Egyptian onions

Horticulture hints

What in the world are Egyptian onions you may be asking yourself? Also known as multiplier onions, walking onions, potato onions, winter onions or tree onions, this heirloom plant may have been found growing in your great-grandmother’s garden.

These onions produce numerous irregular shaped bulbs below ground, and also forms clusters of small bulb sets (called bulblets) on the tip of the stalk. The weight of the cluster causes the stalk to lean down to the ground. The cluster of bulblets soon form roots after making contact with the soil. This unique characteristic allows the plant to “walk” in the garden.

A member of the allium family, these onions have a taste similar to that of shallots, but with a much stronger flavor. Native to the Middle East, this perennial vegetable is frost tolerant and overwinters in Iowa gardens. But be aware, these plants have a tendency to multiply and can spread two feet in your garden. Division of the mother plant every few years helps to slow down the extent of new growth. Luckily, the plants rarely produce seed.

Transplant clumps can be purchased from some seed companies or perhaps shared with you by a neighbor. Plant in the spring when the soil dries and temperatures reach 50° F. Plant in a well-drained, sunny location with pointy ends up and space about 4 to 6 inches apart. Care is similar to that of regular onions. Fall planted Egyptian onions should be mulched in late November to prevent winter heaving.

Did you know? Individual onions may be pulled as soon as the bulbs are large enough for eating as fresh green onions. Mature bulbs may be used in cooking after removing the outer scales.

Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at for information or advice.