Wild Onions?

pappysmom(7/TN)November 8, 2005

I recently moved to TN and basically don't know a thing about gardening, plants or flowers ~ but I have a question.

I planted pansies (house warming present from my Dad and Stepmother who have lived in the Knoxville area for about 18 years) and now I have what looks like either chives or garlic growing in my flower beds. Dad said they are probably wild onions and I should just pull them out. I guess my questions is:

Should I pull these up or leave them ~

(if I leave them can wild onions be eaten?)

Thanks in advance for any and all info!

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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

Wild onions are evi nasty annoying weeds. ;-) You can pull them all you want. Unfortunately, they'll come back no mater what you do!

You can make more of a dent in their population by pulling immediately after a rain, when the soil is most. That way, you'll get more of the bulbs. I've never tried eating them, but I suspect they don't taste very good!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 12:58PM
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Thanks ~ I soaked the ground today and pulled up as many as I could ~ got quite a few bulbs, but then I started finding clumps of bulbs! Think I'll just try to wait until they get big and then do some serious pulling! ;-)

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 5:10PM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

I don't pull them. I carefully dig about three inches around the one that has put up its leaf, then go down about 6 inches (sometimes you have to go further down!) and remove the whole trowel-full of dirt. If

You can eat the leaves. I haven't tried the bulbs (they're so small, why bother.)

I found one this spring growing on my hillside that I didn't cut down - it gave me a lovely lavender Allium-like flower sometime in June! Since then I have been transplanting all the "strays" to one special spot where I am going to let them live and bloom.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 7:24PM
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Well now that's an idea ~ I'll just dig them up, transplant them to another section of the flower bed and let them go. I like low maintenance plants!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 9:16PM
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Jan_Hobbs(z6a TN, USA)

You can eat the bulb...the taste is a cross between an onion and garlic. I have used them in years past when I ran out of onions, and didn't want to drive 14 miles to the nearest store just for onions.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 10:35PM
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I thought they smelled like garlic ~ but now these bulbs and plants are really small ~ is that normal for wild onions ~ or do you think I have ... chives?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 11:27PM
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You might also have grape hyacinths, Muscari botryoides. Leaves run from 2 to 10 inches long, and the bulbs are generally smaller than a dime. The have a funny smell that's not quite like onions, but not quite like garlic, either, and come spring they put up a small, indigo-blue flower that *I* like the smell of. (Mom HATES it, so let the buyer beware! *grin*)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 12:38AM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

But Judith, her onions are growing right now -- grape hyacinths won't be coming up til spring!

Wild onions are very small -- don't worry about the size on yours!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 12:57AM
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OK ~ I'm not going to eat these things ~ I still like the idea of transplanting them to another section and letting them do what ever they want (even my boyfriend thinks it's a good idea and he thinks the trashcan is a good place for plants! Grump! ha ha). I noticed that I missed a lot of the little monster so I'll start moving them later today ~ I'm sure there will be more tomorrow and the next day and the next day........
Thanks for all the help! I think I've found the right website and forum for all my plant questions!! You people are the best!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 11:43AM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

Huh -- I didn't know that! Ya lurn sumthin new ever day!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 12:05PM
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As the wild onion gets bigger it will form smaller bulbs and most of the time when you pull it the small ones remain to grow an even larger clump. Wild onions are wonderful arent they! Dandelions too! I have plenty if anyones interested.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 12:08PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

You mentioned that your "wild onions" smelled like garlic. I'll bet you a dollar they are wild garlic. Wild garlic is actually way more common around here than wild onions. Break one of the shoots off and see if it's hollow. If it is, your plant is wild garlic. Wild onions have solid shoots.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 7:23PM
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The shoots are pretty small ~ but they look hollow to me.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 8:40AM
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Chives will have a cluster a the top with little six-pointed white flowers.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 8:47AM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

Chives have an obvious "hole" when you look at the broken shoot. Wild onions have a flat, almost grass-like blade when they first come up, and no hole. They are coming up everywhere (and I mean everywhere) right now. So if you can't see a hole, it's probably not garlic.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 10:50AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I don't think I have ever seen a wild onion in a lawn around here. Maybe I have and just didn't investigate. But I have seen something like 10,000,000,000,000 wild garlic plants around here. My neighbor has more than I could ever count.

I have had pretty good luck removing them. I wait until the soil is moist (after a rain) and pull them or dig them up with a weeding tool. I always miss some, but after going over the area two or three times I can usually get just about all of them. It just takes patients and persistance unless you have a large area with a heavy infestation.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 9:21PM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

OK, so Brandon, the tiny things in the ground that I call "onions" are flat on one side and smaller than my pinky nail. The plant, if left to its devices, seems to get babies on the tip of the foliage at the top, like Egyptian onions. The corms (or bulbs) are VERY prolific and break apart from one another easily. Therefore I believe it is Allium canadense, a native wild onion. Here's what one website had to say about that plant (bold emphasis mine):

"The native wild onion (sometimes called Âwild garlicÂ, Allium canadense) can be distinguished from wild garlic [Allium vineale] by the fibrous-matted outer coating on the bulb, flattened solid leaves, star-shaped pink or whitish flowers and an onion-like taste. In addition, wild onion does not produce dormant hard-coated underground bulblets, and its stem leaves are attached to the lower 1/5 of the stem." I have to agree with this, I have never seen any "hard-coated" bulblets, and the stems on all mine are solid. This site claims that wild onion is toxic to people and livestock, which I dispute - other sites say only that it makes cow's milk taste of onion/garlic so it's not desirable to have growing in pastures.

What appeared to me to be exactly the same plant (though found in a different location than the one that got babies on top) gave me a 2-inch circumference, allium-like, lavender blossom in June - July. It appears that was Allium stellatum, which, although called "pink wild onion" can be lavender when given full sun:

I guess what I'm hoping is that those possible A. canadense are actually A. stellatum. I can't know until I grow them out, right? ;-)

P.S. - I grow garlic chives in a pot and am quite familiar with their flat blades, white flowers, and strangely shaped little seed capsules full of black seed. The stems are always bright green and forever growing, and you can't kill 'em with a stick, even if you don't water them for weeks and weeks. They may wilt, but they spring right back when watered.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 11:44PM
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jennifer_frye(z6 TN)

I need some help, my yard in infested with these, we have more wild onions/wild garlic than grass. I dig them up out of the flower beds, but I might as well dig the entire yard up if I'm going to try on the yard. Is there anything that will kill these things? Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 10:50AM
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I dug up all of my wild onions and I would like to use them for cooking, but how do I store them to be used in a few weeks???????? Any Ideas?????

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:05AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Trimec is not just for wild onions and garlic; it is labeled to control many types of lawn weeds. Be sure to keep it away from flowerbeds, gardens, shrubs, and trees!

Here is a link that might be useful: See page 3.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 12:06PM
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i have what looks like the long green onions u get at the store, growing in my yard.(only they have been allowed to grow,so they are much larger.)They are round and hollow, tube like.At the top they have white six petal tiny blossoms along with babies clustered-they will ACTually grow shoots that turn into other adult plants that in turn get flowers and babies,ect!Are these chives?garlic? Had been told they were wild onion,but after reading the posts am now not so sure.r chives actually garlic or onions?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 10:07PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

To really know what you have, you need an expert or you need to use a plant key to narrow down what you have. Below is a link to a plant key for the Allium genus from eFloras.org

Two commonly confused lawn weeds are Allium canadense (wild onion) and Allium vineale (wild garlic). Allium canadense (wild onion) leaves are solid and have a more flat cross-section than Allium vineale (wild garlic), which has round, hollow leaves. Allium vineale (wild garlic) is the more common lawn weed in this part of the country.

Here is a link that might be useful: eFloras Allium Key

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 12:34AM
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john222-gg(Mississippi 8a/8b)

I have wild onions in my lawn.Would love to know how to get rid of the pesky things. they are in my fruit orchard too

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 2:03PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

John, have you tried any of the methods described above?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 2:25PM
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wild onions are amazing to eat.. al you need is a big skillet, some butter and whole pepper corns... cut the roots off and tie the onions into little loose knots to fit the skillet.. wash them really well, and throw them on till they are as brown an crispy as you like... i grow evertyhing form wild orchids to potatoes, and i have to say that i still find myself in the back yard after it rains harvesting the wild onions that are everywhere in my yard

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 7:17PM
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These things are the scourge of my yard. They are the most pervasive weed I've ever enountered.

Its been very rainy the past few weeks and every time it rains you can find me outside grabbing the bottom 4 to 6 inches of the plant and pulling it straight up. This is the best way I know to deal with them its what my grandmother showed me and it always worked for her. It takes a while to make any headway but now after 3 weeks of actively trying to rid the yard of them the front yard is clear. The back yard however is just chock full of them.

Hopefully I can get most of them before they go to seed. I've always called them onions but it seems they may be garlic. I've never noticed extra bulbs but I know these have been here way longer than they should have been as some of the bulbs are quarter sized with round leaves that are solid and shoot straight up 36 to 40 inches sometimes, though most are 14 to 15 inches tall. We haven't mowed yet as we are trying to let the grass choke out the weeds.

I suspect ill have another year of doing this. Luckily the front wasn't half as bad as the back though my compost heap is especially oniony lol I've pulled hundreds of them already with just as many left to pull. I don't like the idea of using poison and with the amount of them it would certainly kill the clover which I love.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:01PM
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