Allium karataviense
Common Name: ornamental onion
Type: Bulb
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: Central Asia
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Black Walnut

Culture

Easily grown in rich, sandy to gritty, dry to medium moisture, well-drained loams in full sun. Plants form dense, slowly-spreading clumps over time. Plants perform best with consistent moisture during the growing season, but tolerate drought after flowering ends. Plant new bulbs 3-5" (3 times bulb width) deep and 6-12" apart in fall. Bulbs of established plants may be dug, divided and replanted in late summer to early fall after foliage has died down. Plants will occasionally self-seed in the garden, but typically will not bloom until the third year. Plants may colonize over time, but are not considered to be invasive.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Allium karataviense, commonly called Turkistan onion, is a compact, bulbous perennial that is ornamentally grown for both its foliage and its flowers. It is native to the Karatau Mountains (hence the specific epithet) in Kazakhstan. Broad-elliptic, spreading, gray-green, basal leaves (each to 6-9" long and to 3-4" wide) appear in pairs. Leaves are sometimes mottled with purple. In late spring, a short but sturdy flowering stem rises to 10-12" tall from the center of each leaf pair. Each flowering stem is topped with a large spherical flower head (umbel to 3-6" diameter) containing tiny, star-shaped, dull pink florets. Flowers bloom in early summer (June-July in St. Louis). Flowers have a mild fragrance. Leaves and bulbs have a mild onion-like aroma when cut or bruised.

Genus name comes from the classical Latin name for garlic.

Specific epithet means of the Kara Tau (black mountain) range in Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Bulb rot may occur in overly moist soils. Mildew, rust, leaf spots and thrips may appear.

Garden Uses

Low-growing ornamental onion for rock gardens, beds and border fronts, containers and window boxes. Best grown in groups or massed. May be naturalized. Grows well in containers. Cut flowers are excellent for both fresh cut and dried flower arrangements.