information on Allium. Love your info. I only have email so hopefully if I sign up and can follow your gardening endeavors.

    Reply

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