With so many different onion varieties you can grow at home, it can be a challenge knowing what to plant and what types of onions you’ll get the most use out of.
Onions aren’t just delicious in everything from salads and soups to stews and stir fry’s, they’re easy to grow too!
That’s why we’ve written this useful guide to the most common and most delicious onion varieties that grow well in vegetable gardens, tips on how to grow them, frequently asked questions, and their uses in the kitchen.
The Different Types of Onions
Onion varieties, all of which are members of the allium family, are categorized a little differently to other plants.
Rather than categorizing them by their color or size, they’re categorized according to how much daylight they need to produce a good-sized bulb.
Short Day Onions
Short-day onions need 10-12 hours of sunlight and temperatures of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit in order to produce bulbs, making them ideal for southern regions of the USA where you get a mild climate.
They are recommended for Zone 7 or warmer and are ready for harvest in about 110 days of a fall planting. Popular varieties of short-day onions include Sweet Red, Texas Sweet White, White Bermuda, Yellow Granex and Georgia Sweet.
Long Day Onions
These onion types require even more sunlight, around 14-16 hours a day, so they’re typically planted in winter or early spring in northern regions of the USA.
They’re recommended for areas that are Zone 6 or colder, and are ready for harvest in 90-110 days. Popular varieties of long-day onions include White and Yellow Sweet Spanish, and Walla Walla Sweet.
Day Neutral Onions
Day-neutral onions fall in between the short and long-day onions, and generally need about 12-14 hours of sunlight per day in order to mature.
They’re best grown in areas that are Zone 5-6 and mature about 110 days after planting in early spring. These onion varieties tend to be very sweet, and popular cultivars include Cimarron, Sweet Red and Candy.
Onion Varieties to Consider in Your Vegetable Garden
Chives are a popular seasoning that bring a mild, spicy kick to salads, omelets, dips and soups. Classified as a herb, the vibrant green stems grow quickly and vigorously in a sunny spot, and are one of the first harvests of spring.
They’re enjoyed raw because of their delicate onion flavor, and are usually chopped up and sprinkled onto a wide range of dishes.
You can usually buy seeds or seedlings easily at any nursery or farmer’s market, and they grow well in containers or planted out in your vegetable garden.
Also called spring onions or bunching onions, this is another delicate onion variety that’s often added raw to enhance dishes like salads, stir-fry’s and wraps.
They can be grown from seed or division in a sunny spot, and thrive in both containers and vegetable gardens. Scallions are ready to harvest after 2 months.
Evergreen White Bunching onions are a great option because they are tender, white-fleshed with vibrant green stalks, and mild in flavor. You can grow them in both Spring and Fall, and they are very disease resistant.
Another good bunching variety are Japanese Red Beard Onions, a scallion with a bright pink/red stalk. They are ready for harvest in just 45 days, are hardy and grow to a height of about 23 inches with a usable 6 inch stalk.
Shallots are small onions with brown skin and a purplish flesh. They have a delicate, garlic-like flavor and grow in cloves rather than single bulbs.
They are very popular in European cooking, and are often minced into sauces, roasted whole or used in salad dressings. They are the perfect option for when you want that balance between garlic and onion flavors, and are incredibly versatile!
4. Green Onions
Green onions are just regular bulb onions that haven’t grown to maturity. You can use the entire plant much in the same way that you’d use scallions, chopping them up raw to garnish salads, wraps, omelets and tacos. You can use any variety of onion for this purpose.
5. Yellow Onions
This is your solid, everyday staple – a robust onion with a flaky brown outer skin and flavorful white flesh. They can be used for just about any cooked dish, from brown onion soup to stews and roasts.
They can be a bit overwhelming raw, but some people enjoy using tiny slivers in salads and sandwiches to add a kick! You can find this onion in short, long and day-neutral varieties, and they produce one bulb per plant.
Long-day onion types tend to be better onions for storage, while short and day neutral varieties tend to be sweeter-tasting. Good options include Patterson, Bridger, Copra, Yellow Globe and Pontiac.
Yellow Ebenezer is our long-day yellow onion of choice because they store exceptionally well. They have a mild flavor and can be used for almost any dish.
They can be used for green onions from about 2-4 weeks after planting, and the bulb matures at about 100 days.
6. Red Onions
With beautiful purple-red skin and flesh, these onions are as attractive as they are tasty! Known for their milder flavor, they can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and can often be a substitute for yellow onions.
They look especially good in salads and wraps, on burgers and wherever you need a vibrant splash of color. Some great red onion varieties to try in your garden include Italian Torpedo, Red Burgundy, Southport Red Globe and Red Wethersfield.
Red Wethersfield measures four to six inches in diameter and has a maroon skin and pink/white flesh. You can add them to your salads or any other dishes raw since they have a sweet, mild taste. They can be harvested after 100-115 days.
Red Burgundy onions are also highly recommended as a sweet red variety with a mild flavor. It’s smaller at 4 inches in diameter with a red and white skin, these onions store fairly well and mature in 100 days from planting.
7. White Onions
White onions are sharp and flavorful with tender flesh, and are great for Asian and Latin cuisines, especially sauces, pickles, salsa, and guacamole.
They tend to be the strongest-tasting onions, so beware! Good examples of this variety include Ailsa Craig, White Granex, and White Sweet Spanish.
The Crystal White Wax onion is our white onion of choice because of their intense flavor. You can harvest this short-day variety early at 70 days for perfect pearl onions around 1-1.5 inches in diameter that are ideal for pickling, stews and soups.
Snow White onions are another great choice, a hybrid long-day variety with a much milder taste. They take about 90 days to grow before they are ready for harvest and can also be used for green onions. They also store very well.
8. Sweet Onions
This is a catch-all term for day-neutral and short day onion varieties as they tend to be less pungent and sweeter than long-day varieties. You can get both yellow and red sweet onions, and they tend to look a bit larger and flatter with lighter skin.
Because of their higher sugar content, they make wonderful onions for caramelizing, so they are perfect for onion rings, onion tarts, salads and roasting.
These varieties tend to have the word “sweet” right there in the name, so they are easy to spot. The Walla Walla, Vidalia, Bermuda, and Maui are also sweet varieties.
Texas Sweet Onions, also known as 1015, are highly a recommended variety. They are a short-day variety that large in size, averaging at about 5-6 inches in diameter.
The flesh is juicy and crisp, with a sweet rather than pungent flavor, and the rings can be separated easily. Yellow Granex are another highly recommended variety, measuring 3-4 inches in diameter with a flatter rather than rounded appearance.
Also called Noonday, Georgia Sweet or Vidalia, they are versatile and sweet, ideal for cooking as well as serving raw.
Growing Onions Tips
- Always plant onions in full sun, making sure you have the right type of onion for the number of sunlight hours in your garden.
- Make sure the soil is loose, well-draining and rich in organic compost
- You can fertilize your onions with an organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen (like a 10-10-10) when new stalks start appearing to boost growth and crop yield
- The best soil pH for growing onions is about 6-6.5 (Here’s how to change your soil pH)
- Plant in cool weather (winter to early spring) with temperatures of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit
- Onions are fantastic companion plants for beets, strawberries, tomatoes and lettuce, and do well with cabbage crops too
- Onions help control pests, as they are said to be a deterrent against rabbits and insects due to their high sulfur content
Can You Grow Onions from an Onion?
Yes! You can regrow onions from kitchen scraps fairly easily. All you have to do is cut off the root end leaving about half an inch of onion.
Place it on a prepared bed in your vegetable garden in a sunny spot and cover with soil. With regular watering, your onion will soon sprout and grow a new bulb.
How Long Do Onions Take to Grow?
This is dependent on the variety you are growing. Green onions are ready for harvest in about 20 days, after which you can re-harvest in a week or two if you leave the roots intact.
Most varieties take 90-110 days to reach maturity and produce a nice, large bulb.
How Many Onions Do You Get From One Plant?
Each plant produces a single bulb. However, you can grow onions very close together, planting 20-50 plants in a few square feet of space, which is how you can maximize your harvest.
When is the Best Time to Plant Onions?
Onions are cool-season crops, so the best time to plant them is mid-March to mid-April. This does depend on your Zone and the onion varieties you are planting.
Red onions tend to grow better if planted a bit later than yellow varieties, and sets are usually sown in early September to early October.
How Do You Know When Onions are Ready to Harvest?
Generally, onions take 90-110 days to mature. They are ready to harvest when the bulbs are big, the tops start to turn yellow in color, and the plant starts to fall over.
Get Ready to Grow All the Best Onion Varieties!
With this onion varieties list, there are so many wonderful options to introduce into your vegetable garden!
From Chives and scallions that can be grown in small containers to the larger sweet onion, yellow onion and red onion varieties that yield good sized crops without taking up much space.
Remember to choose a variety that suits your personal taste as well as your USDA Zone, to plant them in full sun in well-drained soil rich in organic compost, and to plant in the cooler weather from mid-March to mid-April.
Try to experiment with more unusual onion varieties like shallots, white onions and hybrids, and be sure to let our team know about the results!