S & J Nursery’s guide to
Growing Egyptian Walking Onion/ Tree Onion / Topset Onion
in the Northeast Florida Garden
(Allium cepa proliferum)
Sometimes the botanical name just says it all, doesn’t it? Well, it sure does when it comes to Egyptian Walking Onions. Proliferum may just be the perfect word – not invasive, not aggressive – but definitely prolific.
Why plant onions every year when you could plant the Egyptian walking onion once and always have onions? That is what I thought when I first heard of the Egyptian walking onion. I couldn’t believe it could possibly be as easy to grow as they said it was. But it is! I ordered some bulbs and planted them out as soon as they arrived in early fall. I loved them so much I made another order within months and got a big full box in the mail. My plants have not stopped amazing me yet! I can not even begin to count how many times I have harvested leaves to add to my vegetable stir fry. While I must admit that I keep all my topsets to grow more onions, I am sure I will get around to chopping them up and throwing some in a pot of soup one of these days!
Foliage, Origins, and Use of Walking Onion / Tree onion/ Allium cepa proliferum:
Although the common name certainly implies this onion has it’s origins in Egypt, the evidence to back up an Egyptian origin just doesn’t seem to be there. Egyptian Walking onion or Tree onions are thought to be a cross between the common onion Allium cepa and a bunching onion.
The foliage can eventually reach 3 ft in height and forms clumps so planting is best done at least 4-6 inch spacing if you will be dividing each year or so or digging and using as shallots. Plant the topsets at 1 ft spacing if you prefer to leave them in place and harvest the greens.
The whole plant is edible, so take your pick from the slightly hot small shallot that forms at the base in the plants second year or the large green stems that are milder and produced on the plant in abundance. Then of coarse, if you are a bit more daring, you can eat the top set bulbs formed at the tips of the foliage. The topsets are a much hotter onion and are most often recommended to be pickled but would be nice added to soups and stews and can be peeled and eaten as is if you don’t mind the strong flavor.
Planting Season for Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion/ Allium cepa proliferum in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida and the surrounding areas:
Plant the topsets after they are produced on the stems in fall or early spring. Dig and divide bulb clusters in the fall.
Topsets can be planted 1-2 inches deep into the soil and will most likely not form topsets on the plants produced from them until their second growing season. Bulb clusters that are dug up and divided should be planted back into the soil at the same depth they were growing before division.
Sun Exposure for Growing Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion / Allium cepa proliferum :
Walking onion can be planted into full sun areas of the garden. In our Northeast Florida area a morning shade and afternoon sun or morning sun and afternoon shade location will work fine as well, but in general a sunnier spot is better, and afternoon sun to full sun location is more ideal
Soil Preferences for Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion / Allium cepa proliferum in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida areas:
Tolerant of a wide range of soil components and conditions from sand to clay. I have an extremely sandy garden and the plants grow beautifully when generously amended at planting time with compost.
Care of Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion / Allium cepa proliferum:
Watering Your Egyptian Walking Onion:
Newly planted topsets or divisions will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Once the plants are established and growing, they will require very little in the way of care from you. Just give them a little extra water in times of drought.
Mulching Your Plants:
For maximum growth potential mulch plants generously -this will help conserve moisture during our hot summer months.
Fertilizing Your Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion / Allium cepa proliferum:
Walking Onions seem to just grow on their own. I leave mine to grow with just the compost amendment at planting or dividing time and a generous layer of compost added to the soil each year in early spring.
If you find for some reason your plants are in need of a little additional help, try an organic approach. Fertilize with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed (kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water. Apply semi weekly as a foliar spray. You could also try giving them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion / Allium cepa proliferum in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Your Egyptian Walking Onion / Tree Onion / Allium cepa proliferum can be harvested year round when left in ground as a perennial plant. And greens may be harvested in as little as a few months after planting the sets!