All About Growing Onions

Here's a primer on growing onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots, plus information on harvesting, storage, and seed saving techniques.

| December 2009/January 2010

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Packed with vibrant flavor, onions are a staple food throughout the world. Familiar bulb onions are easy to cultivate as long as you plant varieties adapted to your climate, and you can expand your onion season by growing leeks, scallions, and other non-bulbing varieties. Fertile, well-drained soil that’s slightly acidic (a pH between 6.0 and 6.8) is best for growing onions of all types.

Bulb Onion Types to Try

Bulb onions mature in response to changing amount of daylight. The longer the plants grow before they begin forming bulbs, the bigger and better those bulbs will be. In North America, days become shorter after the summer solstice, about June 21. Summer days are longer in the North than in the South.

Short-day varieties grow best in the South. They begin forming bulbs in late spring, so they need to be planted in fall in the far South and in late winter in colder climates in order to produce large bulbs.

Intermediate-day varieties are the best main-crop onions for the country’s midsection (Washington, D.C., to northern Arizona), and they can be grown as early onions in the North. 

Long-day varieties are best grown in the North. These onions have spicy, well-rounded flavors and store well.

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