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.

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