En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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!!!!


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 Invasive Plants Questions

Elimination of Whitemouth dayflower in Dothan AL
March 18, 2009 - I am infested with Widow's Tears in my yard. I would like to get rid of them. Can you tell me how?
view the full question and answer

Ivy for wall cover in Dallas
August 03, 2009 - I am trying to cover older apartments with Ivy to create a beautiful exterior look, but after reading several articles on how the Texas Sun kills Ivy, I would like to know what plant can I use to crea...
view the full question and answer

What is wrong with cultivars of native plants?
May 26, 2009 - What is wrong with cultivars of native plants? My state native plant society won't allow cultivars at their annual sale, and the native plant nursery from which I order only offers the species. But a...
view the full question and answer

Non-native citronella mosquito plant wintering inside in Charlotte NC
October 20, 2011 - Can I bring the citronella mosquito plant in the house over the winter, or should it be planted outside. I live in Charlotte, NC.
view the full question and answer

Possibility of consuming Rapistrum rugosum
April 21, 2007 - Reference: "Bastard Cabbage" (Rapistrum rugosum) Garden section of Austin American-Statesman (April 7, 2007) speaks of this weed. As a child, my parents used to pick, cook and eat this weed at the ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center