Photo: Allium schubertii

General description

Common Name: ornamental onion
Type: Bulb
Family: Alliaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Native Range: Eastern Mediterranean to central Asia
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Color: Purple
Bloom Description: Rose-purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flowers: Showy Flowers
Leaves: Fragrant
Wildlife: Attracts Butterflies
Tolerates: Black Walnuts, Deer
Uses: Will Naturalize


Easily grown in rich, sandy to gritty, dry to medium moisture, well-drained loams in full sun. Plants will naturalize to form dense, slowly-spreading clumps over time. They perform best in dry, sunny areas of the garden. Established plantings have good drought tolerance. Plant new bulbs 4-6" deep and 12-18" apart in fall. Established plants may be divided in fall. Plants may self-seed in the garden.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tumbleweed onion is a bulbous perennial that is ornamentally grown for its impressive display of rose-purple flowers that bloom in giant, spherical umbels (each to 9-12" in diameter) in late spring. This plant is native from the eastern Mediterranean to central Asia. It typically grows to a modest 12-24" tall. Strap-shaped, blue-green, basal leaves (to 12-16" long) form a clump of foliage in spring surrounding a stout scape rising to 1' tall. Leaves begin to wither as the flowers begin to bloom. Flowerheads are unique and attractive, but difficult to describe (often compared to exploding fireworks). Each flowerhead contains as many as 50 small, rose-purple, star-like flowers which bloom at the ends of pedicels of varying lengths (fertile ones to 4" long and sterile ones to 8" long). Seed heads dry after bloom, and can be left on the plant for ornamental reasons or picked for flower arrangements. Dried seed heads that fall off the plant will tumble along the ground with the wind spreading seed as they go, hence the common name of tumbleweed onion. Leaves and bulbs have an oniony aroma when cut or bruised. Specific epithet honors Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert (1780-1860), German physician and plant collector.


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

Garden Uses

Ornamental onion for rock gardens, beds and borders fronts, cottage gardens and meadows. Cut flowers are excellent for both fresh cut and dried flower arrangements.


1 - 50 cm