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Egyptian Walking Onions: An Essential Vegetable for Edible Gardening


Egyptian Walking Onions: An Essential Vegetable for Edible Gardening

Photo credit: Kurt Stüber [1] part of

Allium Cepa Proliferum, commonly known as Walking Onions or Egyptian Onions, are hardy and easy to grow perennials.  The origins of walking onions are unknown, but they were introduced to the US around the 1850’s. This variety of onions are incredibly resilient and can be grown in USDA Planting Zones 4 – 8.  Every part of the walking onions is edible and provides a strong onion flavor.  Walking onions are generally used as a condiment or flavoring to salads and cooked meals. Walking onions are considered unusual because of their habit of producing small bulbs from the flowering heads (they rarely go to seed), which become top heavy and falls over and grow into new plants. Although walking onions are not common in most home gardens, they are fast gaining notoriety as a “must have” in edible and permaculture landscapes.

Walking Onions plants and bulbs are used medicinally as a preventative to conditions such as heart disease and tooth decay. The plant’s juice is considered a first aid treatment for insect bites, earaches and skin (fungal) irritations and is also known to repel moths. Walking onions will need protection from slugs and onion thrips, but deer, moles and rabbits are not overly attracted to them. Walking onions are, however, immune to the dreaded onion fly. They are vulnerable to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and black spot. Like most onions, walking onions grow well with plant pairings such as strawberries, tomatoes, roses, lettuce beets and carrots (do not pair onions with alfalfa or legumes).

Walking onions prefer full sun but can tolerate part shade (however they will not be as productive).  They benefit from well-draining, light, fertile soil. However, they can similarly grow in average soil. The soil’s pH should be in the range 4.5 to 8.3. The bulbs can be planted as soon as the ground is workable, typically in spring.  Walking onions have two sets of bulbs (underground and top set); underground bulbs should be planted 2-3 inches deep and top set bulbs are not required to be planted (they plant themselves), however you can cover them with a little compost to jump start their growing cycle. Space both sets 6-10 inches apart. They will grow true during the second year, but the green stalks will produce in late winter and can be eaten like bunching onions. To propagate walking onions, harvest bulbs from a plant when the leaves die down in late summer and replant immediately or store bulbs in a dry, cool place and plant in late winter or spring.

Because of walking onions uniqueness, it is sure to catch the attention of children or any casual observer visiting an edible garden.

*Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding the medicinal qualities of any plant as they may interfere with certain medications or treatments.

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