When I was younger, my family would grow scallions by taking an old glass bottle, filling it with water to the brim, and putting a regular onion head on the bottle so its bottom would touch water. It would grow roots and start growing little scallions.

I tried doing that again, and met with varied success. Some onion heads produced scallions after a week or two. Some took 2-3 months. Some never did.

Is that a good way to grow scallions, and if so what can I do to improve the success rate? Buy specific kinds of onions? Add something to the water? Anything else?

  • Just to clarify - these are grown indoors, on a window sill facing the east to get as much sun as they can. Room temp varies between 67 and 76 F
    – DVK
    Oct 28 '16 at 4:15
  • I usually take any store bought onion bulbs or garlic that have started to sprout on their own and plant them in a potting mixture with some extra sand or perlite for drainage. I cut the shoots down a bit once they have grown to about a hands length. And then toss them once they stop producing. Why bother with the hassle of doing it in water?
    – max
    Oct 28 '16 at 12:26
  • Likely the predominant cultivar of onion has changed since your youth. Try looking for onions in Asian or Latin american stores. They may well be a different cultivar, with different growth characteristics. Oct 28 '16 at 13:54
  • @WayfaringStranger - plausible theory, since my youth wasn't just in different decade, but on a different continent :)
    – DVK
    Oct 28 '16 at 16:47
  • @max - I don't have either potting mixture, or pots to put it in, or time to mess with proper potting. Water in bottles is minimum hassle :)
    – DVK
    Oct 28 '16 at 16:48

Scallion is a non-technical term used to refer to leaf vegetables in the onion family.

Like any other plant, they will grow better in nutrient-rich soil but water should suffice to grow a few sets of leaves given a large enough bulb.

Either your onion heads aren't large enough or you have some sort of disease.

All of them can grow leaves in proper conditions. That's the whole point of storing nutrients in bulbs.

+ By the way, given that you are having trouble with rooting, the one thing to check is if the onions you are planting have at least some viable root stubs. Some places sell you the onion with leaves and roots while others sell you a polished ball. I'm not sure it's actually impossible for onions to grow new roots from top growth, but common practice seems to require roots.


I've read that potatoes are treated to minimize sprouting while in storage. Maybe something similar is done to onions?

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