Onions, generally, are used like salt or garlic: to add flavor to a meal. From the smell of onions in the room or on your breath, and the sting in your eyes when you chop them up, onions typically go straight into the pot for cooking, and then you get the dishes cleaned, counters wiped down and windows opened to air out that strong scent.
Some people are more sensitive than others. My friend can’t even be in the room when I’m chopping or her eyes puff up and she starts bawling!
Another association we may have with onions may be the movie Holes. Onions grow on the Thumb of God, and that’s the only time I’ve ever seen anyone eat an onion like an apple! When they come back down, the spotted lizards are all over the treasure chest and the boys.
The boys should be goners: but, because of the smell of onions on their breath, the lizards don’t touch them and they are safe to climb out of the hole and claim their treasure!
So really, onions are useful and lucky vegetables. This may be why you’re wondering about onion plants. Are you debating starting an onion garden in your yard? It may be a little smelly, but all gardening is encouraged by me!
Perhaps you’re trying to harvest wild onions, and you’re wondering whether a plant you see is an onion or not.
Perhaps you’re off in the middle of nowhere like Stanley and Zero, and you want to make sure you’re about to eat an onion and not something poisonous! (Though, if you were in the middle of nowhere, I doubt you’d be able to read this.) Well, read on to learn more about gardening onions!
Table of Contents
What Does an Onion Plant Look Like?
Wild onion plants and wild garlic can often be confused. The difference is the leaves.
Wild garlic leaves are similar, but the leaves are wider and round into a point at the ends. In harvesting, a wild onion looks like a small round, white bulb.
Wild onions can also be distinguished by their flowers. Yes, these are the last plants you’d want in a bouquet, but they grow flowers! The wild onion known as Allium candanese can grow small, pinkish-white flowers on the ends instead of stalks of leaves.
What Is Onion Bolting? Why Is It Bad? How Can I Avoid It?
Onion bolting is when an onion begins producing flowers, or a flower stalk, prematurely. Onion bolting is bad because it means that the plant is under stress.
Ultimately, the goal of any plant in your garden is to reproduce, right? To produce the flowers we think are beautiful or the food or spices we love to eat.
So, when a plant is under stress and thinks it’s going to die, it will try to reproduce as fast as possible before it perishes. Hence, overproducing flowers before its proper time.
Even in ideal conditions, onion bolting can happen, so it isn’t a failsafe. To avoid onion bolting you can try to create the most stress-free situation for your plant. Give it nutrient-dense soil, plenty of water and sunshine, and anything else it needs (differing from plant to plant).
Try to grow your onions in a mild temperature season, not too hot or too cold. Too hot, your onion will bolt thinking it’s going to die of thirst. Too cold, like planting your onions too early or too late in the season, will have a similar effect.
If there’s a cold streak for even a few days, the onions will believe that it’s becoming autumn and they should produce their flowers quickly before they die.
What To Do With Bolted Onions?
Oh no, have you stressed your onions out? It’s kind of funny thinking that when stressed, flowers pop out! Well, don’t worry too much about them, they’re still edible!
Onions that have bolted will stop growing, as they believe that this is it for them. So, the downside to bolted onions is that they will be smaller than you may like. Ideally, onions will have thirteen stems and thirteen rings. But, even if your onion has bolted, you can still eat it!
Once you have noticed that your onion has bolted, take scissors to the stalk and cut off the top flower. This trick makes the onion stop reproducing and make even more seeds. Now that you’ve done this, the bulb is done.
It won’t grow any larger as I’ve said before, so you can either leave it in the ground until you’re ready to eat it (a great way to keep it fresh!) or harvest it immediately and either wash and eat or store it for up to a week in the cupboard.
However, with typical onions, you wait until the stems have turned brown before you harvest. But with bolted onions, if you wait that long they’ll rot and become ruined. Remember, they have prematurely peaked, so waiting for them to peak at the same time as other onions will make them ruined and overripe.
The onions that have grown regularly and avoided bolting will still be growing regularly even if the others didn’t. You can leave them in the ground until they’ve browned because they will still be getting larger and becoming the big juicy onions you dreamed of!
Can You Plant Onion Flowers?
Yes! Maybe you’ve just taken a look at your bolted onions sitting in your cupboard, and are saddened at the little bulbs your garden has produced. You wanted big ones! Either to sell or to cook with, but you wanted ones that would last longer and add flavor to larger amounts of food!
Well, if you’re willing to wait another planting season, you still can. You can plant the entire sprouted onion bulb, but that would only produce more small onions. If you think a collection of little baby onions (like baby potatoes!) is cute and valuable, then that’s what you should do!
However, if you’d like to recycle and use your small onions to make bigger and better things, then here’s how to do it. You can achieve this in two ways: first, by cutting the onions up into smaller pieces and planting them separately.
Or second, you can use the onion flowers. The flowers of onions have seeds in them. If you plant the flower or just the seeds, new onions will grow, and hopefully this time you’ll have figured out what bolted them and they’ll come out right.
So, in summary, and to answer your question, yes, onion plants do flower. They produce small pink flowers at the ends of their stems, which carry the seeds to keep onions coming for generations.
Onions are wonderful, smelly plants, and of course, they’re the first ones to show us that not all flowers need to smell good!