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

1

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.

2

Stick the roots in a jar of water.

3

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.

4

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!

5

3 weeks pass.

Behold the Great Green Onion Experiment Results.

6

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.

7

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.

8

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.

9

 

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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130 Comments

  1. Alyssa says:

    So I actually love to garden, and I’ve been growing green onions using just water for a while! I use a rather large piece of the white base and place it in a shallow jar with just enough water to cover the bottom. In just a few days I have at least 3 inches of green onion growing. 🤗

  2. Debbie says:

    I thought you might be interested to hear a different experience. I took home a giant bag of onion scraps from a commercial kitchen five years ago. I was going to turn it into compost. But as I was dumping them out into the pile, I noticed that there were hundreds of green onion stumps. So I tossed probably two hundred into a couple of tubs of soil I had on my patio. I placed the roots downwards and slightly pressed into the soil. I left them there and forgot about them. From those I harvested green onion tops for 5 years to chop and place into salads and top Thai food, and anywhere else I thought it would add flavor to a dish. I never watered them, they sometimes sat in the full sun and sometimes were in a shadier spot. They were literally the easiest things I’ve ever grown and continued to grow soft green tops as long as they were cut somewhat regularly. We finally moved out of that house, and now it sits empty. Those onions were abandoned and have finally grown into giant, stiff inedible stems which turned into round globes with seed. So they will actually have a second life as new green onions. For something I never put any effort into, what a great return.

  3. Kylie says:

    It does work, but use water instead of soil. Also this person cut them wayyyy to short. Cut only the green, stopping once you reach the white!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kylie. This person is me. :) The problem, like I explained in the post is the fact that for me the white part is the most important part of a green onion when cooking. They do grow in soil, it’s just that you don’t get to use/reuse the white part. ~ karen!

  4. Candice says:

    ** You need to leave about an inch and a half to regrow – About 5 times what you had. **

    <ome wprl great!

  5. Eden says:

    I Just had to comment on this! Because I too was as excited about the possibility of growing green onions in nothing but water. Just as excited as you, but my experience was completely different! I would like to comment that yes this does definitely work, I managed to get about 2-3 decent regrowths out of my spring onions. Now they have started to turn a little mushy, but I suspect that is really down to my neglect. From your images I can see where the issue is, the stems were cut too short. You need to cut just below the green, leave quite a nice portion of white I left maybe 1.5inches. I get the feeling the more white you leave the better the results and quicker the regrowth, and possibly the longer the onions will continue to re-grow for. Also make sure you remove any white layers that look mushy, and change the water daily. Finally don’t cover the stems in too much water. Here is my forage into regrowing spring onions. I will definitely try this again and after about 3 weeks of regrowing them I will now try plant the roots in soil and see if this works well. What I have noticed is that the onions get thinner and thinner each time they regrow, I have a theory that potting them after a few weeks will change this result. Try it again! It does work : )

  6. Ada Ardito says:

    I think the greens from garlic taste much better. Just stick a clove (pointy end up) in a cup with some potting soil and clip off the greens when you need them. They have a nice mild garlic flavor when you just want to add a little something to a dish. Great to sprinkle on just before serving as a fresh garnish.

  7. Lois says:

    I hate to be a party pooper but I have been growing these onions for two yup two years. They grow fantastically and I always have a supply of green onions. Some of them even popped back up after the winter. I have also planted Romaine lettuce in the same way. I have been told I have a green thumb so maybe that is the key!

    • Karen says:

      Well, I’m actually a garden writer by profession Louis, lol. So my thumb is pretty green. The problem as I see it isn’t the fact that they don’t grow, it’s the fact that I use both the white and green part of the onion, so growing them like this is useless for me because you’re only able to use the green part. :) ~ karen!

  8. Jerry Conley says:

    I had great luck in well water, growing very fast and well in the winter window, 4 or 5 inches in a week, didn’t cut mine to a stump left about 2 inches. what kind of glass is that and where did you get it?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jerry. I’m not sure which glass in the photos you’re talking about. If it’s the last one, that’s just a vintage (I think) measuring glass with an antique, glass flower frog on top. :) ~ karen!

  9. Erin says:

    So I didnt read all of the comments. But I have been doing just a bit of reading today about how tap water, if it has the right amount of salt and chlorine/flourine whatevers in it, can kill your plants. Perhaps a thought? Im going to try again. One time of it working. One time of it failing. Now we shall see. :)

  10. Char Newman says:

    ok, here’s my email: [email protected] for the free Egyptian onions bulbs from Char Newman

  11. Char Newman says:

    you guys did it backwards! Get some tree-top or Egyptian onions into your garden plot.
    Once these are growing well – 1-2 years, you cut (not pull) the onions at the base of the soil.
    VOILA! The mother plant lives on for years and years, and you have green onions every spring and fall. PLUS this type of onion forms bulblets that droop to the ground and regrow new onions. what a plant! If you can’t find it, just email me, and I’ll send you some free! REALLY -that’s how prolific they are.

  12. James says:

    I am currently growing some store bought spring onions. They literally spring out of the ground overnight. I will see how they go in a few weeks time.

    I have never tried it – but have you tried growing them from seed?

    • Karen says:

      Hi James – I have grown onions from seed. It’s very easy actually, you just need to start them fairly early under grow lights. I did some this year as a matter of fact. You just grow them in a clump. Once they look a bit like thin grass you just separate them by pulling their roots apart and plant them in the soil. :) Good luck with the spring onions!~ karen

  13. Helen says:

    You shouldn’t cut so deep into the white part, just cut off the dark green part.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen – Like I mentioned in the post, when I use green onion in my cooking I use both parts the white and the green. Never just the green. So growing them this way where you can only harvest the green doesn’t work for me. :) ~ karen!

  14. Steven says:

    You did it all wrong. You’re not supposed to cut the green onions so all that is left are the buds. You’re supposed to peel off the loose dying stalks and clean the bottom part then place them in a fresh vase half full with water. Watch them grow and very important to change the water every day with fresh cold water (not freezing cold).

  15. Eileen says:

    Dear Karen,

    I put green onions, white and all, in small jar of water and wait for root end to sprout. New little green parts begin at top. I then place them in soil and never have any problem. The only thing is they grown to be huge and have some liquidy stuff in each leaf. Are these edible?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Eileen – Spring onions are just onions that are picked when they’re immature. They’re often Spanish onions. So if you let them keep growing, yup … they’ll get huge. Your onions are still edible, but they’ve now become actual onions as opposed to small green onions. I would only eat the onion part now, not the greens. ~ karen!

  16. Ashley says:

    I’m late to the game, but I had awesome luck growing mine this year, just in a plastic solo cup with water! But I also use the green part, not the white part, for cooking, so I was able to leave the entire bulb and just grow the greens back. I managed to fill a 1 gallon zip lop freezer bag with diced up pieces of greens before the bottoms needed to be tossed.

    This was attempt #1, I had cut down to where the band is on the onions, and they’d grown back that much in just 5 days.

    http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/429193_10150617852822029_1375483048_n.jpg

  17. Mama says:

    I tried that a couple years ago, it worked for me. I did use longer “stumps” though.

  18. Branwen says:

    Ah, txs Karen. I can now safely abort my effort to try and grow these things. I’ve got them stuck in a glass with water and they are growing but slow as F*** to be honest. I cannot wait that long so tomorrow I’ll go to the grocery store and buy me new ones. And eat the white parts as well. Lovely!

  19. Heather says:

    I have to say, I tried this also after seeing the pic on pinterest and I’ve had great luck. I just stuck the full green onions from my fridge into a glass of water and put them on the windowsill. I’ve got green spikes shooting up past the first window now. The funny thing is, I mainly use the white part, not the green, so it really is fairly useless for me. I still like it though. I have a new fairly pretty green “plant” in my kitchen, and they’re not sitting in my fridge rotting forgotten on the bottom of my crisper drawer.

  20. Rita says:

    Illuminating and entertaining.
    It’s fun to experiment with food but have you tried growing another ‘fella’ from his nail clippings? think how useful that would be.

    PS: over here in Blighty we call them Spring Onions – no not nail clippings, it was the onions I was referring to!

  21. Danielle m. says:

    Oh Karen. You make me laugh!

  22. Christine says:

    I just did this and it’s working great and my 2 year old LOVES it. I used a small shot glass so the onions didn’t topple over the water and I change the water every other day and rotate it in and out of the sun. It’s great for apt living and a fun little experiment to share with my toddler. If I had a garden I probably wouldn’t bother with it either. :]

  23. Kasia says:

    I must say, I get enjoyment from reading all your Readers comments almost as much as your original posts! (But let’s not go too overboard — your posts are much funnier, but your Readers deserve some kudos too!) What a great group of people :)

    • Karen says:

      Kasia – I know. The readers of The Art of Doing Stuff are easily the most entertaining blog readers around. ~ karen!

  24. Katya says:

    Hi Karen

    I am originally from Russia and there we grow fresh green onions at home from yellow onions. You just fit a bulb on top of a jar in such way so that water would only touch the base of the bulb, the roots. The more water gets in touch with the bulb the faster it will get rotten.And then after a few days you will see green onions. If I remember right one bulb would last for a couple of weeks with occasional change of water. And then you repeat the process.

  25. Rebekah says:

    LOL, I love your enthusiasm! Someone had told me about this idea as well, and since I usually end up with slimy green onions in my fridge, I thought I’d give it a try. As soon as I brought the bunch home from the store, I trimmed the roots a tiny bit, trimmed any dead bits off the greens, and stuck the whole things in a glass of water.
    Some of the greens wilt a bit at first, but since I was regularly trimming them to use in salads etc, it was fine.
    Within a week I had tons of new green sprouts shooting up from the center of the greens, and they have been happily replenishing themselves for a month or more now. When I get too many I just plant them outside in the yard :)

  26. Evalyn says:

    The thing that has always boggles me about planting an onion is that the result is : one onion. True, it’s one fresh, homoegrown onion, but it’s ONE onion. I am easily boggled.

    I grow lots of onions because they are excellant bug control, so I stick them in everywhere. If you leave them in long enough, they divide, like daffodils, and you eventually get more than one, but that first crop is – well, what you sow is what you reap.

  27. Kaitlen says:

    Karen,

    I’ve been following you since I saw you in the #1 spot for the Homies (which you clearly should have won btw–not to raise a sore subject), and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to tell you. For all the world to see–not that they know who I am. But. I just love/adore/feel so good after reading/wish someone would give you your own tv show/admire/and am constantly inspired by your blog.

    Each entry is a sweet little package that offers more information than I obtained in my undergraduate college career, laced with some of the funniest sh*t I’ve ever read. You make people want to be your next door neighbor. Not only so they can spy on the cool projects you’ve got going on, but because you may have one of the best personalities ever to be given to a human being. You are endless entertainment.

    And for that, I thank you :)

    P.S. I know nothing substantial about green onions to contribute to this post.

    • Karen says:

      Kaitlen – Thanks for saying that! And your last line made me genuinely, bona fide, laugh out LOUD. Good job. :) ~ karen

  28. Doni says:

    I just stuck my roots in the dirt and they grew up fine. I mentioned this to my dad, who fancies himself a farmer but is really an 85 year old accountant by day, and he just humpphed at me and said he would stick with his tried and true onion sets from the market. His veggie garden is to die for, he feeds numerous families throughout the summer with beets, broccoli, spinach tomatoes and potatoes. I might try it again though, and the celery too since I now live in farm country and I have good soil and a natural water supply (rain) which I didn’t have in Colorado.

  29. Anemone says:

    I love the white parts. I would probably say this is more of a post-apocalyptic project. For now…$0.69 it is.

  30. Saw a pin about regrowing green onions from stumps on Pinterest. Hadn’t tried it yet. Glad to have you as my guinea pig.

  31. Julie says:

    Karen, I just read a review of a book and thought of you! It’s called ‘The Wilder Life,’ by Wendy McClure. She LOVES the Little House series and immersed herself in “Laura World.” Churned her own butter, etc. Not sure if she grew her own green onions, but otherwise it kinda sounds like a normal day in your life :)

  32. Laura Bee says:

    They look like teeny tiny octopi!! I was so excited! What a let down.
    My mum-in-law has two or three avacadoes growing. The plants are about 3″ tall. No fruit yet. I have never has luck with them.
    BUT- my garlic is up about 6″ or 8″ already. Say when, ok? How do you know it’s ready?

  33. Del says:

    Well, just to change direction here and I maybe talking out my hat (I frequently do). But, have you ever planted a garlic clove? Just the regular stuff you get fromt the fruit and veg. I have and they grew – no internet info, just an old gardener told me. Takes a little time though.

  34. deborah345 says:

    thank you

  35. Amy in StL says:

    Last fall I started to plant the sad wilted green onions that were forgotten in a crisper; in a flower pot that had an herb that didn’t make it. The onions made it all winter. Now, I only go through about a half a bunch every week so it keeps me in onions unless I’m cooking for a group of folks. (In which case I add the leftover wilted onions to the pot.)

  36. Kate S. says:

    If you want to grow them in water, you need to leave 3-4″ from the roots and it works best if you change the water daily. (Changing the water also eliminates the onion-water odor several people are complaining about.) However, I don’t really recommend the water method; there isn’t much nutritional content within water for the plants to eat, meaning your green onions wont be all that healthy. They do much better in soil.

    I’m surprised your soil results were mediocre–it works really well for us. We have fresh green onions all winter long in Illinois using this method. I do grow a much larger grouping though, about 30 plants in a large dish.

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