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Wildflowers — Nodding Wild Onion

Allium cernuum. If you spend enough time looking in the dry woods, rocky outcroppings, and prairies across North America, you will eventually discover Nodding Wild Onions growing in scattered clumps. In fact, the city of Chicago gets it's name from the Algonquin Indian name for this plant, "chigagou". Individual stems arise to a height of 45cm (18") from bulbs in the ground. In early and mid-summer, they bear umbels of white to rose coloured, pendant flowers that nod and wobble in the wind. These are highly attractive to short-tongued bees, but not to grazing deer. Each flower develops into a spherical fruit, which splits at the end of summer to reveal more shiny black seeds. Beneath the soil, the bulbs split and multiply just the way tulips do. These perennial wildflowers are hardy to Zone 2, and while they are technically edible, it's a good idea to wait until a small colony has developed, and then harvest them judiciously as a summertime treat. Grow in full sun to part shade, or in freely draining containers.

Quick Facts:

    • Perennial
    • Height to 45cm (18")
    • Deer resistant
    • Hardy to Zone 2

Size: 0.1g (approx. 32 seeds)

Easy to Moderately Challenging

Season & Zone
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Zone: Zone 2.

Direct seed in the fall as the seeds need to experience winter to break dormancy. To artificially simulate these conditions indoors, the seeds require a long period of stratification. Alternatively, sow in labeled containers outdoors in the fall for spring transplants.

If starting indoors, mix seeds with damp sand or a folded paper towel in a plastic bag and place in a refrigerator for 6-8 weeks so they experience an extended period of cold temperatures. After that, move them to room temperature and observe closely for germination. Keep moist. Once they germinate, prick the seedlings out into pots.

Plant out after the last frost and mulch well with leaves of deciduous trees (not conifers). Amend clay soils as needed to improve drainage. Harvest sparingly for the first two years so the plants can become established. In the right environment, they will spread and proliferate in subsequent years.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 based on 2 reviews from

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