Allium Schubertii: Ornamental Onion That Looks Like Fireworks

Allium Schubertii -- What's in a Name?

By Sue Broderick for Dabah Landscape Designs

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There are various common names for this plant, but none refer to what is clearly its most striking feature. That is, because the flower head and seed head look like fireworks exploding, if I were to have the honor of naming the plant, I would include "fireworks" in the moniker. Instead, it goes by such common names as:

  • Ornamental onion
  • Flowering onion
  • Tumbleweed onion (see below)
  • Persian onion
  • Schubert's onion
  • Plant taxonomy refers to it as Allium schubertii.  "Onion" appears in the common names because Allium is the genus name for both edible and ornamental onions.

Plant Type:  Allium schubertii is a spring bulb plant. As with other such bulbs, you must remember to plant in fall if you wish to enjoy those delightful blossoms in spring.

Characteristics of Allium Schubertii:  This ornamental onion reaches a height of 18-24 inches, with a width slightly less than that. Foliage is strap-like. The plant blooms in May in my zone 5 landscape, producing pink flowers.

But that only begins to tell the story of this remarkable plant. It's really the shape, size and structure of the flower head, rather than the color that is exceptional. It's possible for a flower head to contain 100 or more blooms. While some of those blooms (say about 50) in the flower head remain close to the center, others blossoms (another 50 or so, in my example) will be found on longer stalks that shoot out to various distances from the center.

This is the reason why the flower head is said to look like fireworks "bursting in air."

But let's talk measurements. One of mine produced a flower head forming a globe 18 inches across. Some of those longer flower stalks I mentioned were 4 inches long, others 9, still others somewhere in between those figures. A seed head succeeds this flower head and will dry of its own accord, leaving you with a highly decorative, straw-colored sphere of great complexity.

The Missouri Botanical Garden notes that a dried seed head will become disengaged from the clump and "tumble along the ground with the wind spreading seed as they go." Thus the origin of one of the common names: "tumbleweed onion." The allusion is, of course, to that classic desert plant, the tumbleweed, forever associated with Westerns. Other than my invented common name for this plant (namely, "fireworks onion"), "tumbleweed onion" is perhaps the most descriptive designation.

Planting Zones for Allium Schubertii:  I can safely recommend growing these bulbs in planting zones 5-8. I have, however, seen them listed as being even cold-hardier than that. A lot will depend on your soil: if you have a heavy soil that retains water in winter, chances of survival are decreased.

According to Anna Pavord's book on flower bulbs, they are indigenous plants in "Palestine, Syria, northern Iran, and western Turkestan." But they may become naturalized plants elsewhere, under the right conditions.

Sun and Soil Requirements:  Think about the regions to which this ornamental onion is native (see above), and that will give you a clue as to the growing conditions it likes: namely, full sun and a well-drained soil. Once established, it is a drought-tolerant perennial. In fact, it needs to be in dry soil during the summer, fall and winter to remain healthy. Planting in a loamy soil enriched with humus may result in superior growth.

Wildlife and Allium Schubertii:  A good plant to attract butterflies, Allium schubertii does not attract wildlife that you probably don't want on your land, namely deer. Like many strong-smelling specimens (remember, it is a type of onion, after all!), it is a deer-resistant plant. So far, so good. The outlook is not so sanguine, however, if you're a pet owner (see below).

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Care:  The leaves of Allium schubertii are not especially attractive -- particularly during and after flowering. But resist the temptation to tidy up by cutting the leaves. Messy as they look, they are serving a purpose, taking in nutrients through photosynthesis. So let the leaves remain standing until they turn completely brown.  Divide in fall.

If you doubt the cold-hardiness of this ornamental onion in your area, mulch it to furnish winter protection.

To fertilize, you can apply compost anytime. Alternatively, you can apply a bulb fertilizer immediately after flowering, as you would with other bulb plants.

Uses in Landscaping and Beyond:   In spring Allium schubertii is spectacular enough to serve as a focal point in a planting bed of small plants. Give it plenty of space, as you do not want the foliage of other plants obscuring your view of it during its peak display time. Consequently, avoid planting it next to large plants which will swallow it up and render it an afterthought in your design -- a landscape design mistake of which I was initially guilty.

As plants that crave sharp drainage, they are useful in rock gardens.

These ornamental onions will also furnish you with good cut flowers, as they are not only stunning but boast a sturdy stem. Even better, enjoy them as dried flowers (the flower heads will dry out without any help from you and hold up quite well); but see below about taking precautions if you own cats.

Ornamental onions (plus the types that we humans eat) are considered poisonous plants for dogs and cats. Our beloved feline got into our display, playfully chewing on the seeds. Persistent vomiting ensued. $1300 later, she pulled through.

How to Start Allium Schubertii From Seed 

Commonly called tumbleweed onion, Allium schubertii is a perennial ornamental favored for its large, frilly flower heads and ease of maintenance. It grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, where it is often planted in large groups to create a dramatic flower display in late spring. Tumbleweed onions grow from bulbs, which can be divided from an existing plant or started from seed. The seeds germinate reliably under warm, moist conditions, but the resulting seedlings may take up to three years to produce a mature, dividable flower bulb. Start tumbleweed onion seeds approximately eight weeks before the last spring frost.

new jersey landscape design experts
  1. Wrap the seeds in a moistened paper towel and place them inside a sealable plastic bag. Chill the seeds in the refrigerator for four weeks, remoistening the paper towel as needed.
  2. Fill a 2 1/2-inch-deep greenhouse tray with seed-starting compost. Drizzle water onto the compost until it feels moderately moist throughout. Allow the excess water to drain off for ten minutes before sowing the seeds.
  3. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the moist compost. Try to space them at least one inch apart. Cover the seeds with a scant, 1/16-inch-thick layer of compost. Press the compost with the palm of your hand. Mist it liberally with water.
  4. Place the greenhouse tray on a germination mat inside a cold frame under bright, filtered sunshine. Set the temperature on the germination mat to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Moisten the compost with a spray bottle whenever the surface is nearly dry. Do not allow the compost to dry out completely.
  5. Lower the nighttime temperature on the germination mat to 50 F after the sprouts emerge, which should take around four weeks. Thin the tumbleweed onion seedlings to one every 2 inches once they reach 1 inch tall.
  6. Remove the germination mat four weeks after the seeds sprout. Crack open the cold frame to increase air circulation around the seedlings. Continue watering them whenever the compost feels mostly dry on the surface. 
  7. Scoop out and transplant the tumbleweed onion seedlings into individual 4-inch pots filled with a mix of 3 parts potting soil and 1 part coarse sand. Grow them under light shade during their first summer outdoors. Provide each plant 1 inch of water weekly.
  8. Transplant the tumbleweed onion plants into a permanent bed in fall, in mid- to late October. Choose a sunny garden bed with loamy or sandy, fast-draining soil. Group the plants together, allowing 10 to 12 inches of space between them.

Landscape Design in Morris County NJ

Landscape Design in Morris County NJ

First impressions happen at the curb. A good first impression raises the value of your home and pride in home ownership. If you are considering listing your home, it’s important that its curb appeal entices potential buyers to come inside and see more. A few improvements to the home’s exterior will go a long way in making it more inviting and desirable to buyers on the market. It’s also a great investment. Curb appeal can increase the value of a home as much as 5 percent, according to

Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, simple outdoor improvements can make a dramatic difference. Consider the following tips to add curb appeal to your home without emptying your bank account.

Little Titch Catmint

 Introducing “Little Titch,” also known by its proper name Nepeta Racemosa (mussinii), this little beauty is a dwarf member of the catmint family.  It is also called “Persian catmint.”

Its silvery-green foliage gives an impression of a light misty dew perpetually resting on the leaves. 

As a dwarf, it only reaches a height of up to 10 inches and a spread of slightly more.  It is not invasive as some other mints.  This is the perfect plant for your rock garden or border.  The foliage perfectly complements a stone background.

Little Titch will bloom perpetually from early to mid-spring through the fall if you deadhead it periodically.  It can handle a good trim if necessary and will rebound with more purple to blue flowers.  The plants can be divided every few years.

Plant it in a well-drained area with plenty of direct sun and it will be happy.  Once it’s established, you can ignore it and it will be just fine.  It is both drought- and salt-tolerant and does wellin USDA zones 4 to 8.

Living in northern New Jersey, I am thrilled to say that the aromatic foliage makes this plant rabbit- and deer-resistant!  It will attract plenty of butterflies and other pollenators.  The leaves are sometimes added to potpourri to improve the scent.

In olden times, parts of the plant had many medicinal uses including treatment of digestive problems, a sleep-inducer, destroying intestinal parasites and as a topical treatment for some skin issues.  

Don’t call this plant “catnip.”  While catnip is a member of the mint family, it is a distinct plant with very different growth habits than Little Titch.

With the right location, Little Titch is a plant that you will love for years!


By Susan Broderick for Dabah Landscape Designs

Kerria, the Japanese Rose

Written by Susan Broderick for Dabah Landscape Designs

When first I saw Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' it was love at first sight.  The leaves reminded me of boysenberries – which I love – and the flowers were simply gorgeous.  There was a profusion of miniature yellow “roses” with the slightest hint of orange covering this shrub.

Of course I purchased one and brought it home to plant in that empty corner of the front yard.  It grew to drape over the stone wall and kept my yard decorated for many years.

Kerria does well in full or partial shade and tolerates full sun but the sun will bleach out the color of the flowers.  It likes well-drained, average soil in an area with average rainfall (20+”) for optimal growth.  Kerria is hardy in zones 4-9.

The bright green stems bring some cheer in winter months and the flowers arrive in mid-spring and it may rebloom during the summer.  If you need to prune it, the time to do that is after the flowers are done.  Kerria will grow to be 6-8’ tall and wide but you can tame it for a smaller area.  In fact, an occasional pruning is about the only thing this plant needs to remain healthy.  It can do well without fertilizer and both insects and deer pass it by.

You can grow more of these lovely plants by rooting cuttings, or from the suckers it sends up.  You can also divide it in the fall if it’s not too large to handle.

The growth is reminiscent of forsythia with its long arching branches, but the flowers last longer and in my opinion, are much prettier!

There are other varieties of kerria with single flowers or variegated foliage but this is certainly my favorite.  Be sure to check it out.


Landscape Design in Morris County, NJ

Landscape Design in Morris County, NJ

Spring season is a time of regeneration and renewal as you prepare to bring life back to your lawn and garden. Taking the proper steps after seasonal changes or severe weather conditions can prove to be the difference between creating a breathtaking landscape or an outdoor space with unsightly mishaps. By following a few simple steps, you can take pride in your backyard year after year.

Landscape Lighting Design in Morristown NJ

Landscape Lighting Design in Morristown NJ

With warm weather on the way, many Americans will be heading outdoors. Whether you’re beautifying your landscape with a lawn mower and hedge trimmer or using a chain saw to clear space for that deck you’ve always dreamed of, it’s important to take proper care when using outdoor power equipment. Safety measures help protect both the equipment and the people using it.

“Many people are so eager to pull out lawn and garden equipment once spring arrives that they sometimes forget basic steps to ensure the powerhouse of the equipment – the engine – is in good working order,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

OPEI offers homeowners some tips as they use outdoor equipment this summer:

Layout considerations

In addition to thinking about how you plan to use the space, there are design considerations as well. Lights can help you safely travel down a pathway, but they can also provide a gorgeous view and allow you to enjoy your landscaping even after dark. The design elements of your layout are every bit as important as the function of your layout. Keep in mind:

Views from indoors – “I’ll look out of every window in the house to make sure our design is integrating the lighting with the landscape,” says Edward Snyder of Greenleaf Services, Inc. in Linville NC. “We want to capture a beautiful scene from every window.”
Focal points – Choose one or two elements in each area to draw attention to. “Hemlock trees, with their reddish-brown bark and dark green foliage, make a great focal point when lit from below,” says Gerry DuBreuil of Belknap Landscape Company, Inc. in Gilford, NH. “Think about what will have the best shadow effect.”
Sense of depth – “We use some lights along pathways, some on the house, and some within landscaped beds to provide a feeling of depth in the landscape,” says Matt Barton of Coppercreek Landscaping, Inc. in Mead, WA.
Ambient vs. spotlighting – Ambient lighting creates atmosphere by gently lighting an entire area, while spotlighting draws strong attention to a particular feature. “We use both broad and focused beams within the landscape,” says DuBreuil

The finer points of fueling

Fuel keeps your outdoor power equipment going, so it’s important to use it properly and safely. Before starting any equipment this spring, be sure to drain old fuel from the tank – especially if it’s been sitting all winter. Untreated gasoline left sitting in a tank for more than 30 days can deteriorate and destabilize, causing problems starting or running equipment. In some cases, bad gas can even damage the fuel system.

After you’re done using the equipment, switch the fuel valve off and leave it that way until it’s time to use the equipment again. Fill a lawn mower’s tank between uses to minimize the amount of air in the tank.

Store gasoline in a clean, sealed plastic container that’s specifically intended and designed for fuel storage, and store it away from direct sunlight. When it’s time to refuel your equipment, be aware of the type of gasoline it needs and look before you pump. “Don’t assume that the gas you put in your car can still go in your mower, chain saw or generator,” Kiser cautions.

Never use greater-than-10 percent ethanol gasoline blends, which are now commonly available at gas stations throughout the country and may be lower in price than other blends. It is illegal to use higher-ethanol gasoline blends in small engines such as your lawn mower, leaf blower or trimmer. What’s more, such fuels can be harmful and cause damage to small engines.

Be aware of what blender pumps look like. These pumps dispense higher ethanol fuels such as E15, E30 and E85 blends. Know when it’s appropriate to use them and when it’s not. To learn more about proper fuel use in smaller engines, visit OPEI’s educational site

Read and understand your owner’s manual, which contains the manufacturer’s instructions for taking care of your small engine, including fueling instructions. 

General safety measures

* When operating a lawn mower, start with basic safety concerns such as wearing the proper attire, including substantial shoes (no sandals or flip-flops), long pants and snug-fitting clothes. Inspect the mower for loose belts or hoses before you start it. Be sure no one else is nearby as you prepare to start the mower, especially children and pets. If you have a riding mower, start it while sitting in the driver’s seat, never while standing beside the mower. Always slow down when operating any mower on a slope or difficult curve.

* When operating a chain saw, wear protective gear such as safety footwear, gloves, chaps, safety goggles and hearing protection. Never carry a running chain saw when it isn’t being used, and be sure your work area is clear of debris that could trip you while operating the saw. Keep other people out of your work area. If you’re cutting down a tree, plan a retreat route for when the tree falls. Be aware of “kickback,” which can happen when the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood you’re cutting pinches the saw chain in the cut. These scenarios could result in the guide bar kicking back toward the user.

* As you use an edger or trimmer, take safety measures such as wearing protective gear and ensuring that your work area is clear of any stones or debris that could fly up. Stop the motor when moving from location to location with your trimmer, and never put your hands or feet near the cutting area.

Taking precautions to ensure your outdoor power equipment is fueled, used and maintained properly will help to keep you safe and your equipment in good shape throughout all seasons.

10 Reasons To Love Your Lawn

10 Reasons To Love Your Lawn

(BPT) – As summer approaches and your thoughts turn to home improvement and the outdoors, you’re probably considering a variety of ways to make your home more comfortable, more attractive and more environmentally sustainable – while hopefully increasing its value as well. One feature that can achieve all these goals is a healthy lawn.

Perhaps surprisingly, installing and maintaining a natural turf lawn is one of the best home improvement investments a homeowner can make. If you’re weighing your options and wondering whether a lawn is worth the effort, consider the following 10 benefits.

Creating inviting outdoor spaces for entertaining with landscaping

Creating inviting outdoor spaces for entertaining with landscaping

From barbecues and games of bocce to parties and candlelit dinners, your outdoor space can be a hub for entertaining friends and family.

“Try to create a living room for your outdoor space,” says Kate Anthony, owner of Kate & Company Design Studio and Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California – San Diego, a campus of Argosy University. People spend a lot of time on their indoor living room spaces, and she recommends extending the interior home out to your exterior.

Whether you have a small patio or sprawling backyard, interior design experts from The Art Institutes system of schools provide six simple tips for making the great outdoors a great place to eat, play and entertain.