Nodding onion flaunts showy clusters of numerous, dusty-pink flowers that are so big compared to its stem that they appear to be nodding. This wild onion is host to hairstreak butterfly caterpillars and a nectar source for many insects. But, interestingly, it's grasslike leaves also can act as a repellent for garden pests. All parts of the plant; leaves, bulbs and bulblets are all edible and pungent.
- Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial herbaceous plant
- Size at maturity: 6-12" tall, 12-18" wide
Light requirements: full sun, part-sun/part-shade
- Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil, well-drained
- Bloom time: May - July
- Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, easy to grow
- Wildlife support: adult butterflies/nectar source, bees and other insect pollinators, beneficial insects/pest eating insects, hummingbirds
- Native habitat/range: Allium cernuum is the most widespread native North American onion. In Oregon it can be found in the Blue, Wallawa, Cascade and Coast Ranges, the East Cascades, Eastern Oregon, and the Willamette Valley. It is also found in ID, WA, north to BC Canada, east MA, and southeast to AZ and Mexico. Portland Plant List - yes.
- Special uses & features: edible, butterfly host plant
Gardening with Nodding Onion: Nodding onion is hardy and gorgeous in sunny, exposed and/or rocky areas and is one of the few species that will tolerate growing beneath a black walnut tree. Though it prefers soils that are moist but well-drained, it can be exceptionally drought tolerant. As an edible plant, whose grasslike green leaves repel garden pests, it's a natural addition near your veggie garden! It is a striking, yet small plant - so be sure to plant it in multiples to get the full effect. It makes an excellent border when planted densely along an edge. It can reseed, but the seeds will take many years to become a new flowering plant.
Photo Credit 1: "Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum)" by wackybadger is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo Credit 2-5: Nikkie West, Sparrowhawk Native Plants