Alliums As Cut Flowers

Leeks, shallots, and other onion cousins add fine flavors to your winter meals, and they are a cinch to grow

By Therese Ciesinski

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In the Vase
The allium's distinct shape makes for striking and unusual flower arrangements. Ensure a long vase life by following our experts' tips for choosing and using alliums as cut flowers.

Harvest young
The best time to cut an allium is when only one-quarter to half of its florets are open, recommends Bob Koenders, owner of Backyard Bouquet Farm, who grows 25 varieties on 3 acres in Armada, Michigan. The flower will continue to open in the arrangement.

Use sharp tools
Cut in the morning, and use a razor or sharp knife to cleanly slice, not crush, the stem. The cut ends of some alliums (especially Allium giganteum) drip a clear fluid that oxidizes blood red and permanently stains countertops; be sure to recut alliums outdoors or in the sink.

Clean water
"The fresher the water, the better," says Mark Kintzel, a floral designer in Allentown, Pennsylvania. "Hollow stems need clean water, or they clog and the flowers wilt prematurely." Inserting them into floral foam will also clog the stems.

Deter bacteria
A half-teaspoon of bleach per quart of water keeps bacteria from growing in the vase. Don't use floral preservatives; the sugar in them can cause an overgrowth of bacteria.

Best for cutting
Koenders recommends 'Purple Sensation', 'Giganteum', 'Globemaster', and the white 'Mt. Everest.' He likes the dark purple A. atropurpureum for its fragrance.

More info
A good source for more information is fact sheet #767, "Production of Alliums as Cut Flowers," from the Maryland Cooperative Extension.

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