You may have heard scallions called green onions or bunching onions. Their scientific name is Allium fistulosum, and they have white and green stalks. They don’t form bulbs like traditional onions, and you can chop them up and eat them raw or cook them in a large variety of dishes. In traditional Asian cuisine, scallions are one of the last things added to stir-fries so they retain their crunchiness.
But, how do you go about growing scallions in your home garden? You can grow them both indoors and outdoors, and they’re excellent for novice gardeners. If you’re considering growing green onions, we’ll briefly touch on the history of this versatile onion before diving into how you set up the perfect growing conditions below.
A Brief History of Growing Scallions
The scallion has a rich history that dates back over 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. They grew wild in several different regions, and they claim the title as one of the earliest cultivated crops because they were easy to grow, lasted a long time, were easy to transport, and they thrive in different climates and soil types. Scallions and onions in general could help stave off dehydration, and you can dry them to preserve them.
Scallions had an important role to play for food, but it was also popular in medicine, art, and mummification. They symbolized eternity in ancient Egyption culture, and it wasn’t uncommon for pharaohs to have onions placed in their eye sockets after they died. Today, the scallion is a popular vegetable throughout the world for its versatility. You’ll find people harvesting and growing green onions for restaurants and in home gardens all around the world. It is very easy to grow scallions.
You can buy scallions in small bunches at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Growing green onions is just as easy as buying them.
Scallion Varieties to Try
There are several varieties of scallions you can try to grow, and they’re all relatively easy to start and maintain. You can try a few different varieties and see which one tastes the best for your needs. They include:
- Evergreen White Bunching – This scallion takes around 60 days to grow from start to finish, and it’s a perennial variety that makes for a nice winter crop.
- Tokyo Long White – Taking between 75 to 90 days to grow, this is a second perennial scallion that is very flavorful.
- Guardsman – The Guardsman takes 50 days to grow, and it straddles the line between a spring onion and a scallion for taste.
- Red Beard – Growing in 50 days, you’ll get reddish-purple stalks with a very low maintenance plant.
- Nabechan – This is a Japanese scallion that grows in around 60 days. It’s highly prized for its mild flavor.
Growing from seeds or through transplanting isn’t difficult, and this is why it’s a favorite for gardeners of all skill levels. One of the first things you have to decide before you plant is how you’ll start growing these plants in your garden. There are three ways you can accomplish this.
Growing green onions is best in tidy rows around a foot part. You’ll thin them out as they grow to get the optimal growing space.
Method One – Seeds
Growing green onions from seeds is one of the most time-consuming ways to go about it, but it can be worth it if you’re not in a hurry to get your scallions and use them in recipes. You can start your scallions from seeds whenever you like if you plan to keep them indoors. If you plan to transfer them outside, start growing them in early March.
To start, get seed trays and your potting mix. You’ll need a rich potting soil. You should place your seeds in two-inch wide bands. Each band should be ¼ to ½ of an inch deep. Each row should be around 12 to 18 inches apart. Cover the seeds with a loose layer of soil and water them thoroughly. You’ll want to keep the soil moist but not soaked. When you see the seedlings start to emerge, thin them out to one seedling for every inch of space. When the weather warms up, you can transplant them outside.
Method Two – Scraps
For those who want a more instant gratification, scraps and starts are two methods that are much quicker for growing green onions. You’ll have scraps left over when you buy and use scallions from the store. However, you don’t want to plop them in water like so many will tell you to do. Instead, get your container and your rich potting soil.
When you use the scallions, leave between three and four inches of the white bulb intact. Make ½ inch deep holes an inch apart in your container and drop the scrap in. Backfill the soil around it and loosely pat it around the scrap. Water it and keep it moist. You’ll have scallions ready to harvest in two or three weeks.
Method Three – Starts
The final method for growing green onions is to get the starts from your local nursery. Take your starts from the soil and gently shake off the excess dirt so you can see the roots. Get your container and fill it with rich potting soil. Trim the roots back until they’re two or three inches long. If you want more of the plant to be the white portion, you’ll have to bury it deeper into the soil.
Your pot should be narrow and at least six inches deep. Dig neat rows into this container for your scallions, and leave around an inch between the plants. Once you have your scallions in place, add enough soil to fill your container to the lip. The deeper container will allow the scallion to stretch the roots.
Put your container in an area where it’ll get direct sunlight, light a south-facing window. Keep the soil slightly moist, but don’t overwater it because this allows for decay and diseases. Every three weeks, you should be able to harvest and plant more scallion starts to grow them year round.
Watering your plants is one of the most vital parts of growing green onions. They won’t tolerate dry soil.
Watering Your Scallions
Water is an essential part of growing green onions, and the soil can’t get too wet. If it does, your scallions can rot or become prone to decay. Ideally, the scallions will get at least one inch of rain every week. If they don’t, make a point to soak your scallion’s soil thoroughly one time every seven days. If you have sandy soil instead of rich potting soil, you’ll have to water at least twice a week because the water drains rapidly in the sandy soil.
For sandy soil, an inch of water will get the soil wet down to 10 inches below the surface. If you have a more heavy clay-like soil, an inch of water will get the soil wet down six inches below the surface. You can use a trowel to see how far down your soil is wet. If it’s only wet two or three inches, keep watering it until it gets at least six inches down.
The sun is important for growing green onions, but you can get away with different light conditions. Ideally, you’ll have your scallions in an area that gets bright, direct sunlight. As we mentioned, if you plant them inside, put them by a south-facing window.
For planting them outside, put them in an area that gets the most sunlight. If you don’t have one area, look for the least shaded area possible. When growing green onions, you can have them in partial shade. However, this will drastically slow down the growth process and push your harvest back by several weeks.
Weed removal is important when you grow scallions. Weeds will kill your scallions if you don’t get rid of them often and quickly.
Keeping the Weeds at Bay
When you first start growing green onions, the young scallions won’t be able to compete with the weeds. Unless you’re careful, the weeds can choke out your scallion crop. Ideally, you want to get a plan in place that ensures you take care of the weeds early and often. Consider going out and gently weeding around your scallion plants at least a few times a week.
When your scallions start growing, they will be able to fend off the weeds. You can use a homemade weed killer to keep them at bay. Quackgrass is one particular problem that can quickly take over your garden if you’re not careful with it.
Fertilizing Your Scallions
Growing green onions as a beginner is very nice because they’re relatively low maintenance plants. Along with making sure you water them at least once a week, you’ll have to give them fertilizer once a month. You want to get a fertilizer that has a higher nitrogen content. A fish emulsion will keep your scallions growing and green all season long.
If you’re growing perennial scallions, you’ll apply a thick layer of mulch all around them in the late fall months. When the soil warms up in the spring months, remove the mulch. This will help you get a quicker harvest earlier in the season.
Growing green onions means keeping the soil rich and fertilized. Remember to fertilize once a month around your scallions to keep them thriving.
Harvesting Your Scallions
Once you start growing these plants, it’s easy to keep the growth going all year round. When you harvest them, you can use the cuttings and scraps to start the next batch. When they’re young, scallions are mild and tender. As soon as they reach five to six inches tall and get as wide as a pencil, you can harvest them. You have two options when it comes to harvesting your scallions.
First, you can pull the entire plant out by tugging on it. Wash it off and cut it as you normally would scallions you get from the store. The other option is to cut the greens away, leaving around 30% of the greens left in the soil with the white bulb. This allows the scallions to grow back over the course of two or three weeks, and you’ll have another harvest on your hands.
For those that are growing perennial scallions, you should leave them alone for the first year. You do want to thin them out, but don’t do a full harvest. In the second year, you can lift the clump and use a knife to divide the roots. Take one or more of the divisions as your harvest and replant the other.
How to Grow Scallions
Although growing green onions is relatively easy, these simple tips can ensure you have success each time you try them in your home garden. If you want to start the seeds indoors and transfer them outside, start them around five to six weeks before the frost leaves. You can sow them directly in your garden, but this pushes your harvest off until late summer or early fall.
Your seeds should be around 12 inches deep with four to eight seeds per cell. Not all of these seeds will grow, and it can take a week or two before you see anything. The scallion seed needs the soil to stay constantly moist, and this is why starting them inside is so popular. You have more control over the moisture levels. As soon as the scallion’s roots fill the cell pack enough to hold the plant in place when you tug at it, you can start hardening them off.
When you start growing these plants, thin them out. Ideally, they should be a foot apart when you thin them. Eat anything you thin, and success plant every three weeks to a month to give yourself a continual harvest.
The more sunlight you can give your scallions, the better and faster they’ll grow.
For the most part, scallions are hardy plants that don’t succumb to diseases a lot. However, there are a few types of rot that can potentially infect your crop. Botrytis neck rot, Fusarium basal rot, and bacterial soft rot are the three most common diseases that impact scallions. You can avoid these by purchasing your plants or seeds from a reputable dealer. Keep the planting area free of weeds, and make sure you get a well-draining soil that you keep moist but not soaked.
If you’re growing outside, practice rotating them. You shouldn’t plant your scallions in an area where you had related crops like garlic, leeks, or onions in the past three years. Another problem with growing your scallions in the same place is the onion maggot. If you notice an infestation, the only thing you can do is destroy the infected plants, uproot the healthy ones, and plant them somewhere else.
Four Recipes with Scallions
Now that you know all about growing these plants, we’re going to detail several fun and easy recipes you can use with this plant. If you’re not sure about planting them, these recipes may just change your mind.
1. Scallions and Grilled Cauliflower Steaks
This healthy and delicious recipe is quick and easy to make, and it’s very filling. You only need a few ingredients from around your kitchen to make it, including:
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 1 bunch of scallions
- 8 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 one-inch piece of ginger (grated)
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ cup of fresh cilantro leaves (packed)
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- Korean red pepper powder (optional)
- Sesame oil and black sesame seeds (optional)
- Cast iron skillet
- Food processor
To start, remove the leaves and trim the cauliflower stem while leaving the core intact. Put your cauliflower on your work surface with the core down. Slice the top of the cauliflower from the bottom to create four ½ cauliflower steaks.
Get your cast iron skillet and put it on medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and let it heat up. Drizzle the cauliflower steaks and scallions with the remaining vegetable oil. Season to taste with the kosher salt. Grill your scallions for two minutes until charred spots appear. Grill your cauliflower steaks until they have char spots and are tender, around eight to ten minutes on each side.
While they’re grilling, get out your food processor and blend your garlic, ginger, lime juice, cilantro, and two tablespoons of oil. You want the sauce to have a yoghurt consistency. You can thin it with water if need be. Arrange your scallions and cauliflower steaks on a plate. Drizzle them with sesame oil, and sprinkle on sesame seeds and the Korean red pepper. The cilantro sauce goes on the side.
You can cut your cauliflower into as thin or thick of steaks as you like. Just remember to adjust the cooking times.
2. Scallion and Sour Cream Drop Biscuits
These moist and easy biscuits are fine to eat on their own, or you can create a side dish for your nightly meal. You’ll need a few ingredients, including:
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 stick (½ cup) of unsalted butter (melted, divided, and cooled)
- 4 thinly sliced scallions
- 1 ½ cups of sour cream
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowl
Preheat your oven to 400°. In a bowl, whisk your baking powder, flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Add in six tablespoons of butter. Use your hands to lightly mix it to distribute the butter. Make a well in the center of the batter and add your sour cream and scallions. Mix until you don’t have any dry spots left and you get a slightly wet dough.
Chill the batter for an hour in the refrigerator to make it easier to work with. Take it out and drop by ½ cup full onto a parchment-lined baking pan. You can also use a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the two tablespoons of butter that is left. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the bottom and tops are golden brown.
While drop biscuits aren’t the prettiest thing to look at, the mix of scallions and sour cream create a savory taste.
3. Charred Scallion Butter
If you want a slightly smoky spread that goes wonderfully on bread, rolls, and toast, this charred scallion butter is it. It uses slightly more scallions, so it can make growing these plants more fun. You’ll need:
- 2 teaspoons of lime zest (finely grated)
- 2 bunches of trimmed scallions (halved crosswise)
- 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice
- Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
- Cast iron skillet
Heat your cast iron skillet over high heat. You want it to get to a smoking hot level. Add your two bunches of halved scallions and cook them until they have an even blackened layer on them. (8 to 10 minutes). Transfer your scallions to a cutting board and let them cool. Give them a coarse chop. Mix your lime zest, scallions, and lime juice into the softened butter. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
Scallion butter will last for up to two weeks in the refrigerator after you make it.
4. Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Chili Oil
This simple and quick recipe makes a filling dish you can enjoy any time of the day, and it’s good reheated. You’ll need:
- 4 thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites separated)
- ½ cup of olive or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- 12 ounce of thin ramen noodles
- 2 teaspoons of Sichuan pepper (chopped)
- Kosher salt to taste
- ¼ cup of sesame seed paste (tahini)
- ¼ cup of unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil
- Small and medium saucepan
In a small saucepan over low heat, cook your vegetable oil, scallion whites, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Stir it occasionally until the oil starts to sizzle and the scallions turn golden brown. This will take about 12 to 15 minutes. Once you get to this point, switch the heat off and let the oil cool in the pan.
In the large saucepan or pot, cook your thin noodles in boiling, salted water until they reach al dente consistency. Drain them and rinse them under cool water. In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, sesame seed paste, sesame oil, soy sauce, 2 to 3 tablespoons of chili oil, and sugar together. Season with kosher salt. Add the noodles and toss them to coat. Top the noodles with scallion greens.
This easy and filling dish is an excellent way to use a few more scallions after each harvest.
As we’ve outlined, growing green onions is a relatively easy and straightforward process. With a lot of water, a lot of sunlight, and a little patience, you’ll have scallions to add to all of your dishes in a short time.