Plant of the Week: Star of Persia

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

This is certainly a beautiful time of year to visit the High line and perhaps my favorite time of year on the High line other than the fall. Many late spring bloomers are out and about, but be sure to not miss the Allium cristophii, or star of Persia! Allium cristophii is one of the many bulbs you'll see blooming on the High line right now. Allium cristophii is a bulbous ornamental perennial plant. Quite the showstopper, the Allium cristophii blooms in late spring to early summer, featuring an explosion of star shaped flowers. Each flower head will contain around a hundred flowers. The beauty of Allium cristophii peaks in the spring, but the flower heads can persist for months after if taken care of, and make for a stunning addition to dried floral arrangements.

Besides adding a stunning visual element to a garden display, Allium cristophii is also quite attractive to butterflies and bees. The flowers are not fragrant but the leaves will give off the distinct aroma of onions when bruised.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Alliums in general are quite hardy and will tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. They will usually thrive as long as the soil isn't overly damp and water logged as this can cause the bulb to rot. Once established they will become somewhat drought tolerant. They can mostly be found in the Northern hemisphere, particularly Asia, but many alliums are known to be distributed in parts of Africa and South America.

Alliums have had important cultural value dating back to the Victorian ages, where they were a symbol of unity, elegance and patience. Its name references this fact, as the word onion is derived from the middle English word "unyun," which is derived from the French word "oignon." "Oignon," came from the old Latin word "unio," meaning one, or unity. In Egyptian culture, Alliums represented eternity and were frequently buried alongside the Pharaohs. It was believed that the strong scent and magical powers would prompt the dead to breathe again. Because of their antiseptic traits, they were considered useful in the afterlife.

The true origin of Alliums is still a subject of much debate, but evidence suggests that Alliums were first domesticated in parts of central Asia, in and around Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and northern Iran. They were then likely to be brought to the Middle East by Marco Polo and other traders and travelers along the silk road.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop
Allium cristophii belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family. The Amaryllidaceae family contains over 1600 species of flowering plants, most of which are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Members of this family are typically bulbous with basal leaves. Fruits will usually take the form of dried capsules, as in the case of the Allium cristophii, or fleshy berries

Allium cristophii loves full sun and mildly moist, rich soils. It is a relatively low maintenance plant and will generally thrive as long as the soil isn't allowed to stay too wet. Plant in the fall, 4 to 5 inches deep. Be sure not to plant them upside down! If you're unsure which way is up, they can be planted on their sides and the bulb will adjust itself. Bulbs can also be divided in the fall and planted immediately, or placed into cold storage for future use. Be aware, that Alliums and many other bulbs need a period of cold stratification, as this simulates winter. Bulbs may not grow without this period of cold.

USDA zone 4-10.

You can see the Allium cristophii on the Hudson River overlook between 14th and 16th Streets, the Philip A. & Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover between 25th and 26th Streets and the Wildflower Field & Radial Plantings between 27th and 30th Streets.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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