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Nodding Onion – how to grow and what soil conditions.

The nodding onion, Allium cernuum (cernuum means nodding in Latin)
is an attractive small species native to North America, distributed from New York to Michigan and British Columbia and south in the mountains and cooler regions from Arizona and North Georgia. Nodding Onions are a native perennial plant that grow from bulbs that are longer than they are wide.

Characteristics of Nodding Onion

– The most remarkable feature of the nodding onion is its adaptability.
– Nodding Onion features dainty lightly-scented nodding plum purple flowers from late spring to early summer. It will grow to be about 8 inches tall at maturity extending to 18 inches tall with the flowers, with a spread of 12 inches.
– It’s grassy leaves remain green in color throughout the season.
– The leaves are flat; unlike the onions you may have in your kitchen, but have that onion-like smell, and taste.
– Nodding Onions bloom between July and August and last about a month before setting seeds.
– While deer, rabbits and pesky squirrels may stay away, during the blooming season they’re frequented by bumblebees, honey bees and small short-tongued bees.
– Each mature bulb typically bears a single flowering stem with up to 30 flowers.
– The flowers are individually about ¼” long, and may be white, light lavender, or pink.
– The scapes bend sharply downward at the top so that the umbel droops downward. The small bell-shaped flowers have protruding stamens.

Soil Conditions for Nodding Onion

– It is very easy to grow.
– It prefers well-drained soil in full sun, but will tolerate clay soils.
– It is not particular as to soil type or pH, and is able to handle environmental salt.
– The soil can consist of black loam, or contain either rocky or sandy material.
– It thrives in difficult sites such as hot sun and gravely soil.
– Divide every third year or when 8-10 bulbs appear in the clump.
– It grows at a medium rate.
– It is expected to live for approximately 5 yrs under ideal conditions.
– It is best inter-planted with late-season bloomers to hide the dying foliage.
– It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments.

How to grow Nodding Onion

– It is easy to grow from seed, or can be planted as a bulb in either late fall or early spring.
– Use it at the front of the garden border where its distinctive flowers and fine texture can truly be appreciated.
– It can also be sheared back after flowering to produce a second flush of rich green growth.
– The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply.
– Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes.
– Seed sow spring in a cold frame.
– Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle – if you want to produce clumps more quickly then put three plants in each pot.

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