Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Garden Onion, Edible Onion
Allium cepa

Family: Alliaceae
Genus: Allium (AL-ee-um) (Info)
Species: cepa (KEP-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Allium cepa var. cepa
Synonym:Allium cepa var. multiplicans
Synonym:Allium cepa var. solaninum

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18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
Pale Yellow
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
By tip layering

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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2 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rupeee On Jan 19, 2010, Rupeee from Riverside, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Also called Hill Onion, Mother Onion, and Pregnant Onion.
Produces onions up to 4" in diameter under good conditions, and 3" in diameter under average conditions.
When a small bulb (3/4") is planted, it will usually produce 1 or 2 larger bulbs.
When a large bulb (3 to 4") is planted, it will produce approximately 10 to 12 bulbs per cluster.
Flavorful, yet not strong. The 'Potato' onion has good drought resistance, pink root resistance, and is widely adapted for different growing regions, except Florida and southern Texas.
Especially valued for the keeping quality of the small and medium sized bulbs, which keep 8 to 12 months under good conditions.
We've kept small bulbs up to 18 months under ideal conditions.
Some old-timers grow this heirloom onion exclusively because it provides all the onions they ever need.
Is not frost tender
It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.
If the stalks flower, cut them down so the plant's energy can be directed to the bulbs.
Generally, harvest in midsummer
Potato onions can increase 3 to 8 fold by weight each year depending on growing conditions
Once you plant Potato Onions in your garden youll have an everlasting and continuous supply
If planted in August and early September, they can be harvested as soon as they get large enough. This usually begins in November (Thanksgiving onions) and continues through March
Are often harvested in the second year after planting. Eat the large bulbs, and Replant the small ones
When planting multipliers, bury the bulbs in 1 inch of soil
Harvest your multiplier onions when the leaves turn brown and the necks are dry.

Positive lupinelover On May 7, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Some onion types do not flower; instead they form bulblets on the tops of the leaves which can be used as sets for another crop, or eaten.

Laying over onion leaves before they flower helps to make the bulb grow bigger. Growing onions in the same place for several years also reportedly makes the bulbs grow bigger.

Onion flowers can be eaten; they are more strongly flavored than the bulb.

Neutral Baa On Jan 3, 2002, Baa wrote:

The onion is one of the few edible crops almost every country in the world would recognise, it is also thought to be one of the oldest cultivated edible crops

Has long, mid green-blue green, hollow tube, onion scented leaves. All parts of the onion are edible but they are most often grown for their bulb which has a very long list of uses.

Onions prefer an open, well drained, fertile soil in full sun so prepare the bed well during Autumn. Prior to planting apply a general fertiliser (organic or chemical depending on your preference) and rake over. Tread down the raked area and rake again until the tilth is fine and even. Make rows half an inch deep and 9 inches apart.

Sow when the soil is workable for an Autumn crop, late February - early April. For an earlier crop you can sow in August for a June crop the following year. Sow the seeds very thinly in the trenches. Thin out to 2 inches apart and then when the seedlings have straightened out thin again to 4 inches apart. If you have onion seedlings to plant then space them at about 4 inches apart. Ensure that the roots of the seedling go into the hole as straight as possible.

Water the crop only when the weather is dry. Do not allow to flower. When the bulb has swollen stop watering and dust off earth from the top of the bulb so it is exposed to the sun.

The onion will tell you when it is mature by flopping over its own leaves and making them go yellow (some experienced veg growers will bend the leaves for the bulb to stop it from growing). Leave them in the ground at this stage for a further 2 weeks. Twist or fork the bulbs out (taking care not to damage them) and will leave the bulbs out to dry on benches indoors or on the ground if the weather is going to be dry take indoors if rain is forcast. You can use the onion for cooking straight from pulling but you cannot store them until they are dry. Allow to dry for 7-21 days (the longer the better), get rid of any damaged or dieseaed bulbs and store in strings or net bags in a cool well lit place.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Glen Avon, California
Brooksville, Florida
Mcdonough, Georgia
Lenoir City, Tennessee
New Caney, Texas
Plano, Texas

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