I’ve been asked a lot recently if you can plant sprouted onions. The answer is a resounding “yes!”. Planting sprouted onions is a great way to make use of those that have begun to grow in the pantry. When I notice an onion with a green shoot emerging from the top, I see it as an opportunity to potentially get both green onion tops and, later on, a new bulb.

The process is simple and is a sustainable way to reduce food waste.

To start, I choose a suitable location with adequate sunlight and well-draining soil, which is essential for the health of onion plants. I prepare the ground by loosening the soil, enhancing its fertility with compost or a balanced organic fertilizer to provide the necessary nutrients for growth.

I then take the sprouted onion and plant it in the prepared soil, setting it with the sprouts upright. The root side should face down, going into the soil about an inch or two deep, enough to cover the bulb but allowing the sprouts to receive sunlight. This gives the onion the best chance to resume growth and develop into a mature plant.

Choosing the Right Soil

When I plant sprouted onions, I focus on selecting a soil that promotes healthy growth by ensuring proper drainage and nutrient availability.

Types of Soil

For sprouted onions, the type of soil is critical. Well-draining soil is a must to prevent waterlogging, which can cause rot. My go-to choices are:

  • Sandy Loam Soil: This soil type has a balance of sand, silt, and clay, providing excellent drainage while retaining sufficient moisture.
  • Loamy Sand Soil: With a higher sand content, this soil offers great drainage but may need more organic material to improve water retention.

I avoid clay-heavy soils due to their poor drainage. Sitting in too much water can cause onions to rot. And, while I am working on improving the area of my property that has heavy soil, it’s a work in progress, so it’s still not the best spot for onions.

Soil Preparation

Proper preparation of the chosen soil ensures the best growing conditions for your onion sprouts.

  1. Test pH Level: Sprouted onions prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. I use a soil test kit to ensure the soil acidity is within this range.
  2. Enrich with Organic Matter: I mix in well-composted organic matter to enrich the soil. This step improves soil structure, increases nutrient content, and enhances water retention.
  3. Use Compost: If you don’t have your own compost and your soil isn’t brilliant, get some good-quality stuff from the store. It introduces beneficial microorganisms and promotes healthier soil ecology.
  4. Incorporate Potting Soil: If I’m planting in containers, I mix in potting soil to improve soil aeration and facilitate better root growth.

I ensure the final mix is loose and fertile, which allows for easy root penetration and optimal growth.

Selecting and Preparing Onion Bulbs

I want to emphasize the importance of starting with healthy, sprouted onion bulbs and knowing the correct way to handle them before planting. Planting onions that have sprouted in the pantry is great, as long as they’re healthy. The onion should be free of mold and signs of disease, or you risk infecting your soil and nearby plants. Plus, if certain pathogens get into your soil, like white rot, they’ll stay there for years.

Healthy Bulb Selection

When I select onion bulbs for planting, I look for firmness and a lack of rot or mold. The outer skins should be intact, but it’s the green sprouts emerging from the top that signal their readiness for replanting. I avoid bulbs that are soft or have a foul smell as these are early signs of decay. To document the criteria for healthy bulbs, I use a simple checklist:

  • Firmness: Bulbs should be hard to the touch.
  • Skin Integrity: Look for dry and papery skins without any breaks.
  • Sprout Vigor: Choose bulbs with strong, green sprouts.
  • Absence of Rot: Ensure there are no signs of decay, such as soft spots or unpleasant odors.

Separating Bulbs

If my selected onion has multiple sprouts, I carefully separate them to allow individual growth. I gently tease apart the sprouts at the base, ensuring each section has a portion of the bulb attached to sustain the sprout. Divide just before planting to reduce the risk of damage. My step-by-step process is as follows:

  1. Identify the natural divisions between the sprouted sections.
  2. Hold the main bulb steady with one hand.
  3. With the other hand, carefully pull the sprouts apart, ensuring some bulb remains with each sprout.
  4. Plant the separated sprouts as quickly as possible to prevent drying out.

Planting the Sprouting Onions

When I grow sprouted onions, I pay careful attention to location and spacing to ensure proper growth. I also consider depth and orientation to foster healthy bulb development.

Location and Spacing

The location for planting sprouted onions in my garden is critical for their success. I choose a spot with well-draining soil and ample sunlight, aiming for at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. I typically use raised beds or a square-foot garden method to maximize my growing space. While I do have ample room, I carefully plan my usual growing space each year. So planting an onion sprouted accidentally in my pantry is “extra”. Plus, just in case the onion is harboring a pathogen, I like to keep it contained and away from my wider growing space. In terms of spacing, I ensure that each onion has enough room to grow without competition. For this:

  • In raised beds: I space my onions approximately 3 inches apart in rows spaced 12 inches apart
  • In a square foot garden: I plant up to 12 onions per square foot to allow for adequate growth.

This spacing prevents overcrowding and promotes air circulation, reducing the risk of disease.

Depth and Orientation

Planting depth and orientation are vital aspects of growing sprouted onions. Here’s how I do it:

  • Depth: I plant the onion bulbs so that the base is approximately 3/4 to 1 inch below the surface of the soil. This depth protects the bulb while allowing the green shoots to thrive above ground.
  • Orientation: I ensure the green sprouts are pointing upwards and the roots are facing downwards. It’s important not to plant the bulbs upside down as this hinders their ability to grow correctly

Caring for Onion Plants

After planting sprouted onions, I provide consistent watering, adequate mulching, and regular weeding. I don’t usually bother with extra fertilizer as I enrich the soil beforehand, and my soil is already healthy and rich.


I mulch my onion plants with organic material like straw or shredded leaves to a depth of about 2-3 inches. This helps retain soil moisture, control temperature fluctuations, and suppress weeds.

  • Mulch used: Straw or shredded leaves
  • Depth: 2-3 inches
  • Benefits: Moisture retention, temperature control, weed suppression


Weed competition can hinder onion growth. I remove weeds early and often, gently pulling them from the soil to avoid disturbing the onion plants’ roots. Regular weeding keeps weedy competition at bay and ensures nutrients and water are not diverted away from my onion plants.

  • Frequency: Regularly
  • Method: Hand-pulling
  • Note: Be careful not to disturb onion roots.

Sunlight Exposure

For best results, onions need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Too little light can lead to weak, elongated plants, while excessive exposure might stress them. I position my onions in an area that guarantees consistent sunlight, reflecting this need.

Common Challenges and Solutions

In my experience, two significant challenges when planting sprouted onions are pests and diseases, and the tendency for onions to bolt. I’ll detail practical solutions to tackle these challenges effectively.

Pests and Diseases

Pests like onion maggots and thrips can harm growing onions and spread diseases. My first line of defense, aside from healthy soil and good airflow, is companion planting. It’s my favorite way to repel pests, encourage predatory insects to eat the pests, and generally get healthier plants and bigger harvests. With onions, fungal infections such as downy mildew are common.

Because I grow naturally and organically, I won’t use conventional fungicides, including copper sprays. Instead, I practice clean gardening and gentle ground-level watering and use permaculture techniques to try to limit the likelihood of infection. And if I suspect I may face fungal problems, I use a variety of home remedies depending on the fungus I think I’m fighting. With black spot, for example, I use cornmeal around the base of the plants. If I’m growing in an area where I know I’m likely to encounter powdery mildew, I use a spray of diluted milk all over the plants every week. And as a general fungicide, I use a spray of water, organic dish soap, and baking soda.

Onion Bolting

Bolting, where an onion plant flowers prematurely, often occurs due to sudden changes in temperature. To prevent this, I choose the right onion varieties suited for my local climate and plant them at the recommended time. Consistent watering helps reduce stress on the plants. If I notice a flower stalk, I snap it off to encourage the plant to focus energy on bulb growth, not reproduction.

Harvesting and Storage

I always look for the signs that onions are ready to harvest when their tops begin to fall over and turn yellow. Typically, this occurs in late summer to early fall, approximately 100-120 days after planting. I gently lift the onions with a spade or fork rather than pulling them by the tops to avoid damaging the bulbs. Harvesting Steps:

  1. Check the onion tops: When most of the tops have fallen over, it’s time to harvest.
  2. Choose a dry day: Dry soil makes harvesting easier and helps begin the curing process.
  3. Use a spade or fork: Loosen the soil around the onions and lift them gently.
  4. Place onions in a single layer: Allow them to dry in the sun for a few days until the tops are completely dry.

Storing Onions

Once harvested, onions must be kept in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. I avoid storing onions near potatoes, as they can emit gases that accelerate spoilage. Storage Conditions:

  • Temperature: Ideally between 35-40°F (1.7-4.4°C)
  • Humidity: Low; around 70% RH to avoid moisture accumulation
  • Ventilation: Adequate to prevent any mold or rot

Storage Methods:

  • Netting or Pantyhose: I place onions in these for suspension, which promotes air circulation.
  • Wire or Wooden Bins: Onions can be arranged in bins, ensuring they don’t touch each other.
  • Shelves or Racks: These structures hold onions in a way that air can move freely around them.


What is the best method to plant a sprouted onion in soil?

To plant a sprouted onion in soil, the best method is to pot it in a container with well-draining soil. I ensure the roots are buried while the sprouts are above the soil surface. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged.

Can sprouted onions be grown in water, and if so, how?

Yes, sprouted onions can be grown in water. I place the roots of the sprouted onion in a glass of water, making sure only the bottom part is submerged. I change the water every few days to keep it clean. You won’t get new onions this way, but you’ll be able to harvest the green shoots. This is my favorite way of using old salad onions.

Is it possible to cultivate sprouted onions indoors, and what are the steps?

It is possible to cultivate sprouted onions indoors. I plant them in a pot with sufficient drainage, position it in a location with direct sunlight, and water it regularly. This ensures the sprouted onion receives enough light and moisture to grow.

Are there any benefits to planting a sprouted onion rather than discarding it?

Planting a sprouted onion offers benefits such as reducing waste and providing fresh produce. I find that sprouted onions can regenerate a supply of edible greens or develop into a full onion bulb, given adequate conditions.

What should you avoid doing when planting a sprouted onion to ensure it thrives?

When planting a sprouted onion, I avoid overwatering and placing it in low-light conditions. It’s crucial to avoid burying the sprouts in soil, as this can cause them to rot. Additionally, avoiding soil that is too compact gives the onion has space to grow.

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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.