Growing Spring Onions From the Supermarket

Many people think that to have a garden you have to buy fancy seeds from a garden centre. However, you can grow a lot of your own food by simply going to the grocery store. Let’s look at how to grow spring onions from the supermarket.

To grow spring onions from the supermarket, you can use either green onions or bulb onions. If you are using green onions, choose some that still have a good root system attached. For bulb onions, choose a size that best matches how much space you have, and choose some that are nice and firm and aren’t rotten or moldy. Whether you are using greens or bulbs, you can grow a spring onion by placing the store-bought onion in water, or in the soil.

Spring onions add flavour to a number of culinary dishes, and it is satisfying to regrow them again and again from onions you bought at the store. Here is a guide on which onions to buy from the supermarket and how to grow them.

What do we mean by “spring onion”?

In this article, we will use the term spring onion to mean the green tops of the onion, no matter how it is grown. See below for a discussion on how this term is used by different people.

Growing Spring Onions From Green Onions

Green onion roots by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

When you buy green onions at the supermarket, it is important to pick some that still have roots on them (some stores will cut the roots off). The more roots you have, the more success you will have growing them. When you are cutting your green onions for dinner, leave about 3cm (1inch) of the base (the white part) of the onion and use this part to grow spring onions. Dry or brown stems might rot when placed in water or soil, so make sure you remove them before growing.

The easiest way to grow spring onions from green onions is to stand the root base in water. You can change the water every few days to keep it fresh, but it will soon regrow so you can enjoy the greens again and again. We talk about this in more detail in an article about how to grow spring onions without soil.

You can also take this root base and plant it in soil. You can plant it right in the garden, or you can put it in a pot in your house and have fresh spring onions all year long. Simply plant the roots and part of the white in the soil. Keep it watered well and watch it grow.

A modification of the last method is to grow your spring onions in a plastic bottle. This is a great way to reuse a plastic bottle before it heads to the recycling plant (or worse, the landfill).

Growing Spring Onions From Onion Bulbs

Perhaps your ideal spring onion is the green tops of an onion bulb. Again, a trip to the supermarket will give you good stock to start your self-sufficient garden. When selecting onions for growing there are a few things to watch out for. Make sure the onions are firm, and that there is no mold, rot, or soft spots on them.

Unlike potatoes, onions are not treated to inhibit growth in stores, so some onions you buy might have already started to sprout. It is perfectly fine to use these onions. This might actually be beneficial, since your work has already been started. Some store will even sell these sprouted onions at a discount because they are “going bad” so you might be able to get them for a deal.

Onion roots by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

It doesn’t matter which size you choose as any will grow. Smaller ones may be more suited to your pot size but bear in mind that larger ones are more likely to produce several greens from a single bulb. Spring onions can be grown from bulbs in many of the same methods mentioned above.

Place the onion in water with the root side down and it will quickly sprout a spring onion. You can read this article for details on how to grow onion bulbs in water. You can also plant the onion in the garden or in a pot. Again, a plastic bottle makes a great and attractive growing container for your onions.

What Exactly Is A Spring Onion?

I come from Canada where spring onions, green onions, scallions, salad onions, and bunching onions all mean hollow-stemmed onion greens that are typically grown from seed and do not produce a storage bulb. However, there is a lot of discrepancy over what a “spring onion” actually is, and you will get a lot of different results if you look online. Some say green onions, scallions, spring onions, and bunching onions are all the same while some say they are different. Others say spring onions are immature onions harvested before the bulb forms while others say they are their own variety. One reason for this confusion is that these terms all mean different things in different countries.

There are also many different varieties of onions and this adds to the confusion. Certain varieties will produce tough inedible greens on flavourful bulbs, while other varieties won’t produce bulbs but will grow a succulent green top. Most varieties can be grown for both greens and bulbs. Some varieties grow green tops in a single season while others are better when they are overwintered.

This article is not about solving the confusion of onion names. Instead, it is about how to grow the green tops of onions (whatever you want to call them) from onions purchased at a supermarket, grocery store, or farmer’s market. This is a great way to reuse scraps from the kitchen to produce an abundance of food in your self-sufficient home.