Mystery plant: A perplexing perennial

Posted on May 19th, 2008 – 2:19 PM
By Jaime Chismar

When it comes to mystery plants, Connie Nelson is our go-to gal. Nine times out of ten, this smarty pants can rattle off the Latin name in the same breath. Unfortunately for GG reader Sharon, Connie is on vacation this week. Robyn and I are stumped, but we are confident that one of you knows the answer.

Hi gals,

What is this perennial plant and why won’t it bloom? I’ve had it for a few years but nothing ever blooms from it.

Thanks, Sharon from Apple Valley


Can you correctly identify this mystery plant? You’ll help out a fellow gardener — and you might just win a mystery prize.

10 Responses to "Mystery plant: A perplexing perennial"

Beth B says:

May 19th, 2008 at 2:43 pm

This will be little help, but I have the same foliage on a perennial that came from a bulb. Mine is not in full-sun, which this appears to be, and happily blooms once annually, late May, with a large pom-pom like lavendar bloom. Sadly, I don’t know what it’s called. Anyone?

Jd says:

May 19th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

I think this mystery plant is called Allium. I have one in a fairly sunny location and it has several buds on it now. It blooms with a round, purple cluster of blossoms.

Anna R says:

May 19th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Could it be an ornamental onion?

judybusy says:

May 19th, 2008 at 3:59 pm

I agree that’s it’s a type of allium, aka ornamental onion. I wouldn’t know the exact varietal unless I saw it in bloom, but a good guess is A. gigantum, since they’re the most common. I’ve had the best luck with them in full sun. I had mine in partial shade for about eight years, during which time only one or two bloomed. I lost the shade and they are almost all blooming this year. They also need good amounts of moisture, such as we’ve had this spring. Some compost spread around it might help. If they don’t bloom next year after this TLC, I’d buy new bulbs. Actually, I’d do that anyway this fall, if you really want some next year!

yvette says:

May 19th, 2008 at 4:21 pm

it looks a lot like the foliage of an amaryllis, minus the flower.

Jaime Chismar says:

May 19th, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Hopefully, Sharon will weigh in soon with a little more info. I wonder how shady this spot is. Hmmm…

Sharon says:

May 19th, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Thanks everyone,

I think jd and Judy are right: it’s an allium. This spot gets maybe 5 to 6 hours of direct sun a day. Maybe not enough for allium. I have a shady yard but this particular area gets as much sun as anywhere in my yard is going to. Alas, I’ll have to admire allium from afar! My tulips bloom there though!?

Thanks, Sharon for Apple Valley

Jaime Chismar says:

May 19th, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Whoo hoo! JD and JudyBusy, please send your mailing address to for you mystery prize. Also… please let me know if you’d be interesting in planting a few heirloom potatoes (wink, wink).

Cindy says:

May 20th, 2008 at 12:38 pm

It’s an allium. Ornimental onion. Mine doesn’t bloom because it doesn’t get enough sun. High point though” Squirrels hate it”

Mary Schier says:

May 21st, 2008 at 9:57 am

I planted 32 of these bulbs in my garden last fall. Most are now blooming (you can see photos on my blog), but I have a few that look just like the picture above. They all have the same exposure, but the non-bloomers are in a slightly different part of the garden (ie, where I usually put annuals) so I’ve been wondering if there is something funny with the soil there. I may dig the bulbs in the fall and move them to the blooming area.