Plant of the Month for March, 2018

Allium karataviense Ivory Queen header
Allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen'

 (AL-ee-um  kar-uh-taw-vee-EN-see)

General Information:

Allium karataviense ‘Ivory Queen’ is a very unusual onion. The leaves are very wide, grow close to the ground and cup a large head of white flowers. Even in flower, the plant is only about 8 inches tall. Common names include kara tau garlic and Turkistan onion.

Allium karataviense Ivory Queen main

Allium karataviense ‘Ivory Queen’ :photo by Robert Pavlis

The species has pink flowers while the cultivar ‘Ivory Queen’ is white.  This plant has been in horticulture for a very long time, and I suspect any white flowering form is now called Ivory Queen. After flowering, the leaves slowly wilt and by midsummer the plant goes under ground, to appear again in spring.

Allium karataviense Ivory Queen clump

Allium karataviense ‘Ivory Queen’ :photo by Robert Pavlis

Pollinators love the flowers and seed is easily produced. These will fall underneath the parent plant and produce grass-like seedlings. If you weed what you think is grass you’ll never have baby plants. Seedlings of Ivory Queen seem to come true and do not revert to the pink wild variety. It should flower from seed  in three years.

Allium karataviense Ivory Queen closeup

Allium karataviense ‘Ivory Queen’ :photo by Robert Pavlis

Life Cycle: perennial bulb

Height: 20 cm (in)

Bloom Time: late spring

Natural Range: Central Asia, Karatau Mountians in Kazakhstan

Habitat: loose limestone scree

Synonyms:  none


Light: full sun

Soil: well drained, sandy

Water: moist while flowering and dry once underground

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 - 8

Propagation: seed, bulb offsets

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): frequently

Sow immediately. The viability of these seeds is short or the species propagates best with fresh seed. Stored seed might be coaxed into germination with temperature cycling and patience.
Use repeated cycles of 4°C, then 20°C for 3 months each. Germination is very prolonged.
store seed @ 4°C; seed stored @ 20°C takes 6-9 months to germinate
Robert Pavlis