Magnificent, spherical heads composed of glossy amethystine violet stars each with a metallic sheen. Allium christophii is the most flamboyant member of this enormous family of plants.
Allium christophii has spherical flower-heads which contain up to 80 star shaped flowers with slightly flattened petals that emphasise the perfect ball shape. As these fade, they resemble brown stars, and the complete stem will last for many weeks as part of a dried flower arrangement.
Sometimes called the 'Star of Persia,' it is a native of Turkey and Iran, and loves a warm sunny site where it will tolerate competition from tree and hedge roots. Alliums look best planted between medium-sized herbaceous plants, which help to mask the strap-like leaves, which fade by the time the flowers appear.
Fully frost hardy, they are able to withstand temperature down to -15°C (5°F). The plants can be allowed to self-seed to make impressive clumps.
Alliums are also ideal for containers. They flower in May-June so are ideal to add colour after the tulips and daffodils have flowered and before many of the summer flowering bulbs are flowering.
Allium christophii has been awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow at any time of year.
The seeds can be sown directly where they are to flower at any time of year, or can be sown indoors, the seedlings over wintered in the greenhouse and then planted out in the following spring.
Allium seeds need a period of moisture and cold after harvest before they will germinate, usually this is necessary to either allow the embryo to mature or to break dormancy.
If sown indoors in warmer weather, the period of dormancy can be artificially stimulated by placing the moistened seed in a refrigerator. It is best to sow them on moistened, well draining compost, seal the container in a polythene bag and leave everything in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks at around 4 to 5°C (39 to 41°F). The seeds must be moist whilst being pre-chilled, but it doesn't usually benefit them to be actually in water or at temperatures below freezing. After prechilling bring out of the fridge to 13 to 16°F (55 to 60°F)
Light seems to be beneficial and so pre-chilled seeds should have only the lightest covering of compost over them, and the seed trays etc. should be in the light. Compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times. Germination should occur 18 to 21 days.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out.
Plant out in spring into fertile, well drained soil. Add grit when grown in clay soils to improve drainage. Remember that the foliage dies back as flowering commences; you may wish to place this behind a smaller plant to disguise its foliage. When planting try to plant in groups of at least 3 or 5 as they do look much better in clumps.
Prepare the soil prior to planting by cultivating up to 30cm of soil, on heavier soils add a couple of handfuls of grit under each Allium before planting to improve drainage. Alliums grow well in most soil types but do prefer to be planted in well-drained sunny spots. The bulbs of Alliums vary tremendously in size so the best advice on planting depth is to plant Allium bulbs at a depth of three to four time their depth in the soil. On light soils, increase the planting depths to help anchor the taller varieties. The soil around Alliums should be kept moist during the flowering period.
Alliums can also be used for naturalising in grassland or similar areas, however please note that as they do not flower until late (May-June) you will not be able to cut the grass until they die back in July.
Alliums in pots:
To plant in pots ensure you have a sturdy deep container (the height and weight of the taller alliums will cause smaller containers to topple over), put crocks in the bottom to allow for drainage and then add about 10cms of potting compost. Place the Allium bulbs on top of the compost so that they are not touching the outside pot or each other. Cover with at least 20cms of potting compost and firm down. During the winter months ensure the compost is kept moist but not too wet and protect from frost. When you see the first signs of growth in the spring (March-April) increasing the amount of water to ensure the compost does not dry out.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Gravel Garden or Rock Garden.
Alliums can be left undisturbed from year to year and as long as they are well fed will continue to flower. If you do need to lift them wait until the flower stems and leaves have turned brown and break off when touched. The bulbs can then be dug up (around July) and their offsets removed. After they have been cleaned of soil, leave in a cool light place until they can be planted again in September. Only replant bulbs that look healthy and of a good size.
All members of the Allium family are disliked by many insects and animals. They can be used to protect valuable planting areas against mice, moles, slugs and snails, Even dogs take no interest in the flower beds that they inhabit.
Allium cristophii is native to central Turkey (Kayseri), northern Iran, and Turkmenistan.
There are estimated to be around 700 species within the genus, and many cultivars. There are perennials and biennials, ranging in height from 10cm to 15 metres (4in to 5ft) or more. They are mainly from dry and mountainous areas, all from the Northern Hemisphere, and they have adapted to live in almost every plant habitat on the planet, from ice cold tundra to burning, arid deserts.
They were prized by the ancients as possessing medical and aphrodisiac qualities as well as flavour. The Romans are sometimes held responsible for their wide distribution by taking them wherever they went.
The oldest specimen, collected in Persia by the Russian diplomat Bode was named Allium bodeanum after him. The first herbarium specimen with hairy leaves was collected by Eugenius Johann Christoph Esper (1742-1810), a German entomologist in 1883.
In 1884, Trautvetter, the Baltic-German botanist described it as "A. cristophi". (Spelt without a ‘h’)
Pronounced AL-ee-um kris-TOFF-ee-eye. In the last decade it has become one of the most popular all-round alliums in European gardens. It is offered for sale as A. christophii (with this spelling) and sometimes also under the synonym a Allium albopilosum,, (meaning white haired, it which referred to the fringe of white hairs that edges the leaves) but never as Allium bodeanum.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25 Seeds Family Alliaceae Genus Allium Species christophii Synonym A. albopilosum, A. bodeanum. A. cristophi Common Name Star of Persia Other Common Names Ornamental Onion Hardiness Bulbous Perennial Flowers Amethyst globes Natural Flower Time June to August. Foliage Strap shaped Blue / Glaucous Height 40 to 60cm (16 to 24in) Spread 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light