QUESTION: Will the alliums in my garden come back every year? I’ve never grown them before. — Susan S.
ANSWER: If you leave alliums in the ground over the winter or allow the flowers to self-seed one season, then your alliums will sprout back up in the spring. Let’s take a look at how to winterize your alliums to keep them safe over the winter so they will return the following year.
Tips for Getting Alliums to Come Back Every Year
- Add a layer of mulch two or three inches thick over the surface of the soil where alliums are growing. Make sure to add your mulch before the weather gets too cold. It will form a protective shield that insulates the bulbs somewhat from falling temperatures and also holds plenty of moisture for them. Just be careful to leave a few inches of space between your plants and the mulch. You don’t want the mulch to be actually touching your plants’ foliage, or it can promote plant disease. Take the layer of mulch off the ground in spring to encourage the blooms to sprout.
- The space where you plant your alliums should offer full sun (at least six hours of direct sunlight each day) and plenty of drainage. If your bulbs are rotting underground, it could be that they’re not getting enough drainage in the soil where they’re planted.
- Every three years or so, it will be time to divide your allium bulbs. It’s especially important to divide allium varieties with small bulbs. You’ll notice a decrease in the production of blossoms when it’s time to divide your alliums. You may also notice the newly sprouted bulbs pushing through the top of the soil. Just dig up the bulbs and carefully pry the new bulbs off to use as sets for the next crop. Then you can replace the original bulb in its spot and replace the soil over the top of it.
- Get things right from the start by choosing an allium variety that is known to be especially cold hardy. It’s even better if you find a variety that was bred to thrive in your area.
- If your alliums need more protection from winter weather in your area than a layer of mulch can provide, you do have another option. You can use cloth row covers or frost fabric to keep the soil where alliums are growing a bit warmer than it would be on its own.
- Some experts advise cutting the flowering heads off of your alliums to encourage a second wave of blooms during the flowering season. However, you may want to leave a few flowers on your alliums to turn into seed heads. Left in place, these seeds will distribute themselves over the area where alliums are growing for a brand new crop the following year.
- Leave the foliage of your allium plants to die back, and remove it once the foliage is spent. That way, the bulb will absorb nutrients from the dying foliage. Do this before using mulch or fabric covers to protect your alliums from cold weather.
By following these tips, you’re sure to have a bumper crop of allium bulbs that will survive through the winter. Next spring, make sure to clear mulch from the ground if you used it before your alliums begin to sprout for the new season of growth.