Growing onions in Oklahoma

seedmama(7)November 5, 2008

I know that I should grow short day onions in Oklahoma, and the two varieties recommended by my county extension agent are Texas 1015 and Granex.

Instead, I am interested in growing from seed and already own Hystar Organic seeds. I purchased them on impulse because the onions store well. Now I can find no information about whether they are short day or long day.

At this point I am probably going against the grain of conventional wisdom. Do you have any suggestions that will improve my chances of success?



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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I usually grow both short day and intermediate day-length or neutral day-length onions here in southern, OK, so think that you could grow them in your part of the state too. I don't know if Hystar will work for you though.

From what I understand, Hystar is a European-bred long-day type onion and, as far as I know, it has not been grown extensively in the US. If it bulbs up for you, it will give you yellow, round, long-day storage onions. Some people describe its flavor as very good, but it is a standard 'hot' or strongly-flavored onion and not a supersweet like Candy, Texas Supersweet 1015Y or the Granex types that are used to give us Vidalia-type onions.

It is not at all hard to raise onions from seed. I know that several gardeners here raise them from seed, and the further north you are in Oklahoma, the better your chance of success in growing onions from seed since your spring weather stays cooler longer there than it does in southern OK.

When I have raised onions from seed, they have sprouted in a week or two, depending on the weather conditions. It is easy to get onions to grow from seed, but the hard part will be to get them to bulb-up. Under normal Oklahoma conditions, I don't think long-day types will get enough daylight hours to form bulbs.

I've never tried to grow long-day onions here in Oklahoma, or in Texas when I lived there before moving here, so I don't know what you could do to manipulate the onions into bulbing. I imagine it would be hard to manipulate daylength to get them the hours of sunlight they need. (smile) Other than daylength, keeping them well-mulched in the spring is important so that alternating cycles of cooler spring weather/warmer spring weather don't cause them to bolt.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 3:24PM
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Thanks, Dawn. Since I have the seeds I might as well give it a shot. I couldn't find anything indicating whether Hystar was short or long day, but since you have determined it's a long day, I'm going to approach it as nothing ventured, nothing gained. Maybe we'll get one of those "weird weather" springs that will work in my favor.

The extension service said to plant slips in mid-February. So I'm thinking I should start seeds sooner than that. Will they survive our cold in December and January?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 4:11PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It is fairly likely we'll have a "weird weather" spring because I think that is the only kind we have here. LOL

I usually plant my little onion transplants about 4 to 6 weeks prior to my county's average last freeze date, so for me here in Love County, the goal is to get the onions in the ground by mid-February. Of course, if we're having a colder than average Feb., I may wait and plant a little later. So, figure out your in-the-ground date and start your seeds 2 to 4 weeks before that. (Two weeks if you're starting them under grow lights and on a heat mat and maybe 3 or 4 weeks if no lights/heat mat.)

They "should" survive most of our cold weather here in Feb.-Mar., but Dec.-Jan. is iffy, and the problem may not be the risk of the plants freezing so much as bolting. Here's why. When you have young onion plants in the ground in the winter, they will grow very well and are fairly immune to frost-damage on a typical winter day/night if they have had time to acclimate to the cooler weather. However, once they grow large enough that the plant is larger in diameter than the diameter of a pencil, then exposure to 4 or 5 days of temps. in the 40-45 degree range can cause them to bolt, or flower and send up seedstalks. So, even if they are doing well in the cold weather, once they're a certain size, bolting becomes a risk. Once they bolt, they're done and won't bulb up.

Some years, I have a lot of bolting. Other years, none. Last year, in spite of the very cold weather (we had freezing weather here the first week in May), my well-mulched onions didn't bolt or freeze, but I think I planted them a little late so they must have been fairly small at that time. Only 1 or 2 years out of 10 will it get cold enough to freeze and kill them after I've planted in mid-Feb.

If you have a cold-frame and can better moderate their night-time temperatures (or can cover them with blankets, Agribon-type row covers or frost blankets, plastic plant flat domes, etc.), you might be able to get them through Dec.-Feb. without freezing.

In south Texas, they plant their onions in October. (The 1015Y in the name of Texas 1015Y Supersweet actually indicates its' planting date there in south Texas--October 15.) You cannot usually do that anywhere north of Dallas, though, as bolting (usually in N. Texas thru S. OK) or freezing/death of plants (more likely in central thru northern OK) is more likely.

The onion transplants I buy and set out in southern OK in Feb. are grown in south Texas.....planted in Oct. or Nov., pulled up and shipped in Jan.-Feb., and planted in Feb.-Mar. You need to try to emulate that schedule to the extent that you can, making allowances for the fact that you're not gardening in zone 8 or 9.

Let me try to find and link last winter/spring's discussion in which George discusses when he plants his Parma onion seed. Somewhere down in that thread, George mentions starting his seed of Yellow of Parma onion in January and I think he planted them in the ground in March. Maybe he'll see this thread and let us know how they did in 2008.


Here is a link that might be useful: Previous Onion Discussion

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 4:56PM
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Thanks again, Dawn. I'm glad you saw the humor in "weird weather". It is all we have.

I appreciate the link to the Previous Onion Discussion. I had searched on the allium forum, but forget to search here first.

I appreciate all your help. I'm going to give it a shot.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 10:04AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome.

I know that you winter sow a lot.

Have you asked anyone on the WSing Forum (preferably someone in a whacko climate like ours) to see if anyone there winter sows onions and, if so, how they do it?


    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 1:12PM
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There has been research in oklahoma on fall seeding of onions. I can mail you a copy of the report but it is not available online. Basically, seed should be sown in mid september to give onions time to achieve enough size to tolerate winter conditions. However, one drawback to this method is that if conditions are mild in early winter oniond get too large and extensive bolting can be a problem. There are bolt resistant varieties that can be tried. Jim

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 6:24PM
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Thanks Jim. I'll email you.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 11:50PM
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Where do you purchase your onion starts from in Texas? Also, do you have a few varieties that you particularly like? I've never grown them before and am thinking of trying just one or two varieties this year... Have you tried Walla Walla Sweets?


    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 10:02PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I purchase them online from Dixondale Farms and let me warn you up front that they are very expensive there. For years, I resisted ordering from them, even though Bill P., who posted on GardenWeb as GoneFishin', recommended them very highly because their product was high quality, their customer service outstanding and they always ship at EXACTLY the right date for your geographic region. Finally, he convinced me to try them (after 3 years of strongly encouraging me), and I have been a happy customer ever since.

The main reason I use them, though, is that the quality of onion plants that appear at our local feed/seed and home center stores is worse every year. It is almost impossible to find a bundle of transplants in which each onion is smaller in diameter than a No. 2 pencil. Why does this matter to me? Because onion plants larger than that size at planting time tend to bolt (go to seed, which ruins the crop) when exposed to prolonged temperatures below 45 degrees. Because our winter and spring temps are so erratic, having onions bolt is often a problem. I've never had much of a bolting problem with Dixondale's plants though.

Also, I am really picky about the variety I plant, so I order to ensure I get what I want.....not just whatever the store happens to have. In southern OK, or even in the Gainesville-Sherman, TX, area, the onion plants I see most often in stores are from Bonnie Plant Farm and tend to be mostly Texas Supersweet (1015Y), White Granex, and one Bermuda red or another. In order to try newer onions like Contessa, Super Star, Candy, Candy Apple Red, Southern Belle Red, etc., I have to order them online. Ironically, sometimes some of our local suppliers do get in some Dixondale onion (usualy Texas Supersweet) plants in the spring, but most of the time I see them about a month after mine were planted.

One key to success with onions is to plant them at the right time and get them to make nice, big, lush, green tops as early as possible because once bulbing begins, it is the green tops that determine how large your onions will be. To get large onions, you need large green tops early in the growing process. Or, in other words, the size of the green tops at the initiation of bulbing determines the ultimate size of the onion bulb and there's nothing you can do after bulb initiation to make the onions larger.

If I wasn't so picky about planting at the right time AND having plants the right size AND having exactly the variety I want to grow, I wouldn't spend the extra money for Dixondale's plants. And, there are plenty of gardeners in parts of Oklahoma who found Candy onion plants in local stores last year, but I never saw them here.

I have not grown Walla Walla because it is a long daylength onion and that's not the kind that grow well in our part of the country. In Oklahoma, you will have a better harvest and better onion size from short daylength or intermediate daylength types. The further north you are in OK, the better your chances of getting some type of usable onion from a long daylength onion, but I am so far south that I don't use them.

This year I ordered four bundles of plants (1 Super Star, 1 Candy and 2 Candy Apple Red) and it cost me $21.75. I probably could have bought 4 bunches of some type of onion at a local store for less than half of that, but it wouldn't have been the exact ones I wanted to grow. And, really, $21.75 for plants will give us a LOT of onions....all we can eat for at least a year and plenty to give away, so it is money well-spent.

I'll link their website for you. Even if you don't order a thing from them, their FAQs, online onion growing guide and monthly newsletters are a wealth of onion-growing information.


Here is a link that might be useful: Dixondale Farms website

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 10:49PM
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Thank you so much for all this information! I've been gardening with perennials, roses, herbs, and annuals since I was little as Mom is an avid gardener, and I've been doing my own seeding for years, but we have very little vegetable experience, so I really appreciate all your advice, both here and on other threads. Also, I just got the SSE catalog after reading your recommendations for seed companies, and I have to say I'm drooling!! It's fabulous and I can't wait to order. I'm sure I'll have a lot more questions throughout the season. :-)


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 10:11PM
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Thanks for this wonderful info.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 11:00PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Thanks Dawn

I would like to say that Southwood nursery in tulsa gets varieties that the big box stores dont. Im pretty sure the had the 1015Y and im sorry I cant remember what reds they had but I do know it was not the same as what the bonnie vendors had. And im sorry I dont remember what grower they came from.

LOL. I just laughed at how uninformative my post is.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 12:27PM
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There are onions in the Ft. Smith Farmers Coop for $2.25 per bundle, in the Greenwood Coop for $2.75 a bundle. These are all Bonnie plants. To get Dixondale plants I have to go to a nursery in Cameron OK., which is about 12 miles away. The nursery does not open this early in the year.

I have a hard time finding quality plants here in western Arkansas.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 1:59PM
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Mike, Thanks for all of that good information. LOL

I almost always see Dixondale plants somewhere in the Spring, but by the time I see them they are picked over and they may not have what I want. In addition, they sometimes look pretty dried out by that time, and I know they are going to set there until they are all sold. When I order from Dixondale, I get just what I want, at exactly the right time, and they look healthy and ready to go into the ground.

If you only order a few then they are really expensive but if you can order with others then it is a much better deal. The combined onion order that 'seedmama' has been doing each year is wonderful for those gardeners that live in the OKC area.

I live in NE Oklahoma, just 40 miles from Joplin, Missouri, and I planted several different varieties last year including a long day type. The long day type went in a little late, but they grew fine for me. They were in the ground long after I had harvested the other onions and still growing, but the end result was that they were about the same size as the other onions I grew. I wanted to grow a long day to see if the keeping quality would be greater although I prefer the taste of a sweeter onion.

So how did that turn out? I had to throw away a few onions because a few went bad, some just split and started to grow again so were no good, but the final result was that the last three onions left were all Candy which is my favorite onion anyway.

I like to grow a few purple onions because they look great in pepper jelly, but I haven't found a purple that grows as well in my garden as the yellow or white onions do. In addition, I have to peel several layers of the onion away to get to the good part of the onion, so the usable part is smaller than the other onions I grow.

I solve the problem by buying an intermediate day sample which has enough purples to fill my jelly needs, but most of my onion crop will be Candy. It grows well, has good taste, and has proven to last a long time in storage. I usually chop and freeze onions, but in 2012 I had lots of frozen ones from the previous year, so I used fresh ones for everything I cooked or canned, then stored the rest. They kept much longer than I expected them to. I still have two in my kitchen on January 28, and it is almost time to plant again. So why tie up the space in the garden with long day types if neither the size, taste, or keeping quality is not an improvement over the intermediate types. Duh...

I placed an order for lots of onions this year now that I know for sure which ones I want to grow. Although I doubt that my onions will ever equal those that 'busy1' grows, I would like them to be larger so I also ordered a bottle of Organic Foliar Feed for Onions with my Dixondale order. I guess that I will never stop where am I going to plant all of those onions?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 3:38PM
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I stated above about it being hard for me to find quality plants in this area. I tried starting onion seeds at home.
My plan was to start some on 11-15, 12-15, and 1-15. well as everything else I do, I started too late. I only started on the late date, which turned out to be 1-16. I started 6 different kinds. They are 12 days from planting and I expect that all that are coming up have done so.

I was also in Ft. Smith over a week ago and bought some Texas Sweet onions. They did not look great but I knew they would look worse by the next I came to town. I brought the onions home and buried them in my mulch pile till I could get the soil ready. Well we have had just enough rain to keep things too wet to be in the garden. I have planted them in potting soil hoping to keep them from drying out too much.

This year will be a big onion experiment for me and all of them may bolt. At this point I do plan on trying seeds again, but I think I will want to plant around 12-1 or

Here is a picture of what I am playing with.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:13PM
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I opted not to do the group order this year (Seedmama graciously puts this together and it was wonderful but last year I kept my "fresh" onions in the garage for several weeks until I had time to prep my beds so I figured they wouldn't be any worse to pick up at the store when I have time).

I did contact TLC in OKC today and these are the Dixondale onions they have: 1015 super sweet, Yellow Bermuda, Red Flat Burgandy, & White Granex. Just FYI! I haven't been in to see how fresh they are, but I still need to dig out all the invader bermuda in my veggie garden so I am still not ready anyway.

What happens to onions left in the ground from last season? Some I forgot to pick and some had died back before bulbing due to drought but now have healthy foliage right now. Dig them up or wait and see if they might do something this year?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:11PM
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I wonder if those are ALL Dixondale, I don't see all of those varieties on their website. That was what TLC says though. We shall see.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:19PM
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Mia, last year I grew both Dixondale and Bonnie plants and could not tell any difference in them. I did have a much higher plant loss from the Dixondale, but I think that was because they had been out of the ground too long and had dried out too much. That was the first time I had that to happen. Last year warmed sooner and the place I like to buy plants from did not open early enough. I would have bought Dixondale this year if I had seen any. I may still may buy some Dixondale plants if they become available around here.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 10:44PM
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Mia, I'll bet they just told you wrong because instead of Yellow Bermuda and White Granex, they have White Bermuda and Yellow Granex. The name of the purple onion sounds suspicious anyway since 'burgandy' is 'red'. Since it is flat and red, it is most likely Red Creole, and they do have 1015s.

I checked my store for potatoes on Saturday and didn't see onions or potatoes.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 11:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It was not that uninformative.....we consider any garden talk at all worth listening too. : )

Larry, Our stores here have had onions since the weekend after New Year's Day. Of course, no one is taking good care of them, so the bundles look dried out and pitiful. When I buy onions locally, I try to buy them the minute they arrive in the stores. There is one nursery (and only one that I've ever seen) in the D-FW metroplex that takes really good care of their bundled onions....but most places just let the crates of onions sit there in the wind and dehydrate for weeks and even months.

Carol, Southern Belle Red grows really well here and Dixondale has it back this year, I think. Red Burgundy is usually available at our local Wal-Mart and it grows as well as Southern Belle Red for me. I think it usually is either from Brown's Omaha or Bonnie Plants. It is an old OP short-day type that has pretty purplish skin, but is white to pinkish white inside. I really like it.

Mia, Red Flat Burgundy is probably the same as Red Burgundy and I've grown it many times. It does really well here. It just produces an onion that is more oblate than most others, but not as oblate as the Flat of Parma onions.

Onions that you left in the bed that are putting up new growth will flower this spring because onions are biennials. I always leave some onions and carrots in the ground on purpose precisely for the flowers, because they will bloom early and that gives the little pollinators and honey bees flowers at a time when not much else is in bloom.

Carol, Our stores here have so much now that it is just ridiculous. If I could know for sure that the weather is going to stay fairly warm (notwithstanding the fact that a cold front arrives today and cools us down again for a couple of days), I would buy some cool-season transplants at the store and just go wild planting kills me to see nice big healthy transplants of cool-season plants arriving at the stores when I haven't even sown seed for my own cool-season transplants yet. I suppose I could buy some transplants and plant them, and go ahead and sow my own seeds indoors. Then if the store transplants freeze or if they bolt because of our erratic roller-coaster winter/early spring temperatures, then I'd have my own seedlings as replacements.

It is windy here and we've already had one fire call early this morning. Tim and Chris are at a house up the road trying to put out a burning tree that is on fire inside the trunk....and tangled up with grapevines and power lines. They have guys from the local electric co-op there with them and have been out for a couple of hours now.

I am hoping to be able to work in the yard and garden today, but with all kinds of wind and weather forecasted, as well as very high fire danger, I may not have a chance to play in the dirt.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 10:19AM
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I just want to add to this discussion that I have found that Crimson Forest Bunching onions do quite well in this climate from seed. These are a bulbing onion.

Little Bit Farm

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 4:21PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Well i have returned to redeem my un-informative post, LOL

I just left Southwood Nursery in Tulsa and they have the follow dixondale types in stock now. 30 plants per bunch, $2.99 per bunch

Red Candy
Texas 1015Y
yellow granex
superstar white
sweet red*

i dont see a "sweet red" on the dixondale website so im not sure what that one is.

I left with 1 each of the 1015 and Red Candy. May go back and get 1 granex.

The also had a few generic white/yellow bags of onion sets, some garlic and shallots, some seed potatoes.

Its getting close to go time!!

edit- if you havent watched their videos on Youtube you should check them out. Amazing how many onions they grow.


This post was edited by mksmth on Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 14:58

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 2:48PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I think that they sell some varieties wholesale to various retailers that differ from the varieties they sell online to folks like us. The sweet red also could be a variety in development that might not have its official name yet, or it could be Southern Belle Red, which they've sold on and off for years. It is a nice sweet red.

They do sell a lot of onions, that's for sure. My favorite is Candy--they sold 87 million Candy plants last year. That's just hard to imagine. Somebody had to pull up and bundle 87 million Candy plants? Amazing, especially when you consider how many more varieties they grow and sell. I'm pretty sure nothing outsells Candy.

If you don't get their monthly e-newsletter, you can sign up for it on their website. It is really helpful and informative.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 4:03PM
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87 million Candy onion plants? Good grief! I wonder how many plants they sell of all the varieties they grow. Maybe billions? Sounds like Carl Sagan. ;-)

The weather is wet, cold, nasty, and unpredictable. Still feels too early to start seeds. Many of us have enough seed for several lifetimes and don't need more. But we may continue to buy more until ... we can get outside and plant.

I'm reminded of race horses waiting to be liberated from their warm dry stalls so they can get to the starting gate and do what they were born to do.

I will plant fava beans and sugar snaps soon, but would like the beds to dry out a little.

I decided to order cattle panels. Chandra's photos of making new garden beds in 2011 inspired me. Decided to order all the panels I expect to need in the foreseeable future. Delivery costs are same for 1 panel or 20 panels + tons of T posts. I may be expanding more than necessary but I want to start perennials and have lots of flowers for the bees.

So that's the plan for this week ....


    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 9:11PM
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It's 2013

Above Jim at OSU claimed seeds should be planted mid September.

Should I plant onion seed now? Totally confused. Everywhere else it's in January.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 11:24AM
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I read this again. I think I understand now

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 11:28AM
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