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GardenSMART :: Allium 'Millenium' is the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year

Allium 'Millenium' is the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

Ornamental onions - Alliums - appear to be having their day in the sun. That's good, because these whimsical flowers, which look like purple, pink, or white balls on sticks, have much to offer. They're easy to take care of, attract butterflies and other pollinators, and taste bad to rabbits and deer. Their bold silhouettes contrast with the loose, rounded mounds of most perennials, and they are beautiful and interesting to boot. Alliums merit a much bigger place in home gardens.

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Now one is an award-winner. The Perennial Plant Association ( named an allium – 'Millenium' – the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year. A bulb, its flowers are a soft purple.

Some alliums send up a single flower per bulb, but 'Millenium' bulbs will clump, sending up multiples. Flower height ranges from 12-18", with a similar spread.

According to the PPA website, 'Millenium' was chosen for its "late flowering with masses of rose-purple blooms, uniform habit with neat shiny green foliage that remains attractive season long, and for its drought resistant constitution."

'Millenium' (with only one 'n'), debuted in 2000. It was bred by horticultural researcher Mark McDonough in Massachusetts. It is hardy in zones 3 to 9.

These alliums bloom in July and August after many other plants have petered out. They grow best in sandy soil, though are adaptable to other soil types. What they can't take, like most bulbs, is wet soil, which will cause them to rot. Good drainage is essential.

Plant bulbs in fall in a location with full sun, or afternoon shade in hot climates. As with all flowering bulbs, after blooming is finished leave the foliage up to nourish the bulb so it will bloom the next year. Cut it back in fall. 'Millenium' has no significant pest or disease problems.

Some alliums reseed enough to be a bother, but 'Millenium' does not. Its seed is sterile. Divide clumps in fall or spring and plant the divisions to get more plants. 

'Millenium' looks great paired with goldenrod (Solidago), Russian sage (Perovskia), or the yellow evening primrose 'Shimmer' (Oenothera fremontii 'Shimmer').

There are about 700 kinds of alliums, including edibles such as garlic, leeks, scallions and onions. In fact, Allium means garlic in Latin.

Most ornamental onion flowers have long stems, making them good cut flowers. The foliage and flowers smell like their onion brethren, however, so they are not a good choice for a nosegay. And though they smell edible, ornamental onions shouldn't be eaten.


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