Have you ever heard of a vegetable that lets you plant once and later plants itself? The Egyptian Onion is that vegetable, showing that drooping plant heads don’t always mean a lack of water!
This onion doesn’t walk like an Egyptian, but its topset’s drooping, rooting, and growth look like it’s walking along the garden.
Read on to learn about these abundant, walking Egyptian Onions!
Looking to purchase Egyptian Onion bulblets? Check availability.
Characteristics of the Egyptian Onion
Egyptian Onions (Allium x proliferums) go by several names: tree onions, winter onions, topset onions, and walking onions. They’re perennials that grow in hardiness zones 3–10 and self-multiply.
How do they self-multiply? It has to do with its other name, walking.
When the topsets—clusters of bulblets at the stalks’ tops—become heavy, they bend toward the soil. From there, they’ll take root and replant themselves as far as 2 feet away from the original stalk. Thus, the growth cycle begins again as if they’re walking along the ground!
Egyptian Onions start off as red and brown bulblets that form into several in-ground bulbs as they grow underground. Then blue–green shoots grow into 3–4 feet stalks with tiny green bulblets at the top. These later become red and brown as they mature.
The bulblets are ¼–1 inch in diameter and appear in clusters of 6–8. Before they unfurl and develop, they’re covered in a white papery sheath that will eventually split and fall off.
When the onion plants are two years or older or crowded, they’ll produce ¼-inch-wide white six-petalled flowers on the topsets. Between the flowers and topsets, the former may wither and die as the two compete for energy.
The bulblets taste more pungent than shallots (common onions) and taste milder than white onions.
The in-ground bulbs have a stronger flavor, but they become tough if they remain underground for a couple of years.
History of the Egyptian Onion
Because of their many layers, Egyptian Onions were sacred to Egyptians, as the layers symbolized eternity. However, the onion’s origin isn’t really known, and it’s not certain that it came from Egypt.
Despite that, it’s believed that the Egyptian Onion originated in India or Pakistan and that Romans introduced it to Europe.
For sure, though, the onion is a hybrid of the shallot and the Welsh Onion. In the 1850s, it was considered an heirloom.
Where to Buy the Bulbs and Bulblets
Would you like to watch an onion plant walk your garden? We recommend purchasing Egyptian Onion bulblets from Amazon.
The best part is that you can purchase these items once and let the onion plants grow and replant themselves!
Learn to Grow Egyptian Onions
Summer and fall are the best times to grow these onions; that way you can harvest them in one year. But if you do it in the fall, it needs to be before the first frost.
You want to plant the bulblets where there’s plenty of sunlight. Even if there’s partial shade, that’s fine just as long as there’s a majority of sunlight.
The soil also needs to be moist, loamy, and well-draining. Its pH balance should be close to 6.5; use a soil test meter to check for this. Be sure to clear the soil of weeds, as Egyptian Onions don’t compete well with them.
Dig the hole at least 2 inches below the soil and insert a bulblet. If you’re planting more than one bulblet, space them 6–12 inches apart.
Watering and Feeding
The plants only require a bit of watering, at least 1 inch weekly, especially if there’s no rain. Avoid overwatering or sogging up the soil.
Every year or two, add compost to the soil to feed the onion plants. To maintain their healthy growth, feed them a balanced all-purpose fertilizer.
Caring for Egyptian Onions
Every 2–3 years in spring, Egyptian Onions need thinning; otherwise, they’ll produce smaller bulblets. To thin the plants, dig up the bulbs, divide them into a few pieces, and pitch the unwanted pieces.
Pest and Disease Control
Hot and dry summers are when thrips harm Egyptian Onions by sucking out the plant juice. If you see white spots or streaks on the leaves, apply Neem Oil to deter the thrips.
The onion plants are susceptible to black mold if you overwater them or if they’re too crowded. Black spots under the onion skin’s layers indicate this.
Space your onions for good air circulation and avoid overwatering. Peel off any moldy areas and cut an inch around the affected portions, but remove and throw out severely moldy onions.
The entire plant is edible, from the bulbs underground to the stalks to the bulblets on top. And you can harvest at any time depending on what part of the plant you pull up.
Fall is when you can harvest the in-ground bulbs, but take out only a few so the plant can keep growing.
The stalks are ready any time of the year. And when summer arrives, you may harvest the bulblets. If the flowers appear in spring after a few years of the Egyptian Onion’s life, you can harvest them, too!
How to use Egyptian Onions
The bulbs and bulblets are good in meals like pizzas, soups, casseroles, stir-fries, and other dishes that include onions. When the bulblets are thinly sliced, they make good additions to salad. They’re also good raw, dried, and pickled.
You can eat the shoots like chives or scallions when they’re young and thin. When they thicken, add them to soups and other cooked recipes.
As for the flowers, mash them into mushroom dishes or add them to your scrambled eggs.
Plant more Egyptian Onions by propagating them! During the summer, remove the mature and hardened bulblets when the stalks turn brown, and plant them in the fall. You can also give the bulblets to friends and neighbors so they can grow their own onions.
If you have a rodent problem in your garden, Egyptian Onions are a natural repellant. Like us, rodents hate the onions’ sulfurous odor, so place the onions anywhere you find rodent droppings. Replace them once they decompose.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are these onions invasive?
Because Egyptian Onions spread by drooping bulblets taking root, that could be called invasive behavior. But since they’re very easy to control and they’re healthy vegetables, they aren’t considered invasive plants.
If you absolutely need to control the spread, pull up the bulblets or the entire plant. Don’t forget to remove any bulblets that are on the ground.
2. What are some health benefits of Egyptian Onions?
A few health benefits of these onions include improving blood pressure and clearing congestion. Like other onion varieties, its vitamin and mineral content aids digestion, wards off chronic conditions, and lowers cancer risks.
The juice in an Egyptian Onion is also beneficial if you’ve been stung by a bee or wasp. You can also use it to treat bites, scratches, and skin fungus.
3. Is it possible to grow Egyptian Onions in containers?
It may not make sense to plant self-growing onions in containers due to how they spread, but yes, it’s possible.
If use a small pot, your Egyptian Onions will produce small bulblets that will remain small. You’d have to water them more frequently than you would if they were growing in your garden.
The best pot to plant the onions in is 4–6 inches deep with well-draining soil and drainage holes. Of course, the diameter of the pot depends on how many onions you’re planting.
The Self-Planting Egyptian Onion!
Buy the bulblets once, and then let your Egyptian Onions do the rest as you lightly maintain them. A vegetable that’s healthy and plants on its own gives you the best of both worlds as it walks your garden.
Visit our onions page to learn more about the unique features of these bulbous vegetables!
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
With a lifelong appreciation for the vibrant hues and serene beauty of landscapes, Sarah Keck brings a wealth of practical and observational gardening knowledge to her writing. Her hands-on experience stems from years of assisting her mother in tending a diverse array of plants, mastering the art of plant care through careful adherence to proven horticultural practices.
A seasoned observer, Sarah delights in the study and admiration of flourishing flower gardens and lush greenery during her frequent strolls through local parks and the quiet streets of her neighborhood. Her natural curiosity drives her to investigate various plant species, deepening her understanding of the flora she encounters.
In addition to her botanical pursuits, Sarah cherishes the culinary arts, drawing from her college experiences of handling and preparing fresh produce. Her penchant for discovery leads her to continually refine her methods, which she eagerly documents and shares with fellow gardening enthusiasts.