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Onion Family Growing Problems: Troubleshooting

Onion growing problems
Onion Growing Problems: Space onions well apart to avoid many growing problems.

Onions and their close relatives–chives, garlic, shallots, and leeks–are among the oldest of home garden plants. Allium is the genus for these crops. All varieties of Allium require loose, well-drained soil rich in nitrogen.
There are hundreds of varieties of onion family plants. All suffer from similar pest, disease, and cultural problems

Here is a troubleshooting list of possible onion family growing problems with control and cure suggestions:

• Plants produce many leaves but no bulbs. Planting time incorrect or temperatures are too warm. Bulbing onion and garlic must be exposed to temperatures of 32° to 50°F for 1 to 2 months before planting to induce bulb formation. Place garlic cloves in the refrigerator for 4 weeks before planting or plant early in season so that cloves are chilled.

• Plants are stunted; worms boring into roots.Wireworms are the soil-dwelling larvae of click beetles; they look like wirey-jointed worms. Check soil before planting; flood the soil if wireworms are present. Remove infested plants and surrounding soil. Keep the garden clean and free of plant debris.

• Leaves turn silvery and white streaked or blotchy; leaves may become distorted. Onion thrips are most common during dry warm, weather. Keep the garden clean. Blast thrips with water to wash them away. Use insecticidal soap.

• Leaves die back from tips; root turn pink to red to yellow; yields is reduced. Pink root is a soilborne fungus. Plant in well-drained soil; rotate crops to reduce disease in soil. Plant resistant varieties: Sweet Spanish, Excel, Granex.

• Leaves have yellow or white spots; stalks wilt, bend and die. Gray to purple mold forms on leaves. Downy mildew is a fungus that attacks during wet, humid weather. Remove and destroy old plants debris. Keep the soil well drained. Allow plants to dry out between irrigations. Keep the air circulating in the garden. Plant resistant varieties.

• Leaves fade, wilt, and yellow; leaf tips turn brown. Tunnels and cavities in bulb; plant may die. Onion maggot is a white legless larva of an adult fly. . Destroy disfigured plants after harvest. Destroy flies during the growing season.

• Leaves yellow and wilt; leaf tips die back. Seedlings thicken and become deformed. Older plants are stunted limp; bulbs are swollen at the base. Stem and bulb pest nematodes are microscopic wormlike animals that live in the water that coats soil particles; they enter plant roots and secrete a toxic substance. Do not plant garlic or onions in areas where onions, garlic, leeks or chives grew in previous years; parsley and celery are also hosts. Remove and destroy infested plants immediately. Use certified seed.

• Onion necks are thick; plant growth is stunted. Phosphorus or potassium deficiency is likely. Side dress plants with compost tea or aged compost.

Neck of bulb becomes spongy and water-soaked and gray or brown mold develops. Botrytis rot or neck rot is a fungal disease. Remove and destroy infected plants. Keep weeds out of garden where fungal spores may harbor.

• Onions set flower and go to seed; bulbs are hollow. Nip off flower stalks and flowers so that plant will put energy and nutrients into bulb formation not seed production.

• Bulbs are small but look white and normal. Wrong variety planted or seed or plants planted at the wrong time. Plant a variety suited for your region at the proper time. Keep garden free of weeds; onion family members do not compete well with weeds.

• Leaves yellow, bulbs have soft, watery rot and decay; bulbs may be speckled black. Bulb rot also called white rot is a soilborne fungal disease. Remove and destroy infected plants. Rotate crops. Keep weeds out of garden where fungal spores may harbor. Plant resistant varieties: Elba, Globe, Grandee, Hickory.

• Onion bulbs split into two or three sections. Watering is uneven. Water so that soil is fully moist and then allow the soil to dry to 4 inches deep before watering again. Mulch to keep soil evenly moist. Stop feeding plants 7 weeks before harvest.

• Flavor of sweet onions is pungent. Heat stress and water stress can cause onions to become pungent flavored. Sweet onions are best grown in cool weather with even watering.

• Elongated blisters and streaks on seedlings and bulb scales. Smut is a fungal disease that resulting in dark, slightly thickened areas on leaves. Black lesions appear on the scales of forming onion bulbs. Remove and destroy infected plants. Plant resistant varieties: Evergreen Bunching, White Welch, Winterbeck.

Onion Growing Success Tips:

Planting. Plant onions in full sun. Onions grow best in light loam or sandy soil rich in organic matter. Onions can be grown from sets–small bulbs–or seed. Onion sets are easier to start than seed. Place the set in the soil so that the top of the small bulbs are level with the soil surface. Small sets are less likely to bolt.

Plant time. Generally, onions are planted in the fall in warm, southern regions and in the spring in cool northern regions.

• In southern regions, plant short-day onions in the fall, allow them to root and grow foliage before they go dormant as temperatures drop in winter. Mulch over-wintering onions and remove the mulch in spring. These onions will form bulbs in late spring.

• In northern regions, plant onions in the spring. Sow seed indoors 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting onions into the garden. Set out transplants as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.

• Several days below 50°F or one or two days below 30°F will cause sets to bolt, so do not plant too early.

Care. Keep onions evenly moist. When the tips of leaves turn yellow bulbs are nearing maturity and watering can stop. Keep planting beds weed free. Side dress onions with aged compost during the growing season, up to about a month before harvest.

Harvest. Green onions can be harvested at any size suitable for use. Bulb onions are ready for lifting when the leaf tops begin to yellow and die back. Cure onions for storage for 1 or 2 weeks, and then store them in a cool, dry place.

More tips: How to Grow Onions and How to Grow Garlic.

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127 Comments

    • Early in the season, given the size of your seedlings, it sounds like tip burn. If night temperatures have been below 45F, the tender tips of the seedlings may have been “burnt” or nipped by the cold. You can cover the emerging crop with a floating row cover or place a plastic tunnel over the row until the seedlings gain some stature and strength–and the temperatures warm. If you don’t think temperature is the problem, side dress the crop with aged compost–which will add a low dose of nitrogen to the soil.

      • Every year for the past 4 years my onion top fall over when the bulbs are only half grown. the onions look and taste great, but i wish for big onions to put in storage. any suggestions?

        • To grow large onions be sure to renew the soil each season; add plenty of aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to the soil before planting. Thin the onions to that there is plenty of room for them to mature–as many as 6 inches between each onion. Check the size at maturity for the onions you are planting to be sure they will mature to the size you want. Onion tops fall over when the bulbs are mature; be sure you are planting the variety that will grow to the size you expect.

    • We planted onions mid-March and are now noticing outer leaves are withering, dying or have tannish spots on them. They are still putting out beautiful green inner leaves and bulbs are forming nicely.

      • Botrytis leaf blight, sometimes called “blast”, is a foliar disease. Botrytis is a fungal disease; you can treat the leaves with a fungicide to slow spread of the disease. Cut off infected leaves and put them in the trash. Water at the base of plants, not overhead. Space plants so that there is good air circulation.

  1. I have some sort of pests on my green onion leaves. They look like some sort of small black beetle, but I can’t find anything matching this description. Any idea what it might be and how to control it?

    • Onion thrips often attack green onions–although they are winged and usually yellow or brown, not what you are describing. Place sticky traps near your onions–you can try yellow, white, or blue traps to see which might work best. You can spray with insecticidal soap or a commercial pyrethrin spray if the infestation is severe.
      Flea beetles are black and shiny with a curved yellow or white stripe–they hop when disturbed. Dust with diatomaceous earth or with rotenone for serious infestations. They most commonly attack cabbage-family crops.

    • Your soil may be lacking enough phosphorus and/or potassium. Spray or water the plants with compost tea or kelp to boost their growth.

    • Yellowish colored garlic bulbs with a rotten smell is an indication of a fungal root rot. As well, there are bacterial root rots that cause water-soaked spots on roots and leaves. It is best to remove rotted plants from the garden as quickly as you can then reduce watering, especially overhead watering. You can introduce beneficial microbes to the soil by drenching the soil with compost tea–do this early in the morning so the soil dries by evening. The long-term solution is to add aged compost to the soil to improve drainage–or plant in well-drained raised beds.

  2. I have a 3′ x 8′ onion seed bed with about 1lb of seed planted. The seedlings are about 3″ tall with seed pod still attached to about 50% of tips. A few mice have used the bed as their play ground and subsequently, have about 40% of the seedlings lay down and tips tangled together. I’ve since dealt with the mice problem, but concern whether the seedling will or could recover. Is there anything I can use to revitalize the damaged seedlings?

    • If the seedlings have been bent or broken by the mice, there is little you can do. Once a leaf or stem is broken the capillaries that transport water and nutrients are broken as well. The lack of moisture means you will likely see some dieback at the tips–but if a leaf or stem is intact it will likely spring back. You can leave the damaged seedlings in place for a few weeks to see if they come back; if they don’t, take them out of the garden and replant in the open space. This will essentially be a succession crop and will prolong your harvest several months from now.

    • If your onions are now about 90 days old and the leaves are turning from green to yellow, that is a sign that you are nearing harvest. Onion leaves will yellow and turn brown as the onion bulbs in the ground mature. Bend over the leaves on a couple of your plants and let the leaves turn brown over the next few days, then lift those bulbs and let them dry in in a dry, warm place for a week–they will then be ready to use.

    • Onions forming bulbs will commonly push themselves out of the soil naturally. Do not hill up or cover the bulb with soil; allow it to mature to full size partially above ground. If the soil is every hard or caked, you can gently loosen it to allow the bulb to expand.

  3. I have planted a row of green onion and I can’t seem to tell them from weeds. I planted them the week before Memorial day and have no idea what I am looking for. Please help!

    • Pinch the top of each plant–if the smell on your fingertips is oniony, then leave those plants in place. If not, pull the weeds; they are competing for water and nutrients and space with your onion crop. Put your best efforts–and water and fertilizer and time–into growing your edible crop.

  4. I planted the roots of something, not sure if it was an onion, garlic, shallot but it grew then got a flower. I just let it be, no expectations. Then I noticed small bulbs growing out from the center of the flower. Are these plantable, special, baby onions…

    • What you see are not baby onions but seeds; when the flower fades it turns to seed; if left alone, the seedhead will burst and drop seed into the garden. You can save those seeds and start new plants next year (one note: if the plant you are growing is a hybrid, the seed may not grow true.) Save the seed and plant next spring.

  5. i plant green onions in pots. the 1st month, I cut the green leaves, they keep growing. about the 3rd month, it stop growing leaves, the white part start to wilt. is it the end of its life cycle? at this point, what can I do to salvage it?

    • Green or bunching onions have a life of 60 to 90 days. Once the plant’s lifecycle has run its course, you can only say goodbye and plant new seed. Sow seed every 30 days in three different pots and you will have a successive harvest of onions.

    • Could the yellow staining be sunburn? As well, I would look at soil splash from watering (if not drip) and possibly a fertilizer stain if you are applying compost tea or the like. You can blanch leeks by mounding up soil around the developing white stalks or wrapping paper around the stalks.

  6. i planted onions in July but the borehole dried up 6 weeks after planting . they started drying out we did not uproot but now that the rains are about to come can they regerminate or can we consider a failed project

    • If the onion bulbs totally dried out, they will likely not grow on. The best course is to simply wait and see which made it through the dry period. If you need the planting bed to be at full production, you may want to replant with new bulbs or seed.

    • If the onion tops are green and healthy, likely the bulbs will move past softness once the soil dries and warms. If bulbs or roots of onions are pink, this is a sign of a soilborne fungus that thrives in wet conditions. Make sure the soil is well-drained by adding lots of aged compost or planting mix in advance of planting. Once a soilborne fungus is present, it’s best to plant in a different part of the garden for two to three years.

  7. I planted onion sets last summer and some survived our mild winter and they sprouted fluffy balls on top. Are the onions still good? Not sure what to do. Thanks, Kathy

    • The fluffy balls atop your onion plant may be flowers or flowers gone to seed. Onions will flower in the second season if they survive the winter. Generally, the flowering indicates the plant has run the course of its life. You can trim off the stem and flower and the plant may put energy into root bulb growth and you may have one more harvest this season.

  8. My white onions stayed green on the top and have green round spots in them — like old onions. Any idea of the cause? We did have a hotter than usual summer.

    • It’s likely the tops of the onions were exposed to sunlight and the onion started to sprout. Immature onions are green. The green spot in the onion is residual and can be eaten.

    • Onion leaves curling: if the plants are near maturity the tops will begin to wither and die and may well curl; if the plants are not near maturity, check to see if there are any small insects feeding on the tops–thrips can feed on onion leaves and cause leaves to curl and become distorted; if not insects are present, check to make sure the soil is just moist, the leaves may be wilted.

  9. I planted red onion sets, and it is now early Oct (with threatening freeze temp’s) but the tops are still bright green. In fact, there has been a lot of new leaf growth over the past few weeks. Should I pull them even though the tops are not browned and bent over?

    • You can lift your onions early, however you will need to use the bulbs right away; you can also bend over the leafy tops–killing the green growth and then lift the onions in a week or two; then you will be able to cure them in a warm, dry place for storage. An alternative is to cover the onions under a plastic tunnel and allow them to grow on and begin to die naturally. Once leaves begin to die back bend over the green tops to hasten maturation of the bulbs.

  10. I bought onion sets and planted them in early December. I live in Illinois, zone 5. The gentleman I bought them from said to plant them in my raised garden bed and they will come up in the spring. It’s now end of March and I don’t see evidence of growth from them at all. Most are soft shells of what I planted in the winter. What to do now? Remove and discard them or wait still.

    • If the onion bulbs are now just a soft shell they are desiccated–dried out; the soil may have gone dry at some point since you planted them and the moisture was drawn out of the bulbs. It’s best to replant with fresh bulbs or to plant onion starts now that spring has arrived.

  11. I live in North Carolina and set out some small white Spring onions February 26. They have not grown any, a few have died and the tips of the green are turning yellow. We have had plenty of rain and I have put a little Miracle Grow water on them twice. I tilled the ground before planting, but the rain has compacted the soil. I just hoed them today to loosen the soil. Any idea what is causing the yellow tips and some to die? Thank you for any help!

    • There can be a few reasons the young onions are developing yellow leaves: (1) the soil is too wet; you may need to simply wait for the weather to be drier–also make sure the planting bed is well drained by adding lots of organic planting mix or aged compost; (2) the weather or the nights are too chilly; young onions can be set back by temperatures below 50F; place a floating row cover over the plant to protect them from chill until they grow up a bit; (3) too much nitrogen; pull back on the Miracle Gro fertilizer–more fertilizer is not better; feeding the onions once early in the season is enough. If the onions don’t make it, you have plenty of season to replant.

  12. Hey I’m growing both sweet and green onions in a few pots and started them from seeds. Everything looks like they are growing nicely but it seems as if they just wanna fall over and nap. I made sure to plant the seeds at the right depth but I believe the wind got to them. What can I do, I’ve tried gently standing them up and trying to very loosely put a little dirt around them at the base. They only maybe 3 inches tall and very thin still. Maybe a month old at max. Same with my chives but they much taller.

    • Wind can cause plants to lean or fall over; wind can draw moisture from leaves leaving plants to struggle. Since your onions are growing in pots, you can protect them from wind by placing a small tomato cage in each pot and partially wrapping the lower section of the cage with plastic wrap. This will protect plants from the wind and keep them warm–which should promote growth.

    • Onions purchased in a grocery store may have been treated with a spray that will prevent germination or growth of new stems. If the onion was purchased at a farm market or was not treated then new stem growth may occur. If the bulb is dry and desiccated then it may no longer be viable. Plant it in just moist soil in a sunny location; if the bulb is viable you should see new growth in about two weeks.

  13. Snowball onion sets planted in a container six weeks ago . Growth is healthy but
    stems have dropped in this particular container whilst same variety grown in similar conditions
    are upright .
    What would be causing this ?

    • Have your onion stems dropped or drooped? If the stems in nearby containers are upright, then the cause of the drop or droop may be in the soil of the container affected. You will need to be a bit of a detective to determine what is causing the problem: Is the soil the same in both containers? Are both containers getting the same amount of water and sunlight? Have you fertilized one container and not the other? Do you see any sign of disease or pests on the stems? Onion stems will droop or flop over as they mature. If the stem/leaf growth looks healthy there may be nothing to worry about.

  14. I planted the onion sets yesterday, it was raining this morning so when it stopped I checked them. The white onions some were moved together and out of the ground. What would cause this?

    • Onion sets can be dislodged from their planting spot by water and by curious critters. When you place the onion set in its planting hole you can firm in the soil around the bulb with the back of your hand. Good soil contact is important for early root development and growth. You can also place light floating row cover over the planting bed for a few weeks; this protect sets from birds and critters and heavy rain.

  15. I planted, what I believe to be walla walla onions, last spring. I never harvested them because they never got big. This spring, without any intervention from me, I had two pop back up. I live in Colorado, and our spring is a little unpredictable. We had snow a couple weeks ago. Anyway, they were growing pretty nicely, but the leaves are long and skinny. Then shortly after they started, the leaves began to wilt. I think it may be that the “garden” area I have is too shaded. I’m also concerned about the fact that they are sprouting in the same location as where I had planted them last year. Are my concerns valid? Also, I wanted to know if I could pull them and replant them in a new location since it is still May?

    • Onions will grow best in full-sun locations, 8 or more hours a day. You can lift them and transplant them to the new location. Use a garden fork to lift the bulbs being careful not to cut or nick them.

    • Sulfur compounds in onions called allithiolanes can cause an onion to taste bitter. These are different than a sulfur compound called lachrymatory factor which will cause your eyes to water. Allithiolanes compounds are exacerbated by injury to the onion according to research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. To remove the bitter taste submerge the onions in a bowl of cold or ice water. Let them sit for at least ten minutes, stirring once or twice, before draining and using them in your recipe.

  16. Dear sir myn 2months onions leaves turning to Yellow colour due to rain what’s The solution for that or which fertilizer want to use for green leaves

    • If the onion leaves are yellowing from too much water, it may be too late to save them this season. Place an A-frame over the planting bed and drape the frame with clear plastic; additional rainfall will run off to the side of the planting bed, not into the bed. Plant in raised beds when possible; raised beds are quicker draining. Nitrogen will support green growth, but if the roots are waterlogged nitrogen will not reverse the damage to the roots.

  17. I have grown some spring onions in containers, They were growing good without any problem. but after 3 months, the green leaves begin to turn yellow/brown at the tips and some of them turn brown half way along the side way of the leave. What causes this problem? What can I do to prevent from the brown streak (it looks dry) running along on the side of leave? Thank you much.

    • Green onions at 3 months old may be reaching the end of their life–which will be marked by leaves turning yellow and then brown. Green onions are a cool-season crop and if temperatures are warmer than 85F then they simply may be stressed by the hot weather. Other possible reasons for leaves developing vertical streaks are bacterial and fungal diseases. Bacterial and fungal diseases can be traced to infected soil but are also commonly the result of watering issues–usually soil to wet. This could be the case where onions are grown in a container; use a moisture meter to check the wetness of the soil 4, 5, and 6 inches below the surface. A good planting strategy is plant onions successively–plant some today, then plant additional onions in 3 to 4 weeks and so forth. That way you will have an uninterrupted harvest–that is assuming the temperatures do not grow too warm.

  18. We let some left over onions go to seed, when we cut the flower top of off one of the red onions we found little onion bulbs growing. What causes that?

    • The little onions you found at the top of the onion–where the flowers once were–are onion seeds; they are flowers gone to seed. You can save those little onions in a dry, cool place and replant them next season.

  19. Dear Sir, started using my cured onions and some of the large ones have rotted layers within. or rotted center. i’m wondering if the very wet june we had in maine is the cause of the problem? when i cured them they seemed to be fine. thank you.

    • Here are a few tips to cure and store onions: (1) the best keepers will be late maturing with thin necks; (2) let onions mature in place; when half the tops are fallen over naturally, knock down the rest of the tops; let the plants dry for another week in the ground; (3) pull up bulbs on a dry day and spread them on a screen to cure in the sun for seven days; (4) cut the tops off leaving a one inch stub; then spread the bulbs to continue curing in a dry, shady place for two to three weeks; (5) then put the bulbs in a mesh bag or slatted crate and keep them cool and dry at 32 to 50F with about 60 percent humidity. Thick necked onions are generally poor keepers; use them; don’t store them.

  20. I have bunching greens onions that I planted about 6 weeks ago they have grown to about 4 inches but are thin and the tops are now wilting and white/brown color. They have full sun and I water them once a week they are indoors so no risk of pests. Is there something else I should be doing to increase my yield as well as quality.

    • Move them into a larger container of organic potting mix. Keep the soil just moist; water from the bottom up. Set the container in a saucer and let the soil wick up water for 30 minutes. Then set the container where it can easily drain. You may need a grow light or fluorescent tubes if you plan to continue to grow the onions indoors. Keep the light about 6 inches above the plant. Burnt tips can be from not enough water or refracted light coming through the window.

  21. when I plant and harvest onions about one third of them have inverted roots so you have to cut part of the onion off inorder to cut off the root any ideas ?

    • The onion roots may have hit hardpan (hard soil) or an object in the soil and were not able to grow deep. Turn the soil to 12 or more inches deep ahead of planting and remove any pebbles. Keep the soil just moist–but not wet. Roots follow moisture and the deeper you water the deeper the roots will grow.

  22. I have ordered my starts from the same company, Dixondale, for years. This year when the starts came they were stiff with the outer leaves dried around the inner leaves making them as stiff as a pencil. I was told this was normal and that people like bigger sets and the problem would resolve. It didn’t resolve and all the plants are stunted. They replaced 2 of six varieties and those plants are growing beautifully. Has anyone had this problem with dried outer leaves on onion starts? Poor little onions are strangling themselves.

  23. I am growing giant onions, and the tips of some of the leafs have turned Brown like they have been exposed to strong sunlight which often have not, overall the plants are a deep green and appear Very healthy, can someone please tell me what the problem is I want nip it in the bud now, thank you.

    • Browning leaf tips may indicate (1) cold temperatures; the new growth experienced frostbite; (2) uneven watering; the soil went dry and the new growth was affected first; (3) too much nitrogen in the soil; a fertilizer burn. If the plants are healthy and the water moderate, there will be no longterm damage to the plant.

  24. Help! I propagated green onions from store bought ones, and they seemed to sprout fine, so I moved them to soil. They are in a garden box with basil,carrot, and celery plants, but they are evenly spaced and for some reason they are wilting/graying at the tips and getting floppy. I water them every day, but how much should I be watering them? (They are around 3-4 in) also, how much sun should they get ? (This is in Hawaii, and I feel like direct sun wilts them)

    • The soil should be just moist, not wet, not dry. While the plants are small and the roots are shallow you can spritz the soil with water daily. As the plants grow taller and the roots deeper you can water less frequently, at first every other day and then every few days–as the roots grow deeper. If noonday sun is intense, place a piece of shade cloth directly above the seedlings; this will shield the plants from direct overhead sun but allow them to still get plenty of indirect morning and late afternoon sun.

  25. My onions are grown from the root end of onions I use at work. They sprout great, the roots grow and long green stems start coming out the onion, then after the stems get long and look really healthy, they start dying. This has happened with 3 onions in a row, they look great for the first 3-4 weeks, long green stems sprouting, then they just die in a few days.

    • Place the onions in a commercial potting mix to root (this will be free of any soil disease and will likely have low additions of nutrients); keep the soil just moist–not wet or dry; place the plants where they get bright light; keep the leaves trimmed between 6 and 8 inches long allowing the roots to continue to develop without the stress of supporting greater leaf growth.

  26. My onions have been in since last October green growth is still good and healthy bulbs are not a bad size but when you press them furmly they appear softish should they be harder or could they still firm up

    • Lift a few of the soft bulbs and cut them in half; if they appear normal and no sign of rot or mold then leave the others for harvest in July. If they are rotted or moldy, lift all of the bulbs and set them in a warm spot with good circulation to dry.

  27. Planted seedlings in fall; tops are not turning yellow (I read to wait for this to happen before harvesting)
    Bulbs have formed. I pulled one up, and the center was rock hard. The top is very large; flower formed on top. Tops are big, green and healthy, no sign of yellowing. We’re having a long wet spring into mid-June

    • You can lift the bulbs now, but they will not store as well as those you leave in place and allow the leaves to yellow. If you plan to use the bulbs in the next month or so, harvest now. If you want to use the bulbs next winter, let the leaves die back before you harvest.

  28. Hello,

    I have planted some onion in a pot indoors at the end on May. Recently I have noticed that the leaves have started to dry from their tips, and they have some white and dark green small spots on them. Today I could also notice some little white insects on the leaves and on the soil. Many of the leaves are curved and some have started to bend and break themselves.
    I do not know what the problem is and how to solve it. Also, would the onion be edible in this case?

    • Gently tilt the plant under a faucet or outside under a hose and wash the leaves with your fingers and running water. This will remove any insects on the leaves. Scrape off about 1/4 inch of soil from the soil surface; this will remove any insect leaves. Be sure you are not over or under watering the plant; you may need a moisture meter to gauge the moisture at the bottom of the pot. If you are unable to do the above, then spray the plant and soil with insecticidal soap; you may have to do this a couple of times to control the pests.

    • Let the soil surface dry between waterings; this will keep soil-borne insects at bay; the spoil should be moist 3 or 4 inches below the surface; the roots should have access to moisture until a few weeks before harvest.

  29. It’s early July but my green onion plants are already flowering and some of them even have bulbs growing on top of the green part. Can I pick these bulbs and plant them right away?

    • You can harvest the bulbs now. If the weather is very hot, you may want to wait until the end of the month before you plant. Green onions can come to harvest in early to mid autumn.

  30. I started onions from seed at the beginning of march. I plant them out in the garden and they grow well but they fall over before they start bulbing. Almost like the wi d blew them over right at ground level. They have great tops and seem healthy they just dont seem to be able to support themselves. I have trimmed the leaves and stood the plants back up but everytime it rains they fall over again. Any thoughts?

    • Heavy rain will cause plants to bend; that’s not unusual. You can place hoops over the bed and drape row cover material over the hoops to shield the onions from heavy rain. Be sure your fertilizer is not too rich in nitrogen; nitrogen can cause plants to grow quickly and to be more succulent–less able to stand on their own.

    • Our onion is 10 inches. Its leaves are round and fall to the ground. And it has turned yellow, people here think it’s a kind of virus. There is no cure, please help.

  31. I planted sweet onion seedlings in late May, much later than is advised. Wondering if it’s too late for them to grow much before the end of the year. I’m in coastal British Columbia. They are still pretty small, as are the bunching green onions I planted from seed in late March. Have everything in raised beds, good sun, watering regularly (every couple of days a good soak by hand).

    • Feed the plants a dilute solution of fish emulsion or kelp meal every 10 days; this will give them a boost. They may put on some growth if the season continues warm or mild for another 6 to 8 weeks. You are unlikely to get fully mature bulbs, but they still may grow to three-quarters size.

  32. I always grow yellow onions from sets bought at the local farm store. This year, several produced clusters of little bulbs instead of a single bulb. They look something like shallots or multiplier onions. I also grow a few red onions and a couple of them did the same thing. I have never seen this before.

    • The clusters are likely the result of some stress the plant experienced–crowded sets at planting time, temperatures too hot during the season, too much nitrogen in the soil, too much or too little water.

  33. Hello,

    A number of my larger onions had their stalks fall over so I harvested them. When I cut off the tops it seems that there is a “gross looking” stalk which is moist and yellowish that goes down to the roots with the rest of the onion (under the cured skin) and the rest of the bulb under the skin looks fine. Almost like there is a second dead stalk inside the onion alongside the good bulb. Is this normal?

    • What you describe is not “normal”; the onion was harvested late; the plant moved on to re-growing a new plant–using the stored energy in the bulb to sprout again. This is the natural course of onion growth and regrowth. Harvest earlier before the stalks fall over; harvest when the top of the stalks starts to turn yellow or brown but before the entire stalk falls over.

  34. I planted purple onion sets, and they stalks are huge, and I can see the bulbs showing through. However, all of my information says not to harvest until the stalks dry out. It’s early September here, and I’m wondering how much longer should I leave them in the ground? It’s been raining a lot lately too, so I don’t want to cause any problems with them.

    • Take up one or two of the onions to check how close they are to maturity. If you are satisfied they are ready, you can kick-start the curing process by bending over the stalks and breaking them; this will tell the bulb harvest is near and it will begin the natural curing process ahead of your harvest.

    • Garlic roots store nutrients as they mature; this allows them to grow new plants the following year. Immature bulbs may sprout, but the plants will not be strong growers.

    • Check the daylength requirement of the variety you planted; if the daylength does not match your location, bulbs can be small. Also, thin onions to 4 or more inches apart when you are growing them for size.

    • Like other bulb plants, the onion will orient its growth to sunlight. An onion planted upside down or sideways will still grow; the stems will turn upwards toward the sun. This “behavior” is known as phototropism.

  35. Hi there! Question question. I placed the rooted end of an onion into some water a few weeks ago indoors. Now it’s about 10 inches tall. Is it late to move them outdoors?

    • Transplant the rooted onion into a deep container with potting soil then begin to harden it off outdoors–expose the plant to a few hours of sunlight each day for 4 to 5 days before setting it out in the garden.

  36. I live in PA in zone 6a. I transplanted onions this week and all the leaves are laying on the dirt. Is this just shock or did I do something wrong? This is my first year growing them.

    • Transplant shock can occur if the roots were disturbed in transplanting, also if the temperature is too cold at night. Give the plants a boost with a dilute solution of fish emulsion or B1.

  37. Hey i have planted an onion. It started growing well but now the leaves are turning yellow and it looks unhealthy. I watered it everyday and put it under the hot. My country is hot. Do you guys have any ideal what happen to my onion plant? I need help thanks

    • Yellow onion leaves can be an indication of too much or too little water. If you have been watering every day, it is likely the roots are too wet. Be sure your soil is well drained. Allow the surface of the soil to just dry between waterings. If the plant is still a seedling you may want to start again; if it is a mature plant give it a nutrient boost with a dilute solution of fish emulsion or kelp meal.

  38. I planted my onion set about a month ago. They have about 2 inch green tops but I felt the bulbs today and they are soft. What does this mean and should I pull them and plant new sets before its to late to grow

    • Succession planting is always a good idea; plant additional sets. Softness of the bulbs can be a sign of too much moisture in the soil or rot caused by soilborne disease. If disease has occurred in the planting bed, plant in another location for two years.

  39. My green onions are in water in a glass jar and indoors, they were healthy, but suddenly roots turned pink and they look like they are dying. I changed out the water every few days too. What could have gone wrong?

    • Transplant the seedlings into an organic potting soil so they can start taking up nutrients. Set them where they get bright sunlight most of the day–or under a grow light. Roots turning pink may be an indication of the start of a fungal or bacterial disease. (If that is the case, there’s nothing to be done.)

  40. My green onions are tough and some are very strong. We did plant two or three different kinds so I’m not sure which was strong or if it was a certain kind that was tough. We planted red, white and yellow

    • Strong taste and tough fiber growth in green onions can occur when the soil moisture is insufficient; it can also be an indication of plants suffering from hot weather or that it has stayed in the garden past maturity. Keep the soil evenly moist and harvest at or before the days to maturity for the variety you are growing.

  41. Early in the Missouri spring I planted white onion bulbs. They grew well and as I have always heard, i pulled them before the first July rain. They seemed fine, tops dried, etc. however, the “onions” are now “green”, What is the cause and are they okay to use?

    • Your harvested bulb onions were exposed to sunlight or a human light source (light bulb). To avoid white onions turning green, store them in a dark place. An onion bulb is a modified leaf. It is usually surrounded by a dry skin. If the flesh of the bulb is exposed to sunlight it will do its job of converting carbon dioxide to energy–called photosynthesis. The chlorophyll in the leaf tissue is turning green. You can eat the bulb, but it may have some bitter flavor.

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