How to Grow and Harvest Bunching Onions

Allium fistulosum

One of my favorite summer routines is taking daily (or hourly) strolls through my garden, plucking and eating edible leaves as I go.

Probably my all-time-favorite things to eat straight out of the garden are bunching onions!

At the peak of the season, I’d estimate that eat a handful of the leafy tops each day during my garden walks, not to mention the bundles that I chop up and sprinkle in soups, stir fries, and sandwich fillings.

Green bunching onions growing in a vegetable garden.

We link to vendors to help you find relevant products. If you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

If you aren’t already growing this enticing crop in your garden, you really should be! Bunching onions are a cinch to grow, strong and enduring, and once established, they can supply a sharp and delicious punch of flavor to your cooking, year after year.

Here’s what’s to come in this article:

What Are Bunching Onions?

Also known as Welsh onions, green onions, Japanese bunching onions, spring onions, and scallions, these are perennial non-bulbing alliums that produce yummy green stems and tiny white roots, year after year!

Welsh bunching onions growing in a vegetable garden.

They have thick, round, hollow stems that are bright green in color, and unique and lovely greenish-white flowers that are slow to develop and bloom through much of the summer.

The leaves have a mild onion flavor and are edible raw or cooked. Larger varieties are similar to leeks, and smaller ones resemble chives. The flowers are edible, with a similarly sharp flavor, though they tend to be a bit dry.

Close up of a the flowering head of a Welsh bunching onion.

These perennials are so fast and easy to grow that they are often utilized as annuals, harvested completely, and then reseeded in succession over the course of a season. Learn more about succession planting here.

Similar Species

Distinguishing between bunching onions and other allium varieties can be tricky. After all, pretty much any type of onion will produce edible greens.

For instance, the common bulbing onion, A. cepa, can also produce green onions early in the season, and many scallions sold in US grocery stores are actually greens from early bulbing onions.

Here are a few more similar species that produce edible greens:

  1. Ameloprasum – leeks
  2. Cepa aggregatum – shallots
  3. Schoenoprasum – chives

Though similar in taste to many of these relatives, A. fistulosum is a true perennial bunching onion that does not form a bulb, and its green foliage tends to be superior in flavor!

Cultivation and History

Though often referred to as Welsh onions, bunching onions did not originate in Wales, nor do they have a particular connection to Welsh culinary tradition. In this case, “Welsh” refers to an Old English form of the word, which was once taken to mean “foreign.”

Welsh bunching onions growing in a small veggie patch.

In fact, this long-cultivated crop is native to China. Its use by humans dates back to at least 200 BC. It likely reached Japan by 500 AD and spread from there across Asia and Europe, eventually landing in North America.

In addition to being a tasty inclusion in all manner of cuisine, it also has many uses in Chinese medicine. It has been used to help improve metabolism, prevent cardiovascular disorders, and fight colds and upper respiratory infections.

A poultice made from scallions is said by herbalists to even be helpful for treating infections or draining sores. A poultice is a moist lump of plant matter that is placed on the skin to treat wounds or skin ailments. It can be wrapped in cloth or applied directly to the skin.

Scallions wrapped in white cloth to form a poultice.

It is also conveniently useful to help protect gardens! The juice can be used as a moth or aphid repellent, and the whole plant is thought to repel certain types of insects including termites, as well as moles. Not a bad deal! (Please let us know if you have any success trying this in your own garden…).


This hardy plant can be grown easily from seed or transplants, or by division.

Find a spot in full sun or partial shade, with well-draining soil. For best results, incorporate plenty of organic material such as compost or aged manure prior to planting.

From Seed

Sow seeds in early spring for summer harvests, or in late summer to mature in the fall or spring.

Close up of green bunching or Welsh onion seedlings growing in a garden.

Plant a quarter to half an inch deep about quarter of an inch apart in rows two to three inches wide, or broadcast seeds. Once seedlings are well established, thin to an inch apart.

From Seedlings/Transplanting

Start seeds indoors about five to six weeks before the last frost date for your area. Maintain an average temperature of 59 to 68°F, and keep the soil moist until germination, which will take between seven and 10 days on average.

Once plants are three or four inches tall and all risk of frost has passed, transplant to the garden in rows, leaving a few inches of space between each.

Water dry soil gently before planting. You can dip the bottom of roots lightly in water or liquid fertilizer before setting in the soil.


Once established, plants can be divided easily to spread throughout your garden, or to share with friends and neighbors!

Division can be done at any time of year, but spring is best. To divide plants, just dig up a clump, carefully split the root ends into several sections, and replant.

How to Grow

Bunching onions are very resilient. They will grow in almost any soil conditions and can even tolerate drought.

That being said, providing nutrient-rich soil in full sun with plenty of water will certainly help to produce a superior crop.

A mass of green bunching (aka Japanese, Welsh, spring) onions growing in a vegetable patch.

Plants will benefit from regular watering, as well as the addition of liquid feed such as comfrey tea or fish fertilizer every few weeks.

To make a homemade comfrey tea fertilizer, cut a bunch of comfrey leaves and place them in a five-gallon bucket of water. Wait a couple of days, strain, and this nutrient-rich “tea” is ready to be used on your plants. Be warned, it does have quite a strong smell!

You can find complete brewing instructions here.

It is also important to keep the area around your plants free of weeds. Surrounding them with a thick layer of mulch is an ideal way to both keep weeds down and keep the soil moist.

Growing Tips

In preparation for winter, apply a thick layer of mulch over plants in the fall. This will protect plants through the cold weather and help to stimulate an earlier crop. Remove the mulch in spring, once the soil has warmed up.

Spring onions growing in thick straw mulch.

Try planting in succession every three to four weeks for a continual supply!

You could also try hilling plants with soil as they grow, mounding it a couple inches higher with each addition. This will force the leaves to grow higher up the plant, resulting in long, blanched stalks and much longer edible greens.

Cultivars to Select

Several different types of scallion, green onion, and bunching onion cultivars are available. And they’re all delicious! Here are a few of my favorites:


This non-bulbing onion is mild and delicious as a fresh garnish for salads or cooked dishes.

Organic Bunching Onion Garden Seeds from True Leaf Market


Slow to go to seed, expect 65 to 120 days to maturity.

Seeds are available from True Leaf Market.


Try this hardy Japanese variety that grows 12 to 14 inches high and is great for overwintering.

Heshiko Bunching Onions, with tan roots, white bulbs, and green stalks, on a brown wood surface.


This variety matures in 60 to 120 days and is suitable for all growing zones.

You can purchase seeds at Eden Brothers Nursery.

Tokyo Long White

This is another Japanese heirloom type that grows well in the US and is great for use in cooked dishes.

Tokyo Long White Bunching Onions, whole and with chopped greens on a whitewashed cutting board on top of a drawstring burlap bag, on a brown wood surface.

‘Tokyo Long White’

This one matures more quickly than other varieties – you can expect 75 to 95 days to harvest.

Seeds are available at Eden Brothers.

Managing Pests and Disease

While tasty to you and me, bunching onions are typically not all that tempting to pests, and don’t often experience problems. In fact, planting alliums around the edges of garden beds is often done as a precaution to ward off unwanted insects and herbivores like rabbits.

Nonetheless, there are a few pests and diseases that can occasionally strike.


We’ll begin with the most common insect pests that may plague your crop, with identification info as well as ways to combat them and avoid infestation.

Allium Leaf Miners

These small flies lay their eggs inside the leaves of allium-family plants, and can eat their way down to the roots, creating little white spots along the tips of the leaves.

The wounds left by the mines can become rotted by fungi or bacteria, which can ultimately destroy the plant. Once the miners have burrowed into the crop, there’s little you can do.

Macro shot of two Caterpillars of leek moth or onion leaf miner Acrolepiopsis assectella on an onion stalk.

This is a relatively new pest in the US that is still being researched, with the first infestation in the Western Hemisphere being confirmed in 2015 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The best method to deal with these insects prevention, by timing crops to avoid infestation as part of an integrated pest management program. You can also use row covers to prevent flies from laying eggs on plants.

Read more about identifying and controlling allium leaf miners here.


These tiny insects create blotchy streaks on the tops of plants, causing deformity in the leaves.

Top down macro shot of an onion thrip on a leaf.
An onion thrip on a leaf.

Hose off leaves with a strong jet of water in the late morning to remove insects. You can also coat each leaf with a homemade insecticidal soap.

Read more about managing thrip infestations here.


Several types of disease may affect your crop, particularly if plants are weakened and made more susceptible by insect infestation or changes in the weather.

White Rot

This soil-borne fungus can affect all plants in the allium family. The disease causes white mold to form at the base of the roots, sometimes ruining plants.

Close up of onion relatives infected by white rot, Sclerotium cepivorum.

Practice crop rotation to reduce disease spread. But keep in mind that preventing recurrence may not always be possible, as white rot can live in soil for anywhere from 8 to 20 years.

Be sure to avoid using starts or seeds that have been infected.

Downy Mildew

Mildew can leave fuzzy growths on leaves, causing them to turn yellow or brown and collapse.

Avoid planting infected sets, rotate crops regularly to areas that have not had other allium species grown in them in the last few years, and plant in well-draining soil.

Botrytis Leaf Blight

This is a foliar disease that causes small white spots on leaves and causes tips to wilt and die back. Eventually, this can cause all of the foliage to die. Wet weather can cause spores to germinate and spread rapidly.

Destroy any infected plants and reduce the risk of spreading by rotating to areas where no other allium species have been grown for the past few years.


Plants can be harvested in two ways: you can pull entire plants and eat them like green onions, or you can snip off leaves as needed throughout the growing season, more like chives. Leaves will grow back quickly and can be cut down several times throughout the season.

Bunching onions in the garden with their tops cut off and harvested.

I prefer to stick mainly with the snipping method, pulling up only a few plants here and there once a patch is well established. This way, I can ensure that this hardy perennial continues to thrive and produce each year without any extra work for me!

Harvesting can begin any time after plants have reached four to six inches high. The larger they get, the stronger the flavor will be!

If pulling up entire plants, you may want to wait four to five months from seeding to harvest, until they reach full maturity.

In warm climates, this plant can be harvested year-round.

In the first year, do not begin harvesting until midsummer, and be careful not to over harvest, so that young plants will have the opportunity to develop strong roots. You should also remove flower heads when they form, unless you are planning to save seeds or enjoy the flowers in your cooking.


Bunching onions can be stored for up to 10 days in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They can also be frozen easily, or dried for longer preservation.


Wash greens thoroughly and lay them out to dry. Next, chop them up into little rings of whatever thickness you prefer.

Chopped green onions on a wooden cutting board.

That is pretty much it! There’s no need to blanch prior to freezing, simply pack them into freezer containers, bags, or glass jars. Whenever you need a few for cooking, just grab a handful and throw it right into your meal.


This is perhaps my favorite preservation method for this plant. Since the greens tend to dry fairly quickly, are able to be stored for years, and take up very little shelf space, drying is a prudent way to preserve an abundant crop.

Dehydrated bunching onions in a stainless spoon with a blond wood background.

Begin by washing and chopping the greens, and then allow them to air dry. Use a dehydrator or place them in the oven at the lowest heat setting, until no moisture remains.

For more on dehydrating the garden’s bounty, read all about it in our dedidcated guide.

I like to put them in the oven on the “warm and hold” setting, but if this isn’t a feature that your oven has, just use the lowest temperature available. They dry quickly, so check them often!

Recipes and Cooking Ideas

Delicious on their own or as an enhancement to a main course, these sharp green leaves make a perfect addition to any meal.

On a warm day, try dipping crunchy veggies in a cooling scallion dip, or warm up on a chilly evening with a sweet and zesty bowl of green onion soup.

Green Onion Mini Frittatas.
Easy Green Onion Mini Frittatas via Foodal. Photo by Nikki Cervone.

Use them to add a delightful crunchy spice to salads and sandwiches, or to flavor broths, enhance stir fries, and spruce up your dinner with a lively garnish.

Foodal has a useful guide on ways to prepare and use green onions.

Try going fancy with some mouth-watering green onion frittatas. This fun recipe from Foodal combines fresh scallions, peas, and feta to make mini frittatas in muffin tins.

Quick Reference Growing Chart

Plant Type:Perennial BulbTolerance:Drought tolerant
Native to:China but naturalized world-wideGrowth Rate:Fastest in cool weather
Hardiness (USDA Zone):5-9Maintenance:Low
Season:Spring through fallSoil Type:Nutrient rich, will tolerate poor soils
Exposure:Full sun to partial shadeSoil pH:6.0 to 7.0
Time to Maturity:4-5 monthsSoil Drainage:Well-draining
Spacing:2-3 inchesCompanion Planting:Beets, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce, turnips, and parsnips
Planting Depth:1/4-1/2 inchesAvoid Planting With:Other Alliums to avoid pests and disease spread and cross pollination
Height:10 to 14 inches depending on cultivarFamily:Amaryllidaceae
Spread:Will continue to spread unless contained or pulledGenus:Allium
Water Needs:Regular wateringSpecies:fistulosum
Common Pests:Allium leaf miners, army cutworms, beet armyworms, nematodes, slugs, thripsCommon Disease:Leaf blight, downy mildew, maggots, neck rot, white rot

Grow Yourself a Bundle

Bunching onions, Welsh onions, scallions – whatever you want to call them, there really isn’t a downside to cultivating a bundle of these hardy alliums in your garden.

Close up of Japanese green bunching onions.

They are so easy to grow and care for, and if you do it right, you can continue to obtain a harvest from the same plants year after year.

Do you have experience growing perennial bunching onions? Share your stories and tips in the comments below!

If you found this guide valuable, you’ll also find some excellent info on growing other types of alliums here, both edible and ornamental:

Photo of author
Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!

Wait! We have more!

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michelle Yaklovich
Michelle Yaklovich (@guest_6558)
4 years ago

Please help me understand. These are perennial, if you don’t harvest the entire plant, I understand. So when you talk about succession planting, is that assuming you are harvesting the entire plant every year? How fast and how much do these multiply if you leave them in the ground? Thanks!

Larry (@guest_10557)
Reply to  Heather Buckner
3 years ago

When I harvest some of the Red Welsh Bunching Onions, I pull the entire plant, then peel off the smallest onion and re-plant it when the bunch was pulled out. That young onion will grow and divide to produce more onions, making them perpetual.

Brenda (@guest_11911)
Reply to  Larry
3 years ago

I’d love more information on how to do this. I’ve tried this method unsuccessfully.

Susan (@guest_9103)
3 years ago

Are they good for containers?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Susan
3 years ago

Yes, you can certainly grow bunching onions in containers! Be sure to keep them watered well.

Random person who loves gardening
Random person who loves gardening (@guest_11482)
3 years ago

Thanks so much! This has helped me greatly – i still have the little sprouts – i still haven’t decided what I’d use my bunching onion for……

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer

Hello Random person who loves gardening! You are in for a treat. Start with using a few blades of the green stalks the same way you would chives for scrambled eggs or to top baked potatoes, and then move from there. My favorite for bunching onions is probably dicing the white parts to add to potato pancakes…

Michael Boling
Michael Boling (@guest_11534)
3 years ago

Great site Heather. Thanks for being here for all of us. All the best. Michael

Becky (@guest_11780)
3 years ago

Great article, thank you! I seeded two types (Evergreen Hardy and White Spear) last spring in my unheated greenhouse. I enjoyed scallions all summer and fall, and part of the winter. The next spring they came up nice and early but immediately made flower stalks. I’ve been snipping off the non-flowering leaves to use as scallions. Are the flowering stalks edible, or tough like chives? Will they ever again be non-flowering clumps that can be easily cut and used? Or will I have to always carefully reach down into the clumps and harvest the non-flowering leaves? Is this why some… Read more »

Lisa (@guest_15109)
2 years ago

Thank you for this article. I grow multiple types of onions but this is my first year with this variety and I had no idea what to expect. I have harvested all of my bulb onions but we have not touched the bunching onions all year. What do you recommend I do? Should I cut of the greens before winter? Or just leave them? What do I do in the spring if I leave them big now? I thought of roasting them and making broth to use in soups?

Jody Gong
Jody Gong (@guest_16462)
2 years ago

I usually dig up a few bulbs to dry and replant for the following season. The ones left in the ground/pot usually rot.

Katherine (@guest_17765)
2 years ago

I was searching for some info on growing bunching onions from seed, and found your article. As I am reading this, I am finding this part under the Seedlings/Transplanting section to be confusing. Can you please explain? “Once plants are 8-18 inches tall and about as wide as a pencil, transplant to the garden in rows, leaving a few inches of space between each.” Are you saying that if we are starting seeds, to let them grow to 8-18 inches tall before transplanting out to the garden? That seems full sized to me. I don’t follow what you are trying… Read more »

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Katherine
2 years ago

Hello Katherine and thanks for reading. The “pencil” width we’re referring to here describes the green stalks, not the developing white parts of the onions. When the leaves are that wide and 8-18 inches tall, the white part of the stalk is not yet mature size—it’s usually about a third of the diameter of a bunching onion you would pull to eat. You could transplant the seedlings when they are a bit younger than that if you’d like, but it’s far harder to cope with wispy, thin seedlings, so I would stick with the rule of thumb outlined above. Good… Read more »

Billy (@guest_27698)
1 year ago

I have been growing same bunching onions for past 3 years only snipping leaves when needed leaving plant. I also like sampling leaves while in garden. My question is why is the flavor weakening, it almost has no pungent onion flavor any more. I also let some go to bolt.

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Billy
1 year ago

Hello Billy! I’m a little surprised that your onions are less pungent than they were three years ago. Are you perhaps picking the younger blades, which tend to be milder? Mature onions have a more pronounced flavor than younger ones. When you let them bolt, typically the leaves get more bitter, but you can still harvest the white flowers. They are delicious and have a mild onion flavor themselves. If you preferred the flavor of the newer plants, you might want to plant some new bunching onions since the seeds or slips are relatively inexpensive. Good luck with this, and… Read more »

gmaengle (@guest_32188)
10 months ago

Just discovered that ground hogs must love bunching onions. I have two deck planters where I planted seeds of bunching onions all around the edge. Once planter has nice healthy 8 to 10″ tall onions and the other has onions only 3 or 4 inches tall. I saw ground hogs (a pair) up on my deck last week and I believe that they also like bunching onions.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  gmaengle
10 months ago

Groundhogs will eat onions, this is true!