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Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’

The Dry Garden bursts into life during spring with bold clumps of Euphorbia, Erysimum and Bergenia producing swathes of colour through shades of purple to lime green. Between these established plants bulbs have been naturalised to create informal drifts, producing a soft and naturalistic affect. A great bulb to use for this style of planting is Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ AGM which arises with a stiff, upright stem which bears a tight circular purple flower head that appears to float through the perennials on the Dry Garden.

Vital statistics

Common name
Dutch garlic
Height & spread
1m (3ft) x 7cm (3in)
Bulbous perennial
Fertile and well drained soil
Full sun
Fully hardy, but may be tender when young


The name Allium is from the ancient name for garlic, which is part of the genus. There are estimated to be around 700 species within the genus, and many cultivars. There are perennials and biennials, ranging in height from 10cm - 1.5m (4in - 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.

Many members of the genus give themselves away with the distinctive smell of onions when the bulb or foliage is bruised.

They have upright to spreading linear-shaped leaves. The tubular based flowers are bell, star or cup shaped which are borne in spherical umbels 1 - 10cm (3/8 - 4in) across.

In most species, a single bulb produces clusters of offset bulbs around it, which gradually form clumps.

Taller species look good in groups in a border. The flower heads dry well. Several species have culinary uses, including A. sativum (garlic), culinary onions, shallots and chives.

The whole group was 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. 

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

This bulbous perennial has long, strap-shaped, grey-green basal leaves 30-60cm (12-25in) long. In summer it bears umbels 8cm (3in) across of 50 or more star-shaped, deep violet flowers. Remove immature seed heads to prevent paler-flowered self-sown seedlings. 

Flower stalks dry well and can be used in arrangements or they can be left outside to provide winter interest as they look good covered in frost.

Contact with bulbs may irritate skin.


  • Grow in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Plant bulbs 5-10cm (2-4in) deep in autumn.
  • Plant clump-forming species with rhizomes at or just below the soil surface in spring.
  • Alliums are susceptible to white rot, downy mildew and onion fly.


  • Propagate by offsets, removed when dormant or by seed in spring at about 13°C (55°F). Keep moist and well ventilated, and dry progressively as foliage dies back. Prick out and pot on when dormant. Seed grown plants, however, may not come true to the parent.
  • Alternatively divide clumps of spring flowering species in summer.


The RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee awarded Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

"A bulbous herbaceous perennial to 90cm, with short basal leaves dying down by flowering time. Flowers small, vivid rosy-purple, in crowded spherical umbels. Attractive seed heads."

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