Nodding Pink Onion

nodding pink onion allium cernuum wisconsin native plants at johnson's nursery ftimg

Nodding Pink Onion

Allium cernuum

Description & Overview

Nodding Pink Onion is a Wisconsin native perennial. Like other onions, it’s foliage is tufts of long, grass-like leaves. In summer, the stems are topped with a single bulb containing numerous white-to-pink flower clusters. Ornamental onions have a characteristic pungent onion aroma. They can be found on rocky, open sites, and along the woods edge. All parts of the plant are edible. The showy flowers attract a wide range of native pollinators, including butterflies.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 18-24 inches
Mature Spread: 8-12 inches
Growth Rate: Perennial
Growth Form: Clumping
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Sandy, Heavy Clay, Well-drained, Moist
Flower: White-pink
Bloom Period: June-August
Foliage: Dark Green
Fall Color: N/A
Fruit Notes: Black capsules that ripen late Summer-Fall

Suggested Uses:

  • Rock Gardens (these plants thrive in well-draining soil. Rocky soils provide great drainage),
  • Border Front (interesting flowers attract attention/sturdy flower stems won’t flop),
  • Cottage Garden (an informal planting where flowers take center stage. A romantic jumble of bulbs, annuals, perennials, flowering shrubs, and climbers),
  • Naturalized Area (the native Nodding Pink Onion, Allium cernuum, will self-seed and spread over large areas),
  • Pollinator Garden (attracts bees, butterflies, and more!)
  • Container Garden (not much room to spread and seed, one single plant will remain small),
  • Cutting garden (unique flowers, fresh or dried, add interest to any bouquet).
measuring nodding pink onion in #1 containers from propagaiton department at johnson's nursery

Salable #1 Container. Pictures taken late July. Expect different measurements at different times of the year.

nodding pink onion allium cernuum wisconsin native foliage closeup

Wildlife Value:

Flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Seeds are attractive to songbirds as a food source. Deer tolerant.

Maintenance Tips:

Nodding Pink Onion is easily grown and maintained. While it thrives in sandy or rocky habitats, it will grow in a variety of conditions. Plants will naturalize by self-seeding. Pruning off spent blooms will help control the spread of this perennial. Foliage naturally dies back each year and can be removed if needed.

blooming nodding pink onion allium flower with bee at johnson's nursery
wisconsin native onion allium in flower with bee at johnson's nursery


While onions in general have no serious issues, there are a few cosmetic (non-lethal) issues that can occur. Bulb rot may occur in soggy or waterlogged sites and is noticed by squeezing the bulbs to feel if they are soft or mushy. Potential insect pests include: aphids, vine weevils, slugs, snails, earwigs, spider mites, and thrips. Thrips are tiny insects that suck plant cells from almost any plant. Damage includes streaks, small white patches, or silvery speckling on leaves. All of these insects can be treated with a few treatments of insecticidal soap.

Leaf Lore:

Native from Canada all the way down to Mexico, this perennial gets its name from the onion-like smell. The Genus name Allium come from the Latin word for ‘garlic’, while the specific epithet cernuum means ‘nodding’.

The flower bulbs have an extremely strong flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves may also be eaten raw or cooked – they add a delicious, strong onion taste to any salad. Medicinally it’s similar to garlic; the entire plant can be used to treat respiratory issues. Juice made from ornamental onions can be used to treat kidney stones, colds, and sore throats. It can also be used to repel moths, biting insects, and moles.

Companion Plants:

Anise-Hyssop, Coneflower, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Cranesbill, Salvia, Shasta Daisy, Little Bluestem, Butterflyweed

All these plants attract other pollinators and have a wide range of colors for either contrast or consistency. Little Bluestem stays in the general size range but adds fall color when allium begins dying back.

nodding pink onion allium cernuum wisconsin native flower perennials benchcard