Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - May 17, 2011

From: East Granby, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Problem Plants
Title: Invasive native wild onions in East Granby CT
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have wild onions which have become extremely invasive. I have no idea how to get rid of them, and this year they seem to have taken over my entire flower bed. I tried pulling the bulbs out for several years, and it just seems so futile. Even if you can not offer a remedy, please make sure that people become aware of what a nasty invasive plant, these seemly harmless chivelike sprouts can become. I fear the only way to eliminate them is to cement them over. urgh!!!!

ANSWER:

There are a number of different plants in the Allium genus that have the common name of "wild onion." Allium canadense (Meadow garlic) is native to Connecticut and sounds like your description. From our webpage on this plant:

"Use Food: There are many bulb forming plants that resemble wild onions, some are toxic. Only harvest plants with the distinct odor of onions. The chopped green leaves can be used like chives and the bulbs are cooked as any other onions."

From the Growing Conditions for the plant:

"Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moderately rich, neutral soils.
Conditions Comments: Some Allium species can become weedy in warmer climates. Tolerates all conditions well; very hearty plant. Make sure soil is well-drained, plants will rot in standing water. Generally free of pests and disease, although some people have had problems with slugs."

Actually, we probably can't give you any real solution to the problem, unless you want to dig up the bed and make sure every little sliver of bulb is destroyed (not in the compost pile!). In the past, on invasive plants, we have recommended cutting off the top of the offender and painting the cut area (within 5 minutes) with a broad-spectrum herbicide and using a disposable sponge brush as an applicator. This still is probably only a delaying action, but theoretically, cutting all the upper leaves off, which manufacture food for the plants, as well as applying herbicide before the cut area heals itself over might eventually starve those roots. Theoretically.

We are publishing this to remind our readers to investigate every plant, even gift plants, thoroughly before you plant it. The only way to get rid of invasive plants is to never plant them. We appreciate your giving us a very clear example of this problem.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Allium canadense


Allium canadense


Allium canadense


Allium canadense

 

 

 

More Problem Plants Questions

Eliminating weeds from seeded wildflower stands
June 25, 2007 - We live in Eastern Central Texas in a small community on Texas Highway 7. Last fall, we went to the Wildseed Flower Farm near Fredricksburg and purchased a bag of mixed wildflower seeds and planted...
view the full question and answer

Eastern Red Cedar Roots
March 17, 2016 - Would an Eastern Red Cedar root system damage underground irrigation pipes?
view the full question and answer

Landscape Fabric for Oak Suckers in Austin
February 11, 2015 - Can landscape fabric (covered w/decorative bark mulch) be safely used to control Escarpment oak sprouts? 70-year-old knees are tired of getting down to remove. Oaks are in Circle C area of Austin
view the full question and answer

Skin allergies; is Juniper the culprit in Simi Valley, CA?
July 21, 2012 - My husband and I have had terrible skin allergy problems this spring (for me it's been 3 years) and think it may be the juniper bushes outside our bedroom and kitchen windows. Is there a fast growin...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a plant with winged stems in Texas
July 08, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, We live in Denton Texas & our backyard is being taken over by a very woody type weed or bush. The most distinguishing characteristic is that long thin vertical ridges or fins...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.