How to grow onions

Onions are a fantastically versatile vegetable. From soups to salads to stir-fries, there’s no shortage of the meals you can add them to. If you’re looking to be more self-sufficient, you may be interested in learning how to grow onions.

The process for growing onions is relatively straightforward and simple. In fact, you don’t even need soil for a lot of it!

Read on to learn more about how to grow onions, along with details about the different types of onions you can grow.

Types of onions

There are many different types of onions available to grow, each with their own flavour profile. Common types of onions include:

White onions

One of the most common types of onion is the white onion, which has a slightly sweet taste. This is used in many recipes, and is ideal for caramelisation.

Red onions 

Red onions are a bit stronger in flavour. Often a little spicy, these onions are great for adding to salads, burgers, or for cooking on the barbeque. 

Spring onions 

These onions are perfect for salads and garnishing. Add them to a burrito bowl, ramen, or on top of a pizza for a zesty kick. 


Shallots have a milder, sweeter flavour than white onions. Their taste has a garlic-like flavour to it. They’re perfect for sautéing, adding to sauces, or using in the base of a soup. 

If you’re unsure about which type of onion to grow, you can always try a variety or mix of different ones 

How to grow onions at home

For the steps below, we’ve focused on the process for growing white onions. However, these steps can generally be applied to growing most types of onions. 

How to grow onions in soil

Growing onions in soil is probably the most common way to do it. 

What you’ll need

  • Onion seeds
  • A sunny spot in your garden
  • Well-draining soil
  • A hoe or trowel
  • A pot (optional)
  • Fertiliser (optional)

Step 1: Find a spot

First, you’ll need to decide whether you want to grow onions directly in the ground or in pots. Pots are a good option as they let you move your onion plants around as needed, but they will generally require more frequent watering than onions planted directly in the garden. Onions like sunny positions for optimal growth, so try and pick a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day.

Step 2: Prepare the soil

To get started, loosen up the soil in the chosen spot in your garden or pot. Dig a shallow trough for the onions to be planted in. They won’t need to be placed very far into the soil, so around 5mm or so should suffice. 

Step 3: Plant your onion seeds

Now it’s time to get to planting! Late winter and early spring is the perfect time to plant your onion seeds. If you want, you can start by planting the seeds indoors, then transfer them into the permanent spot once they begin to sprout. When planting your seedlings, place them around 10cm apart.

Step 4: Harvest

After a few months of care, your onions will be ready to harvest. You’ll know they’re ready to pick when the leaves begin to wilt. Once you harvest them, leave the onions somewhere warm until they dry, then move them to the pantry or cupboard.

How to grow onions in water

Onions can also be grown in water. This is a great option for those that want to watch the whole growing process happen. Here’s how to grow onions from onions, in a glass of water.

What you’ll need

  • An onion bulb
  • A sunny spot
  • A clean, clear jar or vase
  • Water
  • Toothpicks or skewers

Step 1: Choose your onion bulb

To get started, choose an onion to grow your crop from. Ideally, this should be one that’s already beginning to sprout. 

Step 2: Fill a glass jar with water

Grab the glass jar or vase you’ll be using and fill it with water. There should be enough water for the base of the onion to be submerged. 

Step 3: Skewer the onion

Skewer the onion by placing four toothpicks or skewers into it. These should be placed slightly under the middle point of the vegetable. This will keep the onion balanced on the glass, rather than falling in. Put the onion in the water, with the skewers resting on the glass – both the base and the roots should be immersed. 

Step 4: Place in the sunshine

Put the onion and the glass in a sunny spot. Onions love sunshine, so make sure you choose a spot that gets plenty of light.

Step 5: Transfer 

Once the onion begins to sprout a flower on top, it’s time for it to be transferred into the ground. This should occur after a couple of weeks. If you like, you can transfer the onion into the soil a little earlier, once white roots begin to appear at the base.

How long do onions take to grow?

The time it takes onions to grow will differ depending on the variety of onions you choose. As a general rule, your onion seeds will be ready for harvest around 6 to 8 months after you sow them.

While it takes a bit of time and patience before you see the results of your work, having your own lot of onions to use can be very rewarding. Onions can also be stored for a long time in a cool, dry pantry, or freezer – giving you access for months.

When it comes to how to grow onions, the process is relatively simple. By following the steps above, you should have your own crop of onions in no time! Just remember to be patient, as they do take a little while to grow.

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