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. Diane says:

    Well crap! I was hoping this would work much faster. We already grow ours, but from the white onions that start to sprout in the back of the crisper that we’ve forgotten about. We stick them in water on the window sill…same deal, really. I find it convenient in those times that I realize I’m all out of green onion and it’s too late to run to the store. Always have a fresh bit laying around! Plus I’m not much of a gardener, so it gives me a green thumb feeling…lol :P

    Love that you blog your fails…saves the rest of us time! :)

    • Christy Taylor says:

      I’m DYING reading your blog, husband swears you’re my internet doppelganger, cause he thought this way my blog initially, lol.

      The onions start best in water, but after they sprout, transfer to soil. I haven’t bought onions in years cause of this truck my Great-Grandmother taught us all. Same for garlic and sprouted potatoes.

      I found your blog by wondering how to continue to grow the onions I found growing in my compost heap, lol.

      So I’m just going to put them in dirt in hanging pots in the dining room and hope for the best, lol.

      Thanks for the joy from reading your stuff

  2. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I am also with you on this Karen..I like the white part best so it would be a waste of time for me..When I was a kid..Mom would buy green onions..wash and cut the roots off..put them in a glass of water and set it on the table to snack on with salt..she was a big onion lover and would also make onion kidding..butter two slices of bread..slice onions onto bread..add very good with purple onions and now sweet onions..I really don’t recall hearing of sweet onions when I was little..

  3. charlene says:

    I was cleaning out my chives the other day and pulled some out of a spot they werent supposed to be in. I realized that the root of the chive looked like a green onion.
    When I went on the internet and saw that you can eat all parts of a chive. The white root part tastes like a mild onion.
    I guess you would have to have a big patch, which I have, so I am going to try eating those this summer instead of buying green onions.
    Just a thought

  4. Gayla T says:

    I put a pineapple in a pot a week ago and it’s not looking so good. I did this years ago and I can’t remember any great results so I have an idea it didn’t work any better than the onions. I’m so glad you did this before I heard about it and felt I had to try it. I used to have what was called Walking Onions meaning that you plant them and they walk all over your garden and they did. They got this little seed pod on top of the green on the older ones you didn’t use and then the green bent over from the weight and the seed pod made contact with the soil and they grew. They even stayed green in the winter and you could push the snow away and pull some. As usual I am obsessing over the part of the post meant for grins and giggles. Where would one get those shoes with the bells on them, do you think? I could wear them on St Pat’s and April Fools day and probably just other days when I feel like such a fool. You know, when you think you saw gold printing on the towel ribbon when it was really on the chocolates ribbon. I got my ribbons confused with all the other confused stuff in my brain which in a way is good as it keeps one from thinking that they know everything and life is getting boring. When you are 30 and think you know everything can you imagine what it’s like to be well over 60 and really do know most stuff? LOLOLOL

  5. jamie says:

    maybe it has to be warmer?

  6. Carly Mae says:

    I’ve been a huge fan of your website for about a month now (I spend my nights reading ALL your previous posts) but this is my first comment. And I hate to say it, but you did it wrong! My boyfriend and I grow our own green onions in a cup on the kitchen table. Instead of cutting the onions all the way to the root, just snip off however much of the green part you’ll need. We chop them down to the white part and, before the week is done, we’ve got more onions! They grow quicker than we can cook them and get so long we end up having a trailing green onion plant hanging off the edge of the table…I consider it organic decorating!

    • Linda Sessoms says:

      How often do you change the water and what kind of cup? Clear glass, metal, ceramic…? Thanks!

  7. Trissi V. says:

    I tried growing green onions in a flower vase with water. I hadn’t cut them down so dramatically to the little stumps, but left a bit of green. They actually grew pretty quick and didn’t rot…but the smell after a week drove me crazy. I kept going into the kitchen saying “Something smells like onions…ack!” Turns out it was the onions…had to throw them out, I could not live with that smell all the time.

  8. heidi says:

    I also noticed when I did this and put the onions in the water, the water smelled disgustingly like green onions. It was overpowering the kitchen. It seems like planting them is the way to go.

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      Heidi, I think you’ve just solved my problem of my girl kitty eating my herbs on the windowsill…keep a glass of green onions there, too! She will hopefully turn her nose up to all those greens thinking they all smell! Thank you!!! My next experiment, thanks to Karen and her blog commentors!!

  9. Spokangela says:

    I think I will stick to my chives :)

    All this green onion business reminds me of when my daughter’s boyfriend (who is VERY new to cooking) was helping in the kitchen. He was put on slicing green onion duty and very matter of factly asked me, “Did you want to keep the tentacles?”


  10. Diane says:

    I don’t know but I would think closing the lid on your jar did not allow for fresh air. I would think logically, plants would need fresh air continually in order to grow. Your way seems toxoc…Just my opinion.

  11. Jake says:

    That’s my boy, with bells on. :)

  12. Libby says:

    Yes, we tried this too, and ended up with several hundred gnats, all over the house.

  13. brie says:

    I take a narrow glass jar and fill it with water. I get some organic green onions at the store, and when I get home, I cut the rubber bands and just place them in the water. I can snip of what I want to use, then they re-grow. If I want the white part I just buy them though.

  14. Eliesa says:

    As someone on her way out to plant her veggie garden today, I am so glad you posted this – and all the comments that have been posted are great too! Going to try to plant some directly in the garden (not in water first) and see how they grow. I don’t use them much, so it won’t matter if I don’t get a big return right away.

  15. Arianne says:

    We grew green onions in our vegi patch last year and let me tell you… they grew like wildfire. With one seed packet we had enough green onions to feed the who ferkin neighborhood. Grab a $.99 seed packet, plant about 1/4 of the seeds in a row in your new front yard vegi garden, watch ’em grow and then reseed with another 1/4 of the packet in a month, then again in a month (you get the drift). We just snipped the onions off at soil level and the about half the time the ‘old’ roots grew new plants. nifty thrifty.

  16. Kelly Evans says:

    So someone may have already commented on success but Im too lazy to read through alllll the comments. So I do this all the time with great success… I love it! First thing I thought when you were cutting the onions was “Oh dear, that is never going to work.” I only ever cut as much off to where the green starts to turn white. Once I got my glass onions going they grow faster than I seem to use them to i trim them with scissors periodically. But I never use the white part… And I’m ok with that. I’m a greener anyway.

  17. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Thanks Karen! This has been on my to do list, now I don’t have to waste my name trying this.

  18. Cheryl in Wisconsin says:

    I have a permanent container for green onions in my kitchen window. I leave the stumps longer than your example, and place them in a short, narrow vase (similar shape to a juice glass), and change the water probably every other day. They grow rapidly, but not indefinitely, I usually toss each one after they’ve regrown twice. I still buy green onions but they get far more mileage by being used repeatedly. Next I’m going to try regrowing celery in dirt – now that I can find my dirt – the snow is gone.

  19. Dianne says:

    I did this after finding it on the ‘net and it worked well. As someone previously mentioned I didn’t decimate them as much – probably left a couple inches of green – kept them w/ the rubber band around them – just in a glass of water and changed the water every 2 or 3 days. Have had enough green onion tops to harvest that I haven’t had to buy them since – which is great for me because I’d always wind up forgetting about some of them and have to throw them out – now no waste.

  20. Jodi says:

    You can do this with celery and it winks great!

  21. Jennifer says:

    I’ve found it’s easier jut to buy them- I got weak limp little things from the ones in the soil, and the ones in water didn’t grow at all for me.

  22. Kim says:

    I grow these year round and they are great when you need just the green part. For the white part, spend the 0.69 and plant the root part again. Mine get huge and so healthy, they always look so wilty and wimpy from the store and the bonus is they will flower with this amazing flower and they are actually flowering now. Just stick the white part in the dirt, it doesn’t matter how small, and it will grow over two feet tall. I have to trim them if we don’t eat them. A sushi chef taught me this trick when I was learning to make sushi and he went through the green parts in a huge way and threw away the white part so he starting planting them. I love it.

    • Lita says:

      I threw some in the ground a year ago, and sort of forgot about them. They multiplied, and now I trim of the tops when I only want green, and pull out/snap off a section when I want the white bit too.

      I have way WAY too many onions now.

      This differed from your experiment in several ways:

      >FULL sun, I don’t think indoor growing is ever going to give you great results with these (I planted some in part shade and they looked like your photo for an entire growing season. Pathetic little things.)

      >I stuck them straight in the dirt outside, and mostly forgot they existed (I like plants that prefer neglect and abuse;) )

      >I left the onions to get established for an entire growing season. It’s a long time, but now I never have to run to the store for them, I have soooo many (note, I do occassionaly break up a big gang of them and plant them in other places)

      Kim is right about the flowers, they’re pretty cool looking, and beneficials seem to really like them.

  23. Barrie says:

    Chiming in with the people who leave longer stumps, just 1.5″ will do it and use a smaller jar/glass. That said, it was not the miracle – now I’ll always have green onions without buying them – that I thought it would be as you can really only use them twice but it does work quite well if you just don’t use that last 1.5″ :-)

  24. Manda says:

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one! I was a complete failure at this little experiment.

  25. Gettinby says:

    Karen, TWO FULL BUNCHES A WEEK?! Goodness, your onion demands are intense.

    I grow my onions like this, with the longer stalks, but I only ever use one to two onions before the rest of the bunch rots in the fridge.

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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….

  31. 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

  32. Julie says:

    Whether it worked or not – always an entertaining read !

  33. 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

  34. 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.

  35. 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)

  36. 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.

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

  39. 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!

  40. 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]=-

  41. 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.

  42. 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!

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. Not Real Name says:

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

  46. 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!

  47. 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. :)

  48. 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!

  49. 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!

  50. 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!

    • 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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