Can you grow alliums from seed? A risky business, but worth a try

We speak to garden experts and discover the pros and cons of doing this.

Alliums are one of my favourite plants in the garden, with their architectural flower heads resembling pom poms. You can’t help but give these stunning ornamentals a second look as they take a majestic stand. My own alliums have now lost their flowers and only the seed heads remain, although they still look beautiful. But it got me thinking, while I’ve always grown alliums from bulbs, can you grow alliums from seeds? 

The answer is ‘yes’, although you can’t be guaranteed the same result as growing them from a bulb. However, if you’ve got some time on your hands, have patience and enjoy ‘having a go’, we’d recommend trying it out. 

Allium flowerheadsCredit: Shutterstock/AbElena

What are the challenges of growing alliums from seeds?

Your alliums will need some time and dedication

Pim Dickson, horticultural and technical content manager at Mr Fothergills, told us: “Time is the major factor, and providing the care needed to raise seedlings and young plants. This is easily countered by the savings made growing from seed [compared with buying bulbs], the large numbers you can raise and the pleasure taken in the process of growing your own.” 

While buying seeds is cheaper than bulbs, you can save money by propagating from the bulbs you already have, and we explain how later. 

It’s also worth being aware that your results from growing alliums from seed will be different than from bulbs. Simon Akeroyd, garden editor at Saga Exceptional says: “They may not be identical to the parent plant as it’s likely the seeds will have cross-pollinated. But if you’re keen to experiment then you could create a new variety by growing alliums from seed. However, you’ll have to wait a couple of years for the seeds to develop into full-size plants, whereas if you plant an allium bulb in the autumn, you’ll get a flower in the spring. But it’s fun to try – and that’s what gardening is all about.”   


Do alliums self-seed?

Self-seeding can be random

Yes, without you having to put in any effort, alliums will self-seed. So, if you don’t remove the flower heads once they finish, you’ll find the seeds will be distributed naturally as the plant sways in the wind.  

However, this method doesn’t give you much say in where your seeds are planted. And you may also find you’re stuck without knowing what’s a seedling and what’s a weed. “It’s much better to sow them in rows or trays, where they can be easily weeded, properly nurtured and then planted out to final growing positions when plants are strongly developed,” says Dickson. 

When is the right time to collect allium seeds?

Watch for the signs

Its easy to see when allium seeds are ready to collect, Dickson says. You’ll notice that the flower heads have dried and the seeds are ripe. You’ll find the seed heads will change from green to brown and will start to split open to reveal the seeds.

How to collect allium seeds

Seeds can be collected in a paper bag

There’s no science behind collecting allium seeds all you need is a paper bag for storage. Just gently tap the seed head with your hand and hold the paper bag below to capture the seeds as they fall. If you regularly collect seeds, remember to label the bag, so you know what’s inside when you come back to use them later.  


Alternatively, to avoid your alliums self-seeding, cut the seedheads off the stalks and bring them inside to dry out. When the seeds are ripe, you can then tap them into a paper bag as above. 

Can you sow the seeds straight away?

Sow straight away or wait until the spring

You can go ahead and sow the ripe seeds as soon as you’ve collected them, or you can wait until the spring and pop them in the fridge to store – just make sure they are clearly labelled so you don’t mistakenly scatter them over your salad. 


Do the seeds need stratifying?

They will benefit from being chilled

“If sown outdoors or in trays kept outdoors in a cold frame, this will provide a natural process of cold stratification, where a period of cold breaks the seeds natural dormancy,” says Dickson. 

However, if you decide to sow the seed later in the year, and have stored it in the fridge, this will have provided the cold spell that is needed. 

How to sow allium seed straight into the ground

Scatter your seeds and rake them over

Taking the ripe seed that you’ve just collected, scatter them over the soil where you want them to grow. Then, gently rake over the area. You’ll now need to be patient, as when growing alliums from seeds they can take a couple of years to flower.  


Alliums love well-drained soil, so if you’ve got a clay soil with poor drainage, consider sowing the seeds in a raised bed. 

How to sow allium seed in trays

Your seeds will enjoy a gritty compost

You can sow your stored seeds into trays at the beginning of the year. Remove them from the fridge and place in a gritty seed compost, no more than 0.5cm (0.25in) deep. Dickson then advises to “put them in an unheated frame or greenhouse and keep them moist.

Once the seedlings have reached 10cm (4in) high, prick out the strongest ones and transplant them into individual pots. They can be left outside or placed in an unheated frame. Then, in the late autumn, transplant them into your garden, keeping the plants about 30cm (12in) apart, making sure you’ve added plenty of grit or drainage into the soil beforehand.  

But do remember, when growing allium’s from seed, you’ll have to be patient and wait a couple of years to see the results of your labour.

Top tip for sowing allium seeds if your climate is cold or wet  

“Although alliums are generally hardy,” says Akeroyd, “some can be prone to struggle and even rot in cold or wet areas of the country. If this is the case, to give seedlings a better chance of survival, it’s worth sowing them during the spring and transplanting them into individual pots when they reach 10cm (4in), [as above]. They can then be transplanted directly outside the following spring, when conditions are warmer and drier, but be sure to dig plenty of grit or drainage into the soil first.” 

What conditions do alliums prefer?

To give your alliums the best chance of developing into strong, healthy plants, its worth planting them in a soil type and position where they will thrive. For this reason, Dickson recommends a fertile, quickdraining soil, in a sunny and sheltered position, as the flower stems are top heavy and easily knocked over by strong winds. 

A reliable way to propagate alliums is by detaching smaller offsets 

If you don’t want to wait a couple of years for your seeds to produce allium flowers, you may find it easier to propagate the bulbs. Follow these four easy steps on how to divide your bulbs to create new alliums. 

  1. Wait until your alliums have flowered and the leaves have died down.
  2. Lift the bulbs.
  3. Detach the offsetsthese are smaller bulbs next to the parent bulb.
  4. Plant the offsets where you want them to grow or pot them up in gritty compost and leave them outside. 
Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her


Camilla Sharman is a Staff Writer at Saga Exceptional. Camilla has worked in publishing and marketing for over 30 years and has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  

As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader. 

It was when she started her family that her freelance career evolved. Having moved into a period house two days before her first son was born, she had the perfect opportunity to combine working from home with writing about her own house renovation projects. Apart from appearing on the cover of Your Home magazine, Camilla’s written for Ideal Homes, Real Homes, House Beautiful, and kitchen and bathroom business magazines.  

It was inevitable that her interest in all things homes would lead her to writing home interest features. As a young girl she had the earliest version of Pinterest – a scrap book full of home inspiration images cut from magazines.  

In her spare time, when she’s not in her kitchen experimenting with a new recipe, you’ll find her keeping fit at the gym. In the pool, stretching at a yoga class, or on a spin bike, exercise is her escape time. She also loves the great outdoors and if she’s not pottering about in her garden, she’ll be jumping on her bike for a gentle cycle ride.  

  • Email