‘Purple Sensation’

‘Purple Sensation’ (Allium aflatunense) is the earliest of our ornamental Alliums to bloom. This year, they burst into flower just over the past week.


We have 2 drifts of ‘Purple Sensation’ in our garden. The one that’s been around longest is in the Back Garden along the west hedge. ‘Purple Sensation’, like most Alliums, is supposed to want full sun. However, it has prospered in this spot that gets part sun at best, so it must have more shade tolerance than is generally recognized.

I planted 10 bulbs here in 2009, and they have since multiplied to at least 50. So far I haven’t seen any need for dividing this growing host of Alliums.



Alliums are generally very attractive to pollinators and ‘Purple Sensation’ is no exception. (Plus, the rabbits leave it alone.) There’s a tiny pollinator on the flower above – can you see it? Though a pollinator friendly plant for North American gardens, ‘Purple Sensation’ has its origins in Central Asia.


Here the flowers are catching the light of the late afternoon sun.

After its flowers fade, the strap-like leaves of ‘Purple Sensation’ starts to die back. Though the stems stay mostly upright and the dried flower heads look good, companion plants are needed to prevent the bed from becoming dominated by decaying foliage. In this spot I have been experimenting with plants that will fill in after ‘Purple Sensation’ has had its turn in the spotlight.

These second act plants include Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Anemone x hybrida) and several shade-tolerant asters, such as White Woodland Aster (Eurybia divaritica) and Heart-leaf Aster (Symphiotrichum cordifolium).


We also underplant the ‘Purple Sensation’ in this bed with a number of shorter spring-flowering plants. These include False Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), and Lily-of-the-Valley (Convalaria majalis).


Our second clump of ‘Purple Sensation’ was planted just 3 years ago near the ‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapple. It started with 25 bulbs and hasn’t spread much as of yet, but it looks pretty happy. This clump is underplanted mainly with Starry Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum stellatum).


In addition to spring-blooming Alliums like ‘Purple Sensation’, there are lots of wonderful summer-blooming Alliums (including 2 species I just planted for the first time). Those, however, will be covered in future posts.

38 Comments on “‘Purple Sensation’”

  1. I love your displays of alliums! I, like you, have an old established, ever-expanding clump and new ones planted last fall, both in part shade. I was at Wal-Mart for leaf/lawn bags and the bulb display caught my eye – 30 purple sensations for $10! Hard to resist. So I didnt, heh heh. There are a lot of pricey alliums available, but this variety remains my fave for price, height, color, bloom time, and longevity. I find that the leaves on mine start dying off even before the flowers open, their one iffy characteristic.

  2. Your alliums look gorgeous. I planted these too – in my Butterfly Bed (full sun) last autumn and they have been open for a week or so now. I love them, but the leaves got singed by our mini heatwave after Easter and strong drying winds, so yours look a lot fresher than mine!

  3. I have to have allium bulbs this fall. I have a lot of teeny things I grew from seed, and then mixed up what was what. I love them, and yours are particularly nice. I hope to find Moly, a yellow kind, of bulbs nearby. I don’t mind mail order, but the postage is what I resent!

  4. So gorgeous; I am totally jealous. I fell in love with alliums in a catalogue once and ordered a bunch of them. None survived more than a single season. I suppose they don’t care for my climate. Yours are perfect, and I love the companion plants you have chosen for them.

  5. HI Jason .. I love alliums and yours are looking wonderful .. I have Purple Sensation as well and I am hoping they will multiply as nicely as yours have .. I also do the same thing with under planting .. I think it really stretches out the attractiveness .. and yes ! I also love the seed heads to stay as long as possible because they do look so pretty, as much as the fresh bloom I think.
    I am going to order more allium because so far I cant get enough of them ! LOL
    Your pictures are perfect !

  6. So lovely – can’t wait to get some alliums into my west border – now that I’m almost done planting it up, I’m hoping to add a lot of bulbs this fall, including alliums. It’s often worth trying plants in less than ideal conditions, as you just never know. We’ve had a hydrangea blooming in a south facing bed with zero supplemental water ever since we moved here. Even during summer droughts that lasted weeks on end, they have done just fine.

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