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Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Plant of the Week: Star of Persia

By D'en Vargas | July 11, 2018

Did the presence of a cluster of purple stars bewitch you along your High Line commute? Allium cristophii, also known as the star of Persia, shows bright vibrant shades of purple from late spring to early summer. Although Allium cristophii attracts most of its attention while in bloom, it is also stunning when dried as its seed heads persist for months after flowers have faded. Not only do these crowns of purple stars attract attention from people, they also draw butterflies and bees despite their lack of an aroma. The star of Persia does release a strong distinctive onion-like odor, but only when bruised or crushed, a trait known to members of the allium family. Alliums are mostly located in the Northern hemisphere, particularly Asia, but many are known to scatter in parts of Africa and South America.

Not only does the star of Persia contain a rich history, but alliums, in general, have had large contributions in cultural significance dating back to Ancient Egypt. In Egyptian culture, alliums were buried alongside pharaohs. It was believed that the distinctive aroma of these brightly colored flowers gave the dead the power to breathe again.

Allium cristophii thrives in a sandy to gritty soils. On the High Line, most of our planting beds contain sandy loam for improved drainage. Excessive water would rot the bulb of the Star of Persia. Allium cristophii is a low maintenance plant that flourishes best in dry to medium conditions. When it comes to sun exposure, it does not require full sun as many websites suggest.

The star of Persia naturalizes, meaning it spreads on its own. To make this historical allium bloom you should plant new bulbs 3-6 inches deep and 10-12 inches apart in the fall. Once the Allium cristophii begins to bloom, you will begin to see them spread on their own.

USDA zone: 4-10

Allium cristophii is located at the Hudson River Overlook, Diller-von Furstenberg Sundeck & Water Feature, and the Wildflower Field & Radial Plantings.

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.

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