Planting and Caring for Onions

Written by Debra Wyatt (last updated June 19, 2017)

Out of all the vegetables the onion is one of the home gardener's favorite. There are several reasons for this. The onion is easy to grow, doesn't require much space, and has lots of medicinal and culinary uses. Onions also have such a variety that a gardener can find at least one type of onion that will fit their needs.

There are many different types or varieties of onions. Listed here is just a sample of the more commonly known onions and what they are known for.

  • Vidalia onions: known more for where they are grown then the type of onion.
  • White, Yellow, or Spanish onions: great for slicing and have great flavor for cooking also great for long-storing.
  • Purple onions: a very mild taste and used a lot in salads.
  • Green onions or Scallions: a long stem with little or no bulb.
  • Pearl onions or pickling onions: used for pickling.
  • Leeks: very mild, yet have their own distinct taste.
  • Shallots: a small bulb with a very mild taste also great in the garden as they have an attractive summer flower.

While there are many different varieties of onions there are actually only two different classes: long day and short day. Short day onions are mainly grown in the South, and the long day onions are more for the North. The short day onions develop bulbs with about 12-14 hours of daylight while the long day onions require 14-16 hours of daylight.

There are three different options that can be used to grow onions:

  • Seed: If planting onions from seed (this option takes the longest) they should be started indoors and then transplanted. This type of plant will need to be "hardened" before planting. They are ready to be transplanted when they are about the size of a lead pencil (about 7-1/2 inches) and stocky. To "harden" the plants, gradually expose the plant to the temperatures outdoors and less water.
  • Seedlings: These are hardy and help to cut down the time between starting and actually harvesting the onions. Seedlings have been growing about two months and are available from the nursery. They are usually ready to plant right away.
  • Sets (bulbs): When planting by the set, remember to plant so that the green shoot is upwards. The set takes the least amount of time between planting and harvesting. If gardening in a small area it is best to use sets. The onions that are planted in sets grow quickly for easy harvesting.

In general, onions should be planted three to four inches apart. Double rows that are about eight inches apart (give or take a couple of inches) won't hurt anything.

When it is time to harvest onions it is usually fairly easy to tell. When the tops have fallen over it is time to pull them. After pulling the onions rinse off the dirt and then allow the onions to dry in the open for a couple of days. Then cut the roots and the tops off. Leave the onions to set out in the open again for a couple more days.

Author Bio

Debra Wyatt

Deb has a communications degree and applies her talents to her position as Marketing Specialist at Sharon Parq Associates. In her spare time she spends time with her children and grandchildren and devotes time to her church. ...


Cooking Hamburgers on a Foreman Grill

Want to cook hamburgers on a Foreman grill, but are tired of the dried out, over cooked hamburger that has little or no ...

Discover More

Transplanting Large Plants

A garden full of vegetables can be fun and healthy way to stretch your food dollars. It doesn't matter if you are ...

Discover More

Curing Foot Odor

No need to be embarrassed by the smell of your feet. Soon you will be taking your shoes off without anyone being able to ...

Discover More
More Gardening Tips

Vegetable Gardening in Containers

Want to grow a vegetable garden but just don't have enough space? Why not try growing vegetables in a container? It is ...

Discover More

Growing Potatoes

Potatoes are a great vegetable that can be used in many ways. If you want to grow your own potatoes, plant the seed in an ...

Discover More

Growing Cucumbers

As simple as placing a few seeds in the ground and covering them with rich soil, cucumbers typically grow to maturity ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured gardening tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 1 + 1?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured gardening tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)