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

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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

 

 

 

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