Do you ever cook with green onions? They’re generally known as scallions or spring onions, as they’re basically immature onions that you harvest well before the bulb matures. They’re commonly sold in supermarkets with the roots trimmed off, but growing green onions yourself is easy whether or not you have an existing plant.
Read on to learn everything you need to know to start growing your own. We’ll show you which varieties may best suit your needs, the three main ways you can cultivate them, and just how easy this common food is to harvest and re-grow.
Green Onion Varieties
Green onions come in various varieties, and the type you choose to grow may depend on your preferences, growing space, etc. Consider the following common types:
- Evergreen white bunching: This perennial variety can take around 60 days to grow. It’s perfect for winter crops, and grows well in a cold frame.
- Red beard: Named for its purple stalks, this variety grows very quickly, and you can harvest in as little as 50 days.
- Guardsman: Another fast grower, it falls somewhere between a scallion and a spring onion, meaning it forms no bulb (or just a small one).
- Tokyo long white: Like Evergreen, this is a perennial variety packed with flavor. It takes between 75 and 90 days to harvest.
- Nabechan: People love this Japanese variety’s flavor, and it only takes 60 days to grow.
How to Plant Green Onions
Plant perennial green onions in USDA zones 3 through 9. If you’re in Zone 7 or above, you can directly sow green onions in September to harvest a winter crop as well.
When to Plant
Get your onions into the soil as soon as spring temperatures reach above 65 degrees. If you want to plant indoors, start the seeds around 6 or 8 weeks before you plan to plant. Some locations will vary as well. People in Mediterranean climates, for example, plant green onions at the beginning of April.
Green onions require at least six hours of full sun per day. If you’re growing indoors, a sunny kitchen window is perfect. For outdoor planting, choose a bright location that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight.
Plant in well-draining soil that has a pH balance between 6 and 7.5 for the best results. You’ll want to add in plenty of premium compost or well-rotted manure (4 inches of compost layered on top of the soil) to offer nutrients as well. In contrast, traditional potting soil mix works well if you’re growing green onions in containers.
3 Simple Methods for Growing Green Onions
Growing green onions can be done in three different ways. Use the following explanations to find the best growing method for you.
Growing Green Onions from Seed
If you don’t already have an established garden outside, you’ll want to start there. Grow green onions in raised garden beds, or in rows in a veggie patch.
Sow seeds directly into the soil in early spring. Plant them around a half inch into the soil, a couple of inches apart. Then, either cover them lightly with moist soil, or water thoroughly after planting. Rows should be three inches apart with a three-inch row gap.
Seeds typically germinate in around a month, as long as the soil is between 65 and 86 degrees F.
Re-Grow Green Onions from Cuttings
The easiest way to start growing green onions at home is by re-growing a plant from cuttings. In fact, this is a great way to save both time and money. Instead of throwing out trimmed root scraps, regrow those roots into another viable plant.
All you have to do is slice off the end of the bulb, allowing the roots to remain attached. Then, stand the bulbs up in a small jar with just enough water to cover the roots. Even if your plant doesn’t have roots, you can encourage roots to grow by placing the area in a jar of water as well.
Simply place the jar in a nicely lit windowsill and maintain moist roots. After only a couple of days, you should notice green shoots growing from the top of the bulbs. This means the plants are doing well and they will grow very quickly after this milestone. Change out the water no less than once per week for the best results.
Once the shoots reach over five inches tall, you may want to transplant them into your garden, or plant them in a container. Leaving green onions in a jar of water will continue producing green shoots for a while, but eventually, the plant will weaken and stop producing.
Growing Green Onion Containers Inside
You can also grow green onions in containers indoors if you have a green onion shoot that’s around four inches long. The best container for growing green onions is around six inches deep, and offers proper drainage holes.
Fill the pot around halfway full with potting soil. Make sure the soil is moist, and pack it down into the pot. Arrange your onion plants or bulbs around two inches apart, placing the roots down into the dirt. Pack the soil around the plants until you see the trimmed top green portions poking through the top. Then, water the plants thoroughly and place the container in a sunny window that offers at least six hours of sunlight.
After a few weeks, you can begin to harvest your crop.
How to Care for Green Onions
Caring for green onions is easy, even for beginners.
Green onions in jars of water will require fresh offerings each week, while the onions planted in soil require around an inch of water each week. Make sure the soil remains moist, but not wet or soggy. You can place your finger in the top few inches of soil to check the moisture level. If the soil feels dry, offer the plants a nice drink.
Some locations have more spring rain than others as well, which will affect how often you need to water your plants. Check them once per week to ensure they have the water they need. If you grow your green onions in rows or in a raised garden bed, try creating an irrigation system using soaker hoses to help save time watering the plants. When growing in containers, make sure the pot offers good drainage holes in the bottom to avoid soggy soil or stagnant water.
This plant enjoys warm temperatures between 65 and 86 degrees. Some varieties are frost tolerant in colder temperatures as low as -10 degrees if they’re well-rooted in garden soil.
If you’re growing outside, adding mulch around your green onion plants can help them maintain moisture levels and reduce the likelihood of weeds. This is really helpful if you live in an especially dry area or want to spend less time caring for the plants. Try using small mulch pieces like finely ground bark or sawdust, which will fit between the plants more easily.
Throughout the growing season, you’ll want to feed the plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer if you haven’t already added compost to the soil. Organic fertilizer in the soil prior to planting is ideal.
Green onions are in the crop rotation group known as the Allium (onion) family. Never plant green onions in a garden location or container that previously housed other onions or garlic, and never re-use the soil from these plants for your green onions. The soil can carry diseases that scallions are susceptible to, so you’ll need to rotate the crop each time you plant.
Home-grown green onions rarely suffer from diseases or pests as long as you practice proper crop rotation. However, be on the lookout for soil-borne diseases along with pests like thrips and maggots, such as onion root maggots. Slugs and snails may also feast on the foliage if it’s wet.
Companion Plants Best for Green Onions
Companion plants, when planted in close vicinity to each other, help the garden thrive. Green onions have a number of great companions, including:
- Mound-forming herbs
How to Harvest and Store Green Onions
To harvest your green onions, just snip off a small amount as needed. They’re great when picked young. Dig up the plants when they reach between six and eight inches tall or around 70-90 days after planting. In as little as four weeks, you can pull the entire plant from the garden as well.
Or, you can simply cut off a portion of the plant rather than digging up the entire thing. The plants will continue growing in the ground as long as you offer the right conditions, and sometimes they even reach greater heights than the green onions you see in the store’s produce section.
To recycle green onions, leave about an inch above the root when your slicing the plants and replant the section directly into the soil by placing it about an inch deep with the root side down. Then, follow the directions for growing green onions from cuttings. You can repeat this process several times from the same root, and it only takes a couple of weeks to see results.