Allium ‘Milenium’ Selected Perennial Plant of the Year

January 21, 2018 lawanda Newspaper Columns

The Perennial Plant Association has named Allium ‘Milenium’ its 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year.

        Like most alliums, ‘Milenium’ grows upright on a stiff stem topped by a perfectly round sphere of tiny flowers called umbels.  ‘Milenium’s’ are rose-purple and last for up to four weeks, much longer than many perennial plant flowers.  Better yet, they bloom in mid-summer when the first burst of perennial bed colors have faded.  They do well in the heat of summer, but some afternoon shade is appreciated.  When the blooms fade, they dry to a light tan that holds a blush of rose-purple, still nice looking.  After the bloom period, foliage continues to look fresh and green until frost.

        ‘Milenium’ produces clumps of deep glossy green grass-like leaves 10-15 inches tall.  In mid-summer, the flowers rise above the foliage.  Picture a slightly oversized clump of chives in full bloom except with round flowers instead of domed.  Unlike some other ornamental alliums which produce seeds and spread prodigiously, the seeds of ‘Milenium’ are sterile so uninvited seedlings won’t overrun your flowerbed.  The clumps can be divided in either spring or fall by digging up the clump and separating it into two or more smaller clumps.  Foliage should be cut back in fall.

        Deer and rabbits avoid ‘Milenium’ and it attracts no serious insect pests or diseases.  Pollinators like bees and butterflies love allium flowers!

        ‘Milenium’ grows best in well-drained soil and once established, is drought resistant.

        The Perennial Plant Association suggests backing ‘Milenium’ with silver-leaved Russian sage or downy skullcap, which has spikes of blue flowers above trim green foliage.  Or just let it shine on its own!

        The genus allium to which ‘Milenium’ belongs is the same as that of onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives.  All plants in the genus have a slight oniony scent and this one is no exception.  Don’t let that stop you from planting it in your flower bed though.  It’s surprising how the onion scent fits right in among sweeter scented blossoms.

        Note that ‘Milenium’ is spelled with just one “n.”  This is how the plant was registered by the developer, Mark McDonough, a horticulture researcher from Massachusetts.  Whether a spelling mistake or intentional, one “n” is correct when shopping for this plant.

        Are you wondering how a plant gets elected Perennial Plant of the Year?  Perennial Plant Association members vote each summer on the following year’s plant.  At that time, each member is allowed to nominate two plants for future consideration.  A committee reviews the nominated plants, which may number 400, and narrows the field to three or four to be placed on the ballot.

        Plant nominees need to satisfy the following criteria:  suitable for a wide range of climates, low-maintenance, relatively pest-free and disease resistant, multiple seasons of ornamental interest, and be readily available at garden centers the year it is elected. 

        It looks as though the PPA members have chosen another winner this year!


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