Friday, December 25

Nodding Onion One Seed Chicago 2010

Nodding Onion, Nodding Allium, Allium One Seed Chicago
Nodding Onions are a native perennial plant that grow from bulbs that are longer than they are wide. The leaves are flat; unlike the onions you may have in your kitchen, but have that onion-like smell, and taste, that makes them unappealing to Mammalian herbivores.

Nodding Onions bloom between July and August and last about a month before setting seeds. The scape (stem) of the Nodding Onion is about a foot tall and bends down at the top, causing the umbel of flowers to point toward the ground. On days when there is a breeze in the garden you'll spot the flowers bobbing up and down as if nodding in agreement. Plant them at the edge of garden beds and paths where they can be set off on a nodding frenzy when they're brushed up against.

While deer, rabbits and pesky squirrels may stay away, during the blooming season they're frequented by bumblebees, honey bees and small short-tongued bees. Bee mimics are also regular visitors of the flowers but they're not doing much pollinating, instead they feed on the pollen and nectar.

The prairie areas around Chicago that Nodding Onions once occurred in has been destroyed by development so it is rare to see outside of gardens and restored prairies. Ask five Chicagoans how the City got its name and you'll probably get five different answers. However, Nodding Onion is one of the plants often credited with being the source for the Algonquin Indian word, "chigagou," which supposedly means something along the lines of "stinky onion."

Don't turn your nose up at Nodding Onions, they're very agreeable plants.

Voting is now open, click here to fill out your ballot and you'll receive the seeds for free in the mail after April 24, 2010. Feel free to comment below and discuss this plant with your fellow gardeners. Just remember that leaving a comment here does not constitute a vote. You'll have to fill out the ballot so we can mail you the seeds.


  1. I was ready to throw my support behind Nodding Onion and then I got a pack of Nodding Onion seeds this holiday! Now that I don't need a free packet of Nodding Onion seeds I think I may end up endorsing and encouraging people to vote for Bee Balm, maybe.

  2. We've grown a variety of allium in our garden, but I don't reckon we've had this one.

  3. Hi TheWriteGardener,

    You definitely should, I grow a couple of different Alliums and they're a great addition.

  4. I have the nodding onions growing wild in my backyard. I use those flat leaves in soups instead of green onions from the store. I credit these plants with my remarkably pest-free garden. The ones I have growing are quite invasive, any thoughts on this?

  5. Xan,

    I'd recommend not allowing any to go to seed if they are doing that well in your garden. Also, just digging some bulbs up once in a while and composting or sharing them will help keep them under control.

  6. My vote goes for the nodding onion! (I used the ballot.) Any plant resistant to mammalian herbivores is welcome in our garden, especially since most of the coneflowers and bee balm were chewed to the ground last September when I was gone for a week. It might be wishful thinking, but I hope alliums may help repel the bunnies from some of the vulnerable plants in our garden as well as being avoided themselves.

  7. Garden Girl:
    I don't think it's just wishful thinking. I have a variety of alliums in my bee/butterfly garden, early and late, tall and short, as well as a plethora of squirrels - and I've never had any problems with squirrel damage in the nearly four years of its existence. Not even to the tulips!I'm thinking about adding a strawberry border this year, and having these standing guard sounds like a fine idea.

  8. Van Engelen Inc. and John Scheepers, Inc. sell bulbs of Allium Cernuum (Syn. Allium recurvatum), which they also call Nodding Onion,an Alleghany native. They describe it as light pink to lavender with pendant, bell shaped flowers, blooming in June and August, 8 inches tall. Is this the same as the Chicago Nodding Onion?