I am trying to identify this Allium. It was present in our garden when we moved in. It grows well every year, but then the tops fall over and die by early Summer without flowering. Numerous other species of Allium planted next to it flower, so I do not believe the lack of flowering is due to poor conditions. I have never seen it start to form a flowering stalk.

It has flat leaves with a V profile like garlic, and a strong, pleasant garlic flavor. The bulbs are small, round and red. I am located near Vancouver, BC.

Bulb of mature sized specimen

Fallen over clump

V profile of leaves

Base of leaves

  • @Ecnerwal previously posted an answer suggesting that these may be shallots, making this a cultivar of Allium cepa. It looks like the answer was removed for one reason or another, but I think this may be correct. Shallots flower once every 2 years. I have been watching them for 3 years, but they were transplanted once in that period so it could be they will flower next year.
    – hwm
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 22:49
  • I disagreed with Encerwal because shallots have round and hollow leaves, the ones here are flat blades, which means not A. cepa. The answer was self-deleted.
    – Stephie
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 5:16
  • Thanks for the information. I do not know if this is in line with SE answer policy, but I think it would be preferable to update the answer with the above information rather than delete it, so future readers get the helpful ID tip about round vs flat leaves.
    – hwm
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 15:54
  • What do You care? Try it cautiously(rub sensitive skin and observe for redness; then eat very little; then eat a mouthful) and if this type of onion is safe, enjoy it overwhelming the weeds in the yard.
    – Vorac
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 10:28
  • 1
    @Vorac I am sure it is edible. We tested it as you described years ago and have been eating it since. As far as I know, there are no poisonous alliums. I care because I am curious and like to know which species I am growing and eating. I can also then research it to see if said species has any special growing needs, etc.
    – hwm
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


There are a few alliums or wild garlics that show these distinct flat leaves.

Candidates are for example

  • Allium canadense (that would be native, but smells of onion rather than garlic)
  • Allium validum (also native, but the leaves seem wider and I couldn’t find any references on scent)

But… as gardeners have been cultivating alliums for centuries, there is also a real chance that you have some variety of A. sativum or even a hybrid, that ended up in your garden somehow, possibly planted and forgotten. I myself have cluster of what’s clearly a “garlic” of sorts, remarkably similar to yours including the purple hue on the bulb, passed on from one gardener to another with the simple description of “frost hardy permanent garlic” (aka. no tangible details whatsoever). While the cluster in my mom’s garden spreads and blooms, mine never has - and they grow less than 100m apart and other alliums are quite happy in my garden.

  • Thanks @Stephie for the comprehensive answer. My wording was not clear in my original question, but the area these are growing in was a neglected old herb garden. I am confident they were planted there by a human at some point rather than occurring naturally. They spread but do not flower. I believe you are right about it being some variety of A. sativum or a hybrid.
    – hwm
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 15:57

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