Growing Spring Onions from Onion Stumps.
Is it worth it?

I like to do things just because I like to do them.  Can I go to the store and buy Maple Syrup?  Yes.  Of course I can.  I’m not an idiot  you  know.  Well, sometimes I am actually, but not in this particular instance.  The time I tried to teach myself taxidermy?  That’s more of an “idiot” instance.

The reason I do so many things myself is because I’m curious.  I like to do things on my own because I think it’s fun.  A lot of times it saves me money, occasionally it saves me time, but it always, always is entertaining.

The odd time I come across something that’s just too incredible to ignore.

This … is one such time.

A few weeks ago, The Art of Doing Stuff reader Kim Merry, emailed me asking if I’d heard of growing green onions from the green onion roots you cut off.  After sitting calmly to lower my blood pressure, and taking a good stiff drink to get rid of my trembling hands, I emailed Kim back.  NO!  NO I HAD NEVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING!!!

I thanked Kim for letting me know about this process and immediately started Googling.  From what I read it appeared as though myself and the crazy guy in town with bells on his shoes were the only ones not growing green onions from the onion stumps.

According to the Internet, to grow beautiful green onions all you have to do is stick the roots in water and watch em grow!  Overnight practically!

At this point in my research I was so excited I almost had to put in a piddle pad next to my computer.  It was *that* exciting.  Since I always think I’m out of green onions and therefore buy them every single time I’m at the grocery store, I had an entire crisper full of green onions to experiment with.

I did a bit more research and found you could do the same thing using soil.  Soil, being less exciting than growing something with just air and water only elevated me to a state of “Yay”.  As opposed to the near stroke-like condition I was in up until that point.

So I rolled up my sleeves (they were short sleeves so I looked kind of like the Fonz) and got to work.  Cutting onions, taking pictures and documenting the whole experiment for 3 weeks.  Here’s how it went.

The Great Great Onion Experiment

Grab a bunch of Green Onions


Chop off the roots, leaving a bit of the white part.  I left varying sizes of white from a tiny amount to a large amount.


Stick the roots in a jar of water.


Stick them on a sunny windowsill.  I had quite a struggle keeping the onions standing upright.  I had to use tweezers to get them in the jar and lean them against the side to stand up.  Then they fell down.


Plant a few green onion stumps in soil.  Just stick em in and leave them.

According to most sites these will turn into lush, green onions in a matter of days!


3 weeks pass.

Behold the Great Green Onion Experiment Results.


I ended up transferring the green onions in the jar into this contraption. After 4 days or so the green onions in the water rotted to a disgusting, putrid mess.

So I tried a glass filled with water with a glass flower frog to hold the onions on top.  This way the onions would stay upright and not too much of the base would get soaked.  Brilliant, right?  Didn’t work.  Clearly.

The green onions in the soil did much better.   The stumps actually produced green onions.  (just the green part .. the white part doesn’t grow)

However, having said that, for 3 weeks of watering etc., and a kind of mediocre result I’m gonna have to call this experiment a fail.


Although technically the technique works … for me … it just ain’t worth it.

It didn’t produce results worthy of a piddle pad.  Which is what I was hoping for.


Feel free to give it a shot.  But if after 3 weeks this is all I ended up with, I think I’ll continue to spend the $0.69 and buy my green onions.



So no more green onion growing for me.  I’ll leave the vegetable growing for the front yard.  Funny.  I guess it turns out the guy with bells on his shoes is smarter than he looks.

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  1. Melissa says:

    THANK YOU for doing this. I pinned this, thinking I would give it a try — ’cause it is so darn interesting to think of the potential — but I held back, and now I am so glad I did. >mwah< One less thing on my Pinterest to do list!

  2. Eve says:

    We’ve planted the tops of pineapples before, but just for a free pretty potted plant. We never got another pineapple out of the deal. Although I have heard some people have!

  3. what what? The internet tells lies? Dang.
    Don’tcha just love cutting off the end of the onion, and dipping it in salt ? Tasty! *childhood memories* Yum.

  4. Vero says:

    Thank you for doing this! Glad now I only had to suffer second-hand disappointment as opposed to first-hand. So wishing it actually worked!

  5. Jim S says:

    WOW, Karen, I’ve never heard of this before either!

    I might have to try m@rambling musings’s suggestion of just sticking old green onions in the garden. I’m likely to misplace a jar of soaking onions and it sounds like they go bad REAL quick.

    Opps! One of the bells just fell off my shoe. Excuse me for a minute….

  6. I’m actually trying fennel on my windowsill right now and my friend has had success with celery, but green onions…nah….69 cents and away we go…never mind…I’d get to the grocery store and wonder if I’d used all my green onions up (that I’m growing) and buy more anyway. Is that a Canadian thing or an age thing? lol! wendy

  7. Julie says:

    Whether it worked or not – always an entertaining read !

  8. Kerri says:

    Ugh.. I was hoping this would have a happier ending and the girl would get the onion. Ah well.. since you’re into saving us all time, could you move onto pineapple tops now? Thanks, you’re a pal :p

  9. I love that you post the failures as well – it makes me feel slightly inept when every project I try gives exceptionally mediocre results compared to what I see on the internet.

  10. Moe says:

    I was so excited when I saw that post on Pinterest about the onions and went right out and got a bunch. I put mine in soil. They pretty much grew like yours. I wasn’t too impressed but I chopped them off and waited for the second crop to arrive. Well, those ones were even more spindly than the first crop, so I, like you decided that I’d sooner pay the 79 cents and enjoy a whole onion. It was a fun experiment though. :o)

  11. Lucy says:

    My thought is to pay the 69 cents for the cheap onions and save the time for something that would reap a higher payback and provide a bigger reward — like splitting atoms. Now, there’s an experiment I’d like to see you do on your windowsill. Some things just aren’t worth the time and effort. It appears growing your own green onions is one of them. BTW, what’s wrong with people who don’t use the white part???? That is the onion, after all. Without that, you’ve got, well…chives. ;-)

    • I’m completely with you, Lucy – it baffles me why people don’t use all of the onion!

      The green works so well with cheese on toast (for example), the whites are fantastic shallot substitutes, and both parts make a green salad worth living for. And if you grow spring onions yourself, and allow them to flower, you can use the flowers in salads as well (although leave one or two to seed). Just as you can with chive flowers.

      But then, almost everyone I know only uses the clove part of garlic too, and not the scapes, and the stem part of celery, not the leaves! Ditto parsnips – roots only, whereas the leaves are just like flat leaf parsley.

    • Usually Amiable says:

      Yeah, growing food is a real waste of time and effort… We humans have better things to do than farm. Good thing we have grocery stores filled with magic fruit plucked from the sky.

      Glad the author of this post actually tried to grow something, instead of bashing the hard and real work so many of us do to provide food for YOU.

  12. Maureen says:

    I failed with the green onions but cutting off the bottom of a bunch of celery was a huge success. A whole new bunch of celery developed in days!

  13. Barbie says:

    I’m so glad you ran this experiment….now I don’t have to! To much work for such little payoff…I’m with you on this one.

  14. Betsy says:

    We’re living in Spain for awhile and I hope to visit Catalonia for the calcot onion tradition (I missed it this year). Farmers grow these onions from planting sweet white onions in the ground (yes whole) and then letting the greens grow. The one thing they do to get nice, fat white parts is to “earth them up”…they continue to pile earth around the base to create more white. If you ever tried this in the soil again, I would suggest trying this method. The green onions they pull out are huge and charred over an open flame. After wrapped in paper and allowed to sit for an hour or so, they are served with romesco sauce. Yum…I may try this myself! Good luck!

  15. Lance ==)------------ says:

    I tried regrowing green onions last year for the first time. Rather than starting with stubs of onions from which I had cut all of the good parts, I used the several bunches that had been forgotten in the fridge, some since Thanksgiving (very limp, but neither frozen nor rotten). (Am I the only one who lets them get this way?)

    Anyway, I went along the edge of my garden, poking my finger up to the second knuckle into the soil every few inches, depositing a flaccid garnish therein, and tucking each in. In a couple days, I could see that they were perking right up and within a couple weeks I had green onions as good as new. Almost all of them regrew.

    In hopes that they would develop large bulbs, I left most of them there for the full growing season, but, alas, it was not to be — these must have been cultivars that don’t grow fleshy bulbs.

    My brother tells me that when you cut the roots off an onion bulb, if you leave that conical section with a visibly different structure (it extends from the root into the bulb) intact, you can plant these and get more nice bulbs at the end of the season — I have yet to try this.

    BTW, did you know that botanically speaking, onions are not a root crop, but a stem crop? The aromatic bulb is actually the base of the stem. Rather like the tomato being botanically a fruit but dietetically a vegetable, or the watermelon being the reverse.

    Lance ==)————–
    -=[The world’s foremost authority on moot points]=-

  16. grey says:

    Hi Karen

    Not sure why you wouldn’t just stick the roots in water and let them grow.

    I’d bought a bunch of green onions a month ago, pinched off the green bits, stuck the remaining white stalks with roots and all (nearly 10cm of oniony goodness) into a glass of water and left it by the window sill. (They stand a lot better in a glass than the tiny little stumps you used, looks like a school/home science project though.)

    They’ve been sprouting ever since. I pinch off some whenever I feel like it, and in a couple more days, voila! More shoots.

    You might wanna try to leave more white bits on your stumps. Give it another try?

    A bunch of green onions cost nearly $2 here in Australia. I’m happy to change the water on a daily basis and get sprigs of fresh green onions as and when..

    • Karen says:

      Grey – I *did* stick the roots in water and tried to let them grow. They didn’t grow. Part of my issue with this is you only get to use the green part. When I use green onions I never just use the green part. Always the green and the white. It’d be like having a hamburger without the bun for me. Well … not exactly but close. For me … for the result … just wasn’t worth it. Besides … I often go through 2 full bunches of green onions a week. These things just couldn’t keep up with my green onion demands. :) ~ karen

      • grey says:

        Har! Thing is, I’m not a fan of the white bits, too pungent for me.

        Ah well..

        I do have to mention that the green onions I get here have nearly 10cm of white bits, so if I did want to chop of half of that, I would still have a good 5cm to stick in a glass of water.

        Imagine on your window sill, a nice row of mason jars with green onions at different stages of sprouting and getting chopped off and devoured.

        Reckon that would look kinda nice.. :) I’m not that big a fan of green onions to do that though.

  17. b. says:

    Oh, thank god. I thought it was just me and that I was a terrible failure as a Green Onion Grower. Thanks for the giggle and the reassurance!

  18. the farthest I go down this route is to stick sad green onions I don’t end up eating into the garden. Then they become big yummy onions. Not too shabby for something I was going to throw away, right? But I usually don’t even try for the green onion stage.

  19. Silvie says:

    yep – i tried it too after seeing lush growth on pinterest. My experiment resulted in poor, spindly little things. Better to have a pot of chives by the back door. Oh – and if you want a big clump of chives, just get a 6 pack flat and bunch them all together, cheaper than buying 1 larger plant.

  20. Not Real Name says:

    A friend told me about this last year. A large pot outside in full sun worked great for me.

  21. Jen says:

    I regrow my green onions all the time and it works super well. The only thing I do differently from your pictures is leave on longer stumps– I stick about an inch to an inch and a half of roots plus white stalk in a cup of water in the windowsill, and I have new green onions in two the three days.

    • Karen says:

      Jen – That’s part of my problem with this experiment. I like to use the white part of my onions, and doing this, you only have the green parts to cook with. If I’m feeling wild, I’ll give it one more shot with the larger ends, but … I’m not feeling too wild at the moment. :) ~ karen

      • amyfaith says:

        Last year, my next-door neighbor said that she had way too many green onions and asked me if I wanted some. I use green onions all the time, so I said “sure, thanks!”. So she ducked back into her kitchen, then came back out and handed me a handful green tops. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I had to ask, “um, where’s the onion part?”. She looked at me funny and gestured to what I was holding.

        It took a few more moments of mutual confusion, but the end result was basically her saying “you only use the white parts?! Euwww!” and me saying “you only use the green parts?! Euwww!”

        I’m embarassed to admit that in 40+ years, it never occurred to me to use the green part too!

      • jessica says:

        You also need to only cover the roots with water. Anything above the roots must have air circulation or it will start to rot and you will get curved tops and wonky green onions. They need full sun and, once planted, don’t water them too much. They prefer dry-ish sandy soil. Good luck!

  22. Jessica says:

    This reminds me about how my mother used to put the tops of our carrots in a shallow plate of water in the window. We didn’t grow any carrots, but it was very exciting watching the green tops grow taller and taller. :)

  23. Jen says:

    I so wanted this to work :-(

    Good try though, and good thinking with the frog!

    • Karen says:

      You and me both, Jen. Like I said, technically it works. It just isn’t worth it and the results aren’t even close to what most bloggers are saying about it. Weird. ~ k!

  24. Kim Merry says:

    Well…darn!!! I didn’t try it because I just knew you would show me the best way! I guess this means the grow your celery from leftovers won’t work either!

  25. Diane says:

    Yep. Tried it too. Rotten, putrid stumps. In smelly water, even though I changed it twice daily.

    But it was fun, and shocking when that first bit of green came up!

    • Karen says:

      Diane – This is what drives me nuts about the Internet. There are countless people out there posting about the fantastic results of this. When obviously … the results are farrrrrr from fantastic. bleh. ~ karen!

      • Ricki says:

        I, too, had rotten water and guck after a week. I’ll grow them from seed in the ground, thank-you! :)

    • Sylvia Estey says:

      Hi Ladies, I did have success with this. Here’s how I did it. Bought a bunch of onions. Used some of them is various recipes and such, used three of them for experiment but left some green stalk intacted. Stood them up in a tiny pottery dish and they are growing like weeds!! If I forget and use all my green onions from fridge, I cut a bit off the growing ones and put them back in the water (which I change but it’s not been a problem). They keep on growing! Really! I’ll never run out of green onions again.

      • Karen says:

        Sylvia – Thanks. It’s not really the issue of it not working entirely, it’s the time it takes and the fact that many people (O.K. … me) like to use the white part of the green onion and with this particular method you can’t do that. ~ karen!

      • Sheri says:

        THANK YOU KA….Finally…someone who uses the white part of the onion!!!! Me too….and just didn’t get all this “onion growing” thingy…I always bought them for the white part and just a little of the green!!!

    • Brittney says:

      We’ve started the process, and this isn’t the first vegetable we’ve regrown. So far our results have definitely been fun! The thing that I love the most is that your growing something out of something that you otherwise would have thrown away! Yay!

    • Heather says:

      I think your problem is that you cut way too much of the onion away. I keep about 4 inches total and put that in water. It works just fine.

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