Perennial Egyptian Walking Onions Plant Themselves

comments (4) June 8th, 2015

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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Egyptian walking onions are also called winter onions, topsetting onions, top onions and tree onions.Click To Enlarge

Egyptian walking onions are also called winter onions, topsetting onions, top onions and tree onions.

Photo: Jodi Torpey

The first time someone told me about walking onions, I thought they were trying to pull an old gardener's prank on me. 

But it turns out they weren't fooling around.

While many gardeners plant onions every year, Egyptian onions (Allium proliferum) can plant themselves.

Most onion types are really biennial plants that take two years to grow and set seed. However, Egyptian onions are perennial.

These hardy onions grow bulbils (bublets) that set at the top of their leaf stalks. These bulbils look just like tiny onions sitting on the top of tall, sturdy leaf stalks.

When the tops get too heavy for the stalks to support them, they fall over and plant themselves wherever they land in the garden.

Then they'll grow through the season, overwinter and start the process again the next season.

Because Egyptian onions can move easily through the vegetable garden, they're sometimes referred to as "walking" onions.

The walking means they'll grow new leaves and topsets each year. They're a fine choice for gardeners who like to let their plants go walking. If you decide to plant Egyptian onions, be sure to place them in a part of the vegetable garden where they won't be in the way when they plant themselves.

The Egyptian onions I planted are in a large container by the side of the vegetable bed. By containing them, I have a little more control on where they'll end up when the tops topple.

In case you can't find these perennial vegetables by their Egyptian onion name, ask for topsetting onions, tree onions, top onions or – because they can survive cold winters -- winter onions.


posted in: onions, Egyptian walking onions

Comments (4)

ElisaDixon writes: Hey what parts of the plants do you use...its really amazing
Posted: 1:25 am on January 26th
WesternGardener writes: Thanks for your onion harvesting questions. You can harvest the onions in several ways:

You can harvest (and eat) the topsets when the stalks are dried and brown, you can eat any of the green leaves that don't have topsets, or you can harvest the onion bulbs that are in the ground in late summer through fall. Just be sure to leave a few onions in the ground, or plant the topsets, so you'll have onions growing for next season.

Posted: 8:23 am on June 11th
Green_thumbs writes: My question also?
Posted: 9:45 pm on June 10th
user-353170 writes: I have a question...what part of the plant do you use? Do you pull up from the ground or use the little bublets?
Posted: 10:43 am on June 10th
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