Allium with their Orb Shaped Purple Flower Heads

Purple Allium flower heads in spring with big yucca plants in background.

After the Native, Wildflower, Botanical and Species tulips begin to fade, the gardens continue to come to life. All around you can see the beginnings of Allium – also known as Ornamental Onion flowers.

These orbs – in various sizes and shades of purples are hard to miss. They are distinct with their perfectly shaped pom pom heads that seem to take over the gardens. And being part of the onion family, if you get close enough to the base of the stalks, you can smell onions! 

Each head actually consists of dozens of tiny lilac-colored, star-shaped flowers. They are a perennial that grow quite easily so they make return appearances. Given the conditions of the local xeriscape gardens their presence has definitely expanded.

Alien Looking Pods that Give Way to Flowers

Ornamental onion antenna looking bud head.
Allium flower pod looking like an alien antenna.

The first to make its appearance in spring is fast-growing, tall Ornamental Onions. They remind me of alien antenna – the kind you’d see on some odd creature in a sci-fi flick. They have a long, lanky, green stem with a round pod on top.

It’s funny to see these bobbing around in the wind like they’re communicating with another species. Perhaps they are?

The pod appears to be covered in a thin sheath reminiscent of an onion skin. Within the pod are all the little flowers. Given its size, It’s hard to believe it contains dozens of little purple flowers.

We’re talking some serious flower compression within the Allium pod!

Little star-shaped purple blooms on an Allium flower head.
The orb shape of a fully bloomed Ornamental Onion.

But slowly but surely the pod will give way to the full bloom of its round, pom pom appearance. The little purple flowers look like shining stars with bright purple centers.

Close-up of purple ornamental onion flowers.
Close-up of star-shaped, purple Allium flowers with bright green centers.

Other Varieties of Allium

The gardens do have several different varieties of Allium (Ornamental Onion flowers). Another variety are the ones that bloom much lower to the ground than their taller brethren with much thicker stalks and leaves. These Ornamental Onions tend to have larger heads with star-shaped flowers in softer shades of purple. 

Ornamental onion flowers with their star shapes.
A lower to the ground variety of Allium with flowers in soft purple color.

Once these are in full bloom throughout the gardens, it looks like a sea of round purple heads. They tend to come to life at the same time as the big red poppies they keep company with so it’s a beautiful contrast of colors and textures.

Allium flowers coming out of pod head.
Allium flowers emerging from pod.
Xeriscape gardens dotted with purple Allium
Xeriscape garden with Ornamental Onion globes.

Keeping Unusual Company

Like many of the other flowers in the gardens, Allium are no strangers to keeping unusual company. They can be rather indiscriminate. In previous posts I’ve documented Candlestick tulips growing by the barrel cactus and the Dwarf Iris do so too! So it goes without saying that it should come as no surprise to see these growing by different cactus plants.

In the photos below, you see the Allium popping up all throughout a very large Snow Leopard Cholla plant. The white fuzz on the cactus is actually hundreds of spines! And then we have the other photo with prickly pear buds.

Allium with prickly pear buds.
Purple Allium next to prickly pear cactus buds.
Photo right – Allium growing in front of Snow Leopard Cholla cactus.
Allium with snow leopard cholla plant in background.

Very Bee Friendly!

Bees love Ornamental Onion flowers. Pollen options are still somewhat limited. So as the mornings warm up, the bees take full advantage of all the little flowers at their disposal. They carefully move from flower to little star-shaped flower focused on the pollen gathering mission at hand. It’s interesting to watch them select just the right flower. I observe wondering what the qualifications are to make them stop at one flower over an other?

Allium with honey bees on flowers.
Close-up of honey bees on little purple Allium flowers.

Photographing these little fellas among the flowers can be tricky. My lens of choice is not necessarily ideal for these fast moving flyers. So when a few shots come out, my photo capturing session for the day is happily complete 🙂

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