Walking onions, also known as top onions, are a delicious and unique looking perennial. This plant "walks" across the garden as topsets or tiny bulbs form at the tip of the leaves instead of a flower, causing them to bend over and fall to the ground. The fallen topsets root and grow into mature plants the next season. The entire plant can b eaten from the shallot like roots to the hollow leaves and top sets.
type of perennial: vegetable
The most common variety is the Egyptian Walking Onion but you can also find others, such as Merceron Red Catawissa and Fleener’s Top Setting Onion, in some seed catalogs.
WHERE WALKING ONION THRIVES
Walking onions are an extremely hardy plant that can withstand some of the coldest winter temperatures in the Midwest and Northern New England. The plant does fine in warm climates, but hot and humid summers can inhibit the growth of its tasty onion top set bulbs.
Optimal shade & sun
Walking onions thrive in about six hours of full sun a day. In hotter regions, try to give it some afternoon shade so it doesn't experience heat stress.
Adaptability to climate extremes
Walking onions are very drought-tolerant and once they're established need no help flourishing. The shallot bulb at the base of the plant will be smaller and more pungent in drought conditions but delicious nonetheless. On occasion warm weather can prevent bulbs from forming at the top of the plant.
Walking onions are very drought tolerant and once they are established need no help remaining in the garden. The shallot bulb at the base of the plant will be smaller and more pungent in drought conditions but delicious nonetheless.
PREP YOUR SOIL
optimal type of soil
Walking onions thrive in light loam or sandy soils that are acidic. Good drainage will prevent the bulbs from rotting.
When planting in the garden:
Walking onions do not produce seeds. Instead, when they bloom, they produce bulblets, small clove-like onions, that can be planted. There is no need to start indoors as this hardy plant can be planted as soon as the ground thaws.
When planting indoors:
Plant bulbs in the soil about two inches deep. They will grow. It's as simple as that. The only thing that will prevent this little plant from growing may be prolonged flooding.
Walking onions are also called forever onions because once they're established they just keep on growing each season with little to no help. If you want to prevent your onions from walking, or multiplying, don't let the fallen bulblets take root once they fall over. Add a layer of mulch each spring before the green, chive-like, shoots break through the soil to add nutrients and fight against weeds.
This hardy perennial doesn't need much help in the garden. If you want your plants to quickly become established give them about one inch of water per week. Onions hate wet feet so wait until your soil has dried in between each watering. Otherwise the bulb may rot.
Add a layer of mulch each spring before the green, chive-like, shoots break through the soil to add nutrients and fight against weeds. In colder climates, add a layer of winter mulch to protects the shallow bulbs from hard winter freezes.
The sharp bite of onion plants is a deterrent to most pests. Occasionally onion thrips and maggots can be a problem, but they're easily treated with an application of neem oil.
Various rots, including Fusarium basal rot, plague the walking onion. If your onions become infected with rot prevent them from walking around, or rerooting, in the garden for fear they could spread the disease to other susceptible plants.