Find out how to Develop and Take care of Nodding Onions (Girl’s Leek)

Allium cernuum

The candy, ethereal umbels of the blooms of nodding onions fill a much-needed area of interest within the backyard.

Blooming on the top of summer season in scorching, sunny places with dry soils, these wildflowers thrive the place others falter.

Use them in a rock backyard, alongside a brightly lit woodland edge, or in a protracted forgotten meadow.

A close up horizontal image of the petals and flower stems of a pink nodding onion aka lady's leek flower pictured on a soft focus background.

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Learn on to seek out out extra about rising this North American native that’s a favourite of bees and different pollinators.

Right here’s what we’ll cowl:

What Are Nodding Onions?

A member of the amaryllis household, Amaryllidaceae, Allium cernuum is an decorative allium that – for those who dig it up – appears to be like so much just like the culinary staple you may need eaten for dinner final evening.

Grocery retailer onions and nodding onions, also called girl’s leeks, are species within the Allium genus, and each develop a stout, pungent, underground bulb.

The bulbs of nodding onions are a lot smaller and narrower than these we sometimes use for cooking they usually are edible. A number of slim, grass-like leaves, which additionally scent strongly of onions, come up from the neck of the elongated bulb.

A close up horizontal image of a flower head of a nodding onion aka lady's leek pictured on a green soft focus background.

The flower stalks can develop as much as 30 inches tall and emerge from the bottom of the leaves in summer season, supporting an open cluster of pendant flowers ranging in colour from white to pale lavender to pink.

Slightly below the umbel, the scapes bend downward like a crook-handled strolling stick, giving the crops their “nodding” look.

In late summer season and early fall, flower heads dry and type papery capsules that cut up open to disclose a lot of onerous, shiny black seeds.

A close up horizontal image of a nodding onion flower with a bee hovering close by pictured on a soft focus background.

Hardy in Zones 4 to 9, this garlic relative will be discovered rising wild throughout most of North America. Preferring bluff edges and rocky outcrops, nodding onion doesn’t actually take off and unfold except it’s planted in nutritious soils.

Within the extra moist, wealthy soils of riparian habitats, or in fertile meadows, this species can colonize massive areas by self-seeding.

Hold studying to learn to get this North American native established in your personal backyard.

Nodding Onion Propagation

Nodding onion will be grown from seed, by way of offsets, or transplants you buy from the nursery.

The method for all three strategies is fairly easy. These crops are really a breeze to develop.

From Seed

Beginning A.cernuum from seed is a enjoyable, rewarding course of that sometimes yields a lot of new crops.

To gather your personal seed, begin to keep watch over the flowers when they’re in bloom in the summertime.

In case you are planning to gather seed from wild populations, guarantee that you’ve got permission to enter the realm and solely take about 10 % of the seeds.

When the leaves have senesced and the upright umbels flip gentle brown, snap off the tops of the seed heads together with your fingers and acquire them in a paper bag.

A close up horizontal image of the seed head of a nodding onion pictured on a soft focus background.

Let these seed heads dry in a tray in a cool, well-ventilated, dimly lit place till the capsules cut up open to disclose black, shiny seeds. I like to make use of my closet for air-drying seeds.

Put together a planting tray with moistened potting soil. Scatter the seeds liberally throughout the floor of the soil.

Gently press them into the floor of the soil with the palm of your hand to make sure good soil contact then scatter a number of handfuls of moist potting soil throughout the floor of the tray so the seeds are barely lined.

Transfer your tray someplace outside that’s protected against wind and excessive temperature fluctuations.

You need the seeds to expertise steady, chilly temperatures for a interval of 30 to 60 days. This course of, known as chilly stratification, prepares the seeds for germination. Hold the potting soil evenly moist however not waterlogged.

Within the spring, pull your planted tray out right into a location that receives full solar and ensure the soil stays moist, however not soaking moist.

After germination happens, your tray will appear to be it’s abruptly rising a furze of inexperienced grass!

Relaxation assured, these are your new child nodding onions. When they’re about an inch tall, skinny out the seedlings so there may be a minimum of half an inch of area between every plant.

As soon as your seedlings attain a couple of inches excessive you may transfer them into their very own ready pots. Two- to four-inch pots or cells work properly for this.

Fill the containers with moist potting soil and poke holes with a stick or pencil. Rigorously transplant the tiny bulbs.

Hold the potting medium evenly moist and set the pots in an space that’s protected against wind and receives full solar. The crops will be transplanted into the backyard in fall or the next spring.

As a better different, you may merely broadcast contemporary nodding onion seed into the backyard instantly after assortment.

Put together the realm for sowing by gently raking the floor of the soil after which raking once more as soon as the seed is solid. Water liberally after sowing, and let Mom Nature handle the remaining.

From Offsets

Virtually all members of the Allium genus type little child bulbs or “offsets” on the unique bulb.

Digging up and separating offsets then replanting them is without doubt one of the best methods to extend your patch of nodding onions, though it can take about two years for these child bulbs to develop to flowering dimension.

A close up horizontal image of small offset bulbs growing on an allium bulb pictured on a soft focus background.

Within the fall, after the leaves of the crops have withered away and their flowers have set seed, gently pry up the bulbs. Make sure that to do that very fastidiously to stop injury to the bulbs.

It’s simple to get a bit overzealous whereas digging and cut up your crops’ bulbs in two. Use a bigger shovel than you suppose you’d want and use your fingers to tease the bulbs gently out of the soil.

Rigorously separate the offsets from the mother or father bulbs and replant them about two to 3 inches deep and about 4 inches aside. Be sure to replant the unique bulbs too.


Whether or not you might have began your personal child nodding onions from seed, bought crops from a nursery, or are replanting offsets, transplanting is a straightforward course of.

Be sure to choose a location within the backyard with full solar and freely draining soil.

Dig a gap deep sufficient in order that your bulbs are planted on the identical depth as they have been within the pot they’re presently rising in.

Within the case of offsets, plant them two to 3 inches deep. Backfill the opening with soil round your crops and water properly.

Find out how to Develop Nodding Onions

As with most crops, the key to rising a cheerful, thriving patch of nodding onions is choosing the proper location.

A close up horizontal image of a nodding onion flower with a bee feeding from it pictured on a soft focus background.

Within the wild, they develop in quite a lot of locations, together with open meadows, rocky outcrops, and sunny, forest glades.

The one attribute these various habitats have in widespread is freely draining soil and ample gentle publicity.

Typically talking, bulbs are likely to not do properly in moist to constantly moist soils, and nodding onion is not any exception.

Develop A. cernuum someplace with ample sunshine, although a bit afternoon shade is okay, significantly in hotter places, and ensure the soil drains properly. Even scorching, dry soils don’t hassle nodding onions.

A close up horizontal image of white nodding onion flowers growing in the summer garden pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

This species can tolerate sand and a few clay as properly, as long as it received’t change into waterlogged or keep damp for too lengthy.

The perfect soil pH is 6.0 to 7.0, however the crops will tolerate alkaline soil and are even appropriate for rising close to black walnut bushes, as they’re tolerant of juglone.

Thriving in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9, nodding onions can powerful it out in all however the coldest climates.

Planting these bulbs in a backyard mattress adjoining to a south dealing with wall or throughout the safety of a rock backyard would possibly permit you to develop nodding onions in Zones 3, or decrease, as properly.

As soon as established, simply benefit from the tenacity of this strong species. Fertilization is just not required, neither is supplemental watering, except you expertise an actual drought with no rainfall for greater than two weeks.

Rising Suggestions

  • Plant in freely draining soils.
  • Web site in a location with full solar or a bit afternoon shade.
  • Water properly throughout any very dry intervals.


A splendidly unfussy native, there’s not a lot to do in terms of caring for nodding onions.

In late summer season, after flowering, the leaves will begin to soften, flip yellow, and die again. At this level, you may take away and compost the foliage to tidy up the backyard.

A close up vertical image of a pink lady's leek aka nodding onion flower showing the crook-handled flower stalk.

To see in case your crops’ leaves are really able to be eliminated, simply give them a mild tug. If they arrive away simply in your hand, they’re prepared. In the event that they don’t, allow them to be for one more week or two.

The dry flower heads that stand above the wilting foliage will quickly ripen and reveal lots of shiny, black seeds.

When you don’t wish to permit A. cernuum to unfold all through the backyard, take away the flower heads earlier than the seed ripens. A superb time to do that is correct after flowering, however any level earlier than mid-fall will do the trick.

Nodding onion spreads significantly properly within the nutrient-rich soils generally present in backyard beds, on the perimeters of woodland areas, and untended garden. In dry, rocky conditions, they have an inclination to proliferate way more slowly, if in any respect.

Nodding Onion Cultivars to Choose

If you wish to get began rising nodding onion in your backyard, you will discover crops accessible at Nature Hills Nursery.

A close up square image of the pinkish-white flowers of Allium cernuum aka nodding onion or lady's leek.

Nodding Onion

There are a couple of cultivars accessible as properly, largely with minor variations in flower colour.


Winner of the celebrated Royal Horticultural Society Award of Backyard Benefit in 1993, ‘Hidcote’ grows as much as 13 inches excessive and boasts beautiful rose coloured clusters of flowers.

A close up horizontal image of a pink nodding onion umbel pictured on a soft focus background.

Blooming barely earlier in the summertime than the straight species and different cultivars, ‘Hidcote’ is an actual favourite for late spring shows. This cultivar is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9.


‘Leo’ grows a bit taller than different cultivars at virtually 30 inches tall. The flower heads are white, and extra densely clustered, too.

Notably, ‘Leo’ is usually in full bloom in August, later in the summertime than the species and different cultivars.

Oxy White

As soon as thought to be a separate species, A. oxyphilum, this white-flowered selection is now thought-about a type of A. cernuum.

Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9, the flowers of ‘Oxy White’ are a bit extra ethereal and delicate than the straight species.

Managing Pests and Illness

Blissfully problem-free, there may be little or no within the pest and illness division to really plague nodding onion.

Most points come up when these bulbs are improperly located in constantly moist soils. Give these native wildflowers the freely draining substrate they need they usually’ll develop fairly fortunately and with out hassle.


Because of its robust aroma, not very many bugs hassle nodding onion. There’s actually just one to look out for, and that’s thrips (Thrips tabaci).

These pesky bugs are about teeny tiny, a couple of twelfth of an inch lengthy, pale brown in colour, and have delicate, fringed wings. Their younger look related, minus the wings.

Though thrips could cause issues for all members of the Allium genus, in addition they feed on cucumbers, tomatoes, and cabbages.

A close up vertical image of a thrips insect on a leaf in high magnification.

Feeding injury on nodding onion seems as white to silver blotches on leaves, wilting foliage, lowered bulb dimension, in addition to decreased flowering and pollen manufacturing.

Feminine thrips produce as much as eight new generations of younger per 12 months, laying eggs on the underside of the leaves.

Populations increase most shortly in scorching, dry climate when crops might already be pressured.

To keep away from injury from these pests, preserve your nodding onion patch in good well being. Web site crops in an applicable location, in freely draining soil with loads of solar.

Fortuitously, A. cernuum is just not very inclined to those bugs and shouldn’t undergo an excessive amount of injury from an infestation.

You’ll be able to be taught extra about the way to handle thrips in our information.


Not like its vegetable cousins, there are virtually no ailments that plague this wild allium.

The 2 points chances are you’ll encounter are simply averted by siting A. cernuum within the freely draining soils it loves.

Downy Mildew

A standard illness of all of the crops throughout the Allium genus, downy mildew is brought on by a water mildew, Peronospora destructor, that thrives in excessive humidity and funky temperatures.

Spores land on the foliage and trigger discolored splotches, yellowing leaves, and even dieback.

A close up horizontal image of the symptoms of downy mildew on a nodding onion plant.

This illness is well managed by watering on the base of the crops, quite than from overhead. When you discover any affected crops, take away your complete bulb and destroy it.

Planting A. cernuum in full solar, in freely draining soils will virtually utterly shield these crops from downy mildew an infection.

White Rot

One other illness widespread to the edible onions we develop in our vegetable gardens, white rot, a fungal illness brought on by Stromatina cepivorum, is just not generally seen in A. cernuum.

When you occur to get very unfortunate and uncover this fungus infecting your wildflowers, you’ll discover yellowing, dying foliage.

Underground, the bulb will flip black and decay. Pull your crops instantly and destroy them by discarding within the rubbish. You positively don’t wish to unfold this harmful pathogen elsewhere within the backyard.

Fortunately, white rot is as soon as once more simply averted by planting your nodding onions within the freely draining soils and sunny places they like.

Finest Makes use of for Nodding Onions

Warmth and drought tolerant, A. cernuum is a terrific alternative for the rock backyard.

Nodding onions additionally do properly when planted on the fringe of a woodland space, the place the crops obtain partial shade within the afternoon.

A close up horizontal image of nodding onion plants growing in a rocky outcrop.
Photograph by Patrick Alexander, Wikimedia Commons, by way of Public Area.

Beds shaped round warmth absorbent surfaces, like a driveway, may also be a great place to let the crops unfold, so as to add some colour to an in any other case inhospitable place.

As a reasonably dainty wildflower, this species actually appears to be like good when planted en masse, their pendant heads nodding in the summertime breeze.

It additionally proliferates very properly from seed, if given the prospect. Within the cottage or native wildflower backyard nodding onion fills in gaps between different perennials, imparting a contact of the wild.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Kind: Perennial flowering bulb Flower/Foliage Coloration: Pink, purple, white/ gentle inexperienced
Native to: North America Upkeep: Low
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 4-9 Tolerance: Alkaline soil, clay soil, warmth, juglone, half shade
Bloom Time: Summer time Soil Kind: Freely draining soils of every type
Publicity: Full solar, half afternoon shade Soil pH: 6.0-7.0
Time to Maturity: 3 years Soil Drainage: Properly-draining
Planting Depth: Floor of the soil (seeds), identical depth as container (transplants) Attracts: Bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, wasps
Spacing: 4 inches Makes use of: Cottage backyard, naturalized areas, rock backyard, woodland edge
Peak: As much as 30 inches Order: Asparagales
Unfold: 6 inches Household: Amaryllidaceae
Water Wants: Low Genus: Allium
Widespread Pests and Ailments: Thrips; downy mildew, white rot Species: Cernuum

Neglected Straightforward Keeper

Not many gardeners consider nodding onions once they think about a diffusion of gorgeous wildflowers.

A close up horizontal image of a stand of nodding onions growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

However these native bulbs are powerful as nails and simple to develop. There are few flowers that may compete with nodding onion’s capacity to colonize scorching, dry locations, and fewer nonetheless that may placed on such a good looking show below such difficult situations.

When you’re determined for summer season wildflowers, however lack the wealthy soils many blooming crops demand, do that little allium on for dimension in your personal backyard. You received’t remorse it.

Do you develop nodding onions in your backyard or have you ever ever seen them within the wild? Please inform us about your experiences!. Feedback and questions are at all times welcome – we love to listen to from you!

And to be taught extra about rising different sorts of alliums, take a look at these guides subsequent:

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