Want to grow spring onions? If you love tasty, versatile vegetables that only need minimal space and effort, then spring onions are an excellent choice! Even the tiniest plot or pot will accommodate them.
I grow all the flavoursome Alliums (Onion family). This includes garlic, leeks, onions and chives. You can swap them around in recipes and always have an ingredient to add flavour to whatever you’re cooking. If you haven’t grown them before, or are a beginner gardener, just follow the tips in this tutorial and give them a go!
Spring Onions, Shallots and Scallions!
OK – let’s get one thing straight first! If you’re confused about the names of these vegetables, it’s not surprising as they often differ depending on where you live! Names and varieties include spring onions and shallots (Australia), eschallots, salad onions, Japanese or Welsh bunching onions (these grow in clumps rather than singly), scallions (US), green onions (China) and Egyptian or tree onions (bulbets grow in clusters on top of the stems). Unless there’s a picture on your seed packet or catalogue, it’s often a case of wait-and-see what grows!! So to simplify things, some varieties have a small bulb at the end of the stalk and some don’t!
Spring onions (Allium fistulosum) don’t have a bulb. You grow spring onions from seed. ‘Allium’ means garlic in Latin and ‘fistulosum’ means hollow stemmed.
Bottom line is you can use the leaves of all spring onion cultivars to flavour your cooking. So, whatever you call them (I’m going to refer to them all as ‘spring onions’ to make life easy), they are a ‘must have’ addition to your kitchen. I simply can’t live without these delicious, handsome looking edibles.
How to Grow Spring Onions
- Flavour. There are a number of cultivars – from those with a very strong flavour to mild and sweet. You can’t go wrong with your choice – they’re ALL delish!!
- Space. One of the main reasons I grow these perennial vegetables is because they provide a high yield for the minimal space they need to grow. In the subtropics, they can be planted pretty much all year round. They grow equally well in containers as in the garden. Spring onions grow in a greenhouse in winter and even in water on your kitchen bench!
- Height and Depth – Spring onions grow to about 30-50cm (12-20in) singly or in clumps, depending on which variety you grow. They have a very shallow root system so can be grown in even the smallest of pots.
- Grow from Seed. This is dead easy! I save mine from previous crops by waiting until the flower head matures, then chopping it off and leaving in a paper bag until fully dry (about 2 weeks). Then simply shake the seeds into the bag, scoop them out and store in self-seal bags in a cool dry place. If you are buying seed, check my list of seed suppliers.
- I sow seeds in home made seed raising mix to save money. Keep moist by misting with water and cover to maintain humidity. They germinate in about 2 weeks.
- I prepare the garden soil with a good handful of rock minerals, organic soil conditioner and water in well.
Best Time to Sow Seeds/Plant Seedlings
- Spring onions are grown for their edible stem. They are best sown during the New Moon or First Quarter phases. (See Moon Gardening to learn how to maximise your harvest by planting in harmony with nature’s rhythms).
- Choose a variety to suit your climate. The cold-hardiest spring onion is Red Welsh, (the French call it Ciboule Commune Rouge). Benizone has violet coloured stalks and is also suited to cold areas. Beltsville Bunching will withstand hot and dry conditions more than most.
- Succession plant spring onions every 3-4 weeks for a continual harvest during the year.
- Sow 5mm (1/5in) deep, 5mm apart and about 15cm (6in) apart in rows. Up close and personal!!
- They take about 8-12 weeks to mature.
How to Sow Spring Onions Seeds
- Well-drained, humus-rich soil. Add compost or worm castings from your worm farm if you have one and ensure the soil is loose and friable.
- Soil pH 6-7. Add lime if your soil is too acidic or sulphur if too alkaline. [See my DIY potting mix recipe for details].
- Regular watering, a sunny position and being grown quickly.
- A liquid fertiliser 2-3 times while growing. To keep the leaves green, I feed mine diluted seaweed or fish emulsion, a weak worm juice made from diluting the liquid from my worm farm or a compost ‘tea’.
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- Containers or in garden beds – even a small pot will be fine for these guys so long as you keep it moist.
- Being planted near peas and beans.
- Drying out and getting stressed.
- Competition from weeds.
- Feeling hungry!
Tips for Growing Spring Onions
Spring onions are incredibly generous and good value if you know what to do with them. Even if you buy them instead of growing spring onions, you can still get more for free. Here’s how:
How to Grow Green Onions in Water
- If you are growing a bulb variety, be aware that snipping the leaves will deprive the bulb of the food it needs to grow to maturity!
- Using a small fork, gently loosen the soil under the plant to harvest the bulbs. Brush off the soil and trim the roots. Hang the bulbs up in bunches until the leaf tops dry out completely. Then snip the leaves off above the bulb and store in a cool, dark and dry spot. This can extend your harvest for months!
- Container grown spring onions may need more frequent watering. Use a quality potting mix that retains moisture.
- Keep picking the outer leaves so new ones grow in the centre.
- Propagation by Division – If growing a bulb variety, you can divide clumps most easily during winter. Slice off individual plants (including the bulb and root) by using a downward motion with a sharp knife through the clump and loosening them apart. Once separated, trim the top and roots before you transplant.
- Uses – I pop them in as a companion plant to deter pests all over my garden. As they are members of the Liliaceae family, you can expect stunning, showy flower heads too which not only brighten up the garden but provide you with free seed!
How to Harvest and Store Spring Onions
- Start snipping leaves with scissors when they are tall, green and healthy looking.
- Depending on which variety you grow, they may develop a small white or brown bulb below the green leaves.
- If it gets too cold where you live, harvest the whole plant and regrow them in a glass of water.
- Spring onions don’t store for long in the fridge so wrap in plastic. I prefer to harvest as needed straight from the garden.
- Whilst you can pull up the entire plant, I think this is a wicked waste! If I need a whole plant, I use a sharp knife to cut the spring onion just above the roots leaving about 3cm (1 in) stem in the ground. Then I water in with seaweed and watch it regrow!
- I snip the outer leaf of alternate plants, which encourages more growth and allows each plant to recover and thicken up at the base.
- Snip flower stalks off if you want the plant to keep producing leaves. Or allow the edible flowers to grow and harvest them for use in salads, stir fries or as garnishes.
- Sometimes I’ve left my spring onions in the garden so long, they become as large and thick as leeks! They still have the hollow stem so are great for soups and stock.
- According to the Seed Savers’ Handbook, spring onions can be obtained by harvesting an early variety of white-bulbed onion at a very immature stage. Seeds will last 1-2 years if stored in a cool, dry place.
How to Harvest Spring Onion Seeds
Spring Onions – Pests and Diseases
- When you grow spring onions, thrips are the main pest to watch for. These small sucking insects are active in the warmer months and most common in dry weather. Check the centre of the plant periodically. Make sure your plants are moist to avoid potential problems.
- Sow seeds between carrots to deter carrot fly.
Spring Onions Health Benefits
- help to lower cholesterol;
- have antibacterial and antifungal qualities;
- help relieve sinus and chest ailments, asthma and bronchitis;
- contain an anticoagulant (cycloallin) which helps thin the blood and protect the heart;
- are high in sulphur so help purify the blood, clear the skin, cleanse the liver and build the immune system.
Spring Onions Recipes
- The more mature the plant, the stronger the flavour so if you want a mild onion taste, choose young slender leaves.
- Taste delicious raw when they are at their most nutritious.
- Use both the green tops and the white or brown bulb sliced in salads, salsas, omelettes, pancakes, dips, curries, chutney, stir fries and fish dishes.
- Flavour soups, casseroles, rice, noodles, vegetables, pasta, or egg, cheese and Asian dishes.
- Try these delicious recipes for inspiration or my salsa for something quick and fresh!
- 1 cup (about 3 large) tomatoes, chopped
- 4 spring onions, finely diced (on diagonal for presentation!)
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander (or vary with basil, mint or parsley)
- ¼ tspn rock salt
- Coarse ground pepper
- 2 tblspns lime juice (or lemon if you prefer)
- In a medium sized bowl, stir together ingredients gently with a spoon to combine.
- Set aside in the fridge to chill for about 1 hour to allow the flavours to develop.
- Serve on crusty sourdough bread, with corn chips (GMO free!) or as a side dish to accompany curries, Mexican dishes, omelettes or your favourite meal!
- Variations: Add 1 chopped avocado, lebanese cucumber, a chilli or feta cubes.
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