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Allium stellatum

Prairie Onion

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Allium stellatum is a diminutive bulb with narrow grass-like leaves.  In summer flower scapes tower above the foliage bearing 2-3” umbrella shaped flower clusters.  The white, lavender or pink florets are star shaped and are frequented by pollinators.  This drought tolerant plant is pest free and thrives in sunny sites with average well drained soils.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Allium stellatum is found in central North America in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario and from Michigan to North Dakota and south to Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas.

This species occurs in limestone glades, along rivers on rocky limestone bluffs or cliffs and in hill prairies or sand prairies.

Plants are hardy in USDA Zones 3-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Allium stellatum resembles cultivated onions or daffodils.  Plants form a rosette of flat strap shaped leaves that originate from an underground bulb.  All parts of the plant have a distinct oniony scent. 

During summer, flower scapes emerge bearing umbel shaped inflorescences.  Each flower cluster is about 2-3 inches across.  It contains 9-40 small stalked star shaped white, pink or lilac florets.  The florets have 3 pointed petals and 3 identical sepals.

After flowering a three-chambered seed capsule forms.  The capsules contain black spherical seed.  Soon after the seed are produced the plant goes dormant until the following spring.

Plants are 1-2’ tall with a 1’ spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS:  Culture is easy as long as plants have sun and well drained soil. 

In hot climates, Allium stellatum may appreciate a bit of afternoon shade.  Plants tolerate drought, rocky soil, difficult sites adjacent to black walnuts and alkaline or neutral pH. Plants self-seed and should be deadheaded if this is a problem.

This is a very tough plant that may be perfect for a troublesome or harsh garden site.  Due to the oniony flavor and scent, plants are usually unappealing to deer and other herbivores.

In garden situations, this onion will decline if forced to compete with taller more aggressive companions.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Allium stellatum is a wonderful Accent when the unique flowers are present.  It is at home in Herb Gardens, Rock Gardens Cut Flower Gardens or Perennial Borders.  Plants can also be used as part of a Groundcover or Mass Planting.  They provide Showy Blooms and are valuable components of Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings Meadow Gardens and Wildlife Gardens.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Allium stellatum mingles well with Asclepias tuberosa, Bouteloua curtipendula, Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top', Eryngium yuccifolium and Sporobolis heterolepis.

Allium cernuum is similar in appearance and culture and might be used as a substitute if needed.

TRIVIA:  Allium stellatum is a member of the Lily Family.  The genus name Allium is from the classical Latin name for garlic.  The specific epithet means star shaped and is due to the starry florets.

The flowers attract small flower flies and bees.  Due to the aromatic foliage, plants are unappealing to most mammalian herbivores.   

Allium stellatum differs from the similar Allium cernuum by its more erect inflorescence and slenderer leaves.  A. cernuum has a nodding florets and wider leaves.

Used medicinally by Native Americans and early settlers as a poultice for respiratory problems, coughs and colds. Also used in cooking since all parts are edible.

Phytoremediation: Cd


Height:

1-2 ft

Spread:

1 ft

Spacing:

12-18 in

USDA Hardiness Zone:

3-8

Bloom Color:

Pink

Allium stellatum Characteristics

Exposure

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Critter Resistance

  • Deer Resistant

Attracts Wildlife

  • Hummingbirds
  • Butterflies
  • Pollinators

Groundcover Foot-Traffic Tolerances

  • Light

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Dry to Moist

Attributes

  • Naturalizing
  • Ground Cover
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Dried Flower
  • Cut Flower
  • Container
  • Rock Garden

Flowering Months

  • September
  • August
  • July

Foliage Color

  • Green

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Summer

Growth Rate

  • Fast

Salt Tolerance

  • Low

Phytoremediation

  • Cd-Cadmium

Interesting Notes:

Perfect for rock gardens, meadows, native plant gardens, and naturalized areas.  


Plants that work well with Allium stellatum ''

Purple coneflower Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Prairie dropseed Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Sideoats grama Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Virgin's bower Virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana)
Trumpet honeysuckle Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Trumpet honeysuckle Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'Alabama Crimson')
Trumpet honeysuckle Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'John Clayton')
Tennessee coneflower Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top')
Rattlesnake master Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

Substitutions for Allium stellatum

Nodding onion Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)