Anyone doing multiplier onions

LaurieK123(7b Oregon)January 3, 2012

I have been experimenting with all kinds of onions and growing techniques and I have been thinking about trying multiplier onions next.

Does anyone have any experience with these. Do/did you like them, tips, etc...

Thank you

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rhubarb_stalker(Z5b Western MA)

If you go to the allium forum at Seed Savers Exchange you will find a lot of info.

Here is a link that might be useful: Allium forum at SSE

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 10:16AM
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I have three types(Franz, Four Season, Stevenson) of multiplier/bunching onions going now for three years. I grew them from seed and planted them under lights 6 weeks before transplant. They seem to grow fine without much trouble. Mine are thicker in general then green onions you might find at the grocery store and a bit more flavor, but that's fine with me.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 2:21PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

dean, do you see appreciable differences between the varieties? I, too, want to give these a try and have been amazed at the different varieties available.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 9:40PM
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Over the years I've grown a number of shallots and potato onions, mostly when we lived in Indiana. They all did great for us.

When we lived in Hidalgo, Mexico; I grew Atlas, a shallot, from seed. It did great there, which was wonderful, as other shallots/multipliers I tried, there, didn't bulb up.

Here in Oklahoma some shallots I've tried didn't bulb up well, though they may have simply succumbed to extreme heat, which sometimes starts early in the season. I did purchase some potato onions from KY and they bulb up great. But they tend to cook in the ground unless I harvest them and store them, till fall, in the fridge.

I'm not sure about the difference between a multiplier and a shallot, though I suspect it's kind of like the difference between a squash and a pumpkin. My theory is that "shallot" refers to a size and possible shape of a multiplier onion; and that "multiplier" is a much broader term, simply referring to the manner in which they divide under ground. Those which have bulbed for me have been great. They are much less finicky about planting time and conditions than are onions grown from seed. The potato onions we grew in Indiana would keep in storage, almost all winter. The ones I've grown here don't seem to be as good for storage. Though the difference might be in conditions. Shallots I've grown have been great keepers. Their only disadvantage is that they are more laborious to prepare, due to their size.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 8:50PM
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You're right about their relationship. According to the Territorial Seed catalog, both shallots and multiplier onions are Allium cepa, Aggregatum group. And according to Wikipedia. the differnece between the two are the size of the bulb and number of offshoots they produce.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 11:24PM
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We have gardened in S.C. my whole life.
My father was not into small fruit or onions & garlic.
I would like to know what a potato onion is?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 11:28PM
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A potato onion is a kind of multiplier onion, mostly found in the Appalachians. My wife's grandparents raised them in southern Illinios and I grew them in northern Indiana. They are kind of like shallots, but larger. They are fairly round.

They are not easy to find, due to the fact that they are only multiplied by division, not seed. But back in the day, potato onions were gifted to Appalachian newlyweds, as a start for their new home. I hear that Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has them.

Here's a picture of some potato onions.


Here is a link that might be useful: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Potato Onions

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 7:43AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Those are some beautiful onions, George. I've tried the large multiplier onions here, but they are not hardy enough to survive my winters when Fall planted. Shallots are hardier, I grow two that have virtually no winter kill... but the bulbs are much smaller.

Been meaning to try the larger onions again Spring planted, if I can store the bulbs successfully over Winter. I'm experimenting with my shallots this year, to see what if any difference there is between Fall & Spring plantings.

There are really 3 classes of multiplying onions: the ground-bulbing multipliers (A. cepa); top setting walking onions (also A. cepa); and bunching onions (A. fistulosum). The bulbing onions have been pretty much covered already.

Walking onions don't usually form much of a bulb, and are principally used as scallions. They multiply both from the bulb clusters which form at the top of the "flower" stalk, and by dividing from the base. They are exceptionally hardy and long-lived... a clump of them might outlast the structures nearby! I just posted notes about their culture on another thread in this forum.

Bunching onions are a different species. The majority of modern cultivars are from Asia, where they are much more popular than here. They can form exceptionally large stalks the first year, some almost rivaling leeks in size. The varieties mentioned by above Dean are bunching onions; in my trial, those 3 were the hardiest & multiplied the most rapidly. There is considerable variation in size, winter hardiness, and the degree to which they multiply; those with larger stalks tend, unfortunately, to be the least winter hardy. The clumping varieties closely resemble walking onions in appearance, but form clusters of flowers on their stalks instead of bulbs.

My preference for flavor of scallions is the walking onions, such as "Catawissa". To my taste, they are milder than the bunching onions.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Potato onions do very well here in my locale if grown correctly. Plant in the fall (Thanksgiving is the traditional time), provide good soil fertility, and "never let a July rain hit your potato onions" (as the rule goes). The onions should be harvested before the heat of summer sets in.

If cured correctly they store very well, no problem there. My wife used to braid and hang them in the basement.

Potato onions are my favorite for large luscious EARLY (the earliest) green onions. IMO, it's worth it to grow them for that reason alone.

For eating raw the mature cured bulbs are a bit strong for most modern palates, but good for cooking.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 5:18AM
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Just to add, these onions really do 'multiply', easily a fivefold return with an average planting.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:07AM
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lorabell NC(8)

I'm having a witch of a time finding a source to buy starters from. Southern Exposure is sold out...only one place in Canada has them and won't ship to US.

Any other sources anyone knows about?

Or if anyone has a couple extras to share? I have red and white walking onions, reg and garlic chives, and leeks that I can share/exchange, not much else as far as alliums, although I have lots of peppers seeds. Please contact me at if possible for trade.

Thanks Laura

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Good and accurate info, Zeedman. I'm in the Madison area, and have for the past several years grown a yellow potato onion from Territorial, if I recall. Always fall planted and usually a good producer. Someone told me to get the biggest onions not to plant them deep like garlic, but just deep enough that the tip is buried, then give a good 8" layer of shredded leaves to mulch. Works like a charm, onions are golfball size or larger.

I have also been in contact with Kelly Winterton and his development of new Potato Onion varieties from seed. Google him if you're not sure who he is, fascinating stuff. Got some of his Green Mountain Multiplier, as well as some unnamed culls from his experiments and have them in the ground. In z5 he actually recommends fall planting for the best production.

I also have the Egyptian Walking Onion, probably the Catawissa var., growing as a novelty, I have a better bunching type. However, this fall when dividing the WO, they had produced a nice size storage structure underground, about the size of a good shallot, which I cleaned and am curing now for use this winter. A very hot flavor when green, but curing them seems to mellow them.

My bunching onion came from seed from a friend, variety long gone, but it is the best scallion / green onion / bunching onion that I have tried. Also a pretty vigorous seed producer. It is the last thing green in the fall, and the first thing green in the spring, and if I dig around under the snow, I can usually find a few to pull on a mild January day.

During the appropriate season, I am usually able to offer these to GW members, plus there are many people on this forum growing lots of different varieties and offering them as well. Keep checking back. Lorabell, contact me in July and we'll see if we can hook you up!


    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:57PM
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