Allium bulbs degenerating, mild climates
Mon, 10 Mar 2003 19:03:39 PST
Mary Sue Ittner <> writes:

> Can you comment on Lauw's statement about Alliums degenerating rapidly to 
> virus in mild temperatures. I am assuming the Allium that Alberto talked 
> about was virused when he got it.

Some of what I know about growing Alliums in very mild climates I learrned 
from Thad Howard of San Antonio, Texas.  None of the Central Asian "big ball" 
types, such as karataviense, cristophii, aflatunense (of Hort) lasted more 
than a year in his climate. The cold winter dormancy cycle is probably much 
too short in the relative hot climate of San Antonio.  But he prospered with 
many of the "tenderish" Mediterranean species, some of which might run the 
risk of becoming weedy.  But I should think that subvillosum, subhirsutum, 
roseum, should do well, as should some of the section Codonoprasum onions 
such as pallens, paniculatum, rotundum, etc.

But what one calls a "mild climate" can mean many things.  For the four years 
I lived near the Seattle, Washington area, I found it to be an excellent area 
for bulbs and really good for alliums.  I grew a lrage collection there, and 
was very pleased how well they did.  For example, I grew the lovely 
trifoliatum with white red-nerved flowers, the minuscule drumstick onion A. 
rubrovittatum in two forms (one only growing 2" tall, the other about 8-10" 
tall, with dark reddish miniature knobs of bloom), and the best was A. 
scrozonerifolium var. xericiense, with big showy heads of bright yellow 
flowers on moderate height stems.  I can grow the very different "type" 
species Allium scorzonerifolium which has a few non-invasive fairly inocuous 
bulbils in the flower head, but the beautiful non-bulbilliferous form "var. 
xericiense" refused to grow for me here and it doesn't appear to be hardy 
outdoors in northern New England.  I think it's a matter of finding which of 
the 850 species will grow in your area, and I'm sure there must be a hundred 
or more suitable candidates.

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
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