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Perennial Dividing Onion Diversification

A long term project to bring back the diversity in potato onions and other perennial dividing onions by growing out seed when it is available

There's been a lamentable loss of potato onion varieties over the past century, such that old heirlooms are now incredibly hard to come by. This project hopes to help bring that diversity back.

Researcher background
I'm constantly experimenting with and trying to develop new varieties for my challenging climate. Shallots and potato onions are a favorite of my family, and I was lucky enough to have a mass flowering and great seed set in 2018. Now I need help growing out it out and evaluating the results.
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
Yes, seeking volunteer growers
How many volunteers do you need?
What will you ask volunteers to do?
Grow out potato/dividing onion seeds for multiple years and store the onions over each winter. Seed is available for purchase from the Experimental Farm Network seed store ( Or if you have your own, by all means join us and bring more diversity!
You are asked to:

Share information about the diversity and traits of your onions.

Select notable strains for keeping ability, productivity, size and/or color, and propagate these selections.

These onions do not flower and set seed regularly, if yours do, return a good portion of the seed to the project.
Is this a multi-year project?
Can volunteers expect to be able to keep some germplasm (seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, etc) at the close of the project?
Yes, of course
Researcher Location

United States

Project Updates


project update by
Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - 11:40

Hello all, new to the network 😊 Very exciting concept! Is this project still active? Would love to participate, I have grown potato onions successfully in the past and grow a number of different types of perennial onions. I'm in zone 4a, latitude 60 (Alaska), snow is starting to melt here so it would be great get my hands on some seeds quick, as we have a pretty short, sunny growing season here. Also, if there is any participant that would be open to sharing bulbs that they would like trialed up here let me know and I can cover shipping costs. Thanks!

Dylan's green mountan multiplier

project update by
Sunday, March 14, 2021 - 09:06

I was sad to have only been able to get one packet of seeds from efn this spring. Germination of my Andy's green mountan multiplier was poor less than 50 percent compared to the onions in the next flat over under the same conditions, but I look forward to what they will do this summer.

Onions making their appearance, year 2

project update by
Sunday, February 7, 2021 - 06:46

Last summer my potato onions kept growing quite late into summer. Since I wasn't planning to eat any, I just let them keep going because they hadn't shown signs of dying back yet and a good number of them started splitting/dividing at their sections. After harvesting and curing them I divided those that had split into more than one section and ended up with more seed onions. I was surprised by how large many of the onions got in their first year from seed (baseball size). After curing, I planted them all out in November, mulched them with 6" of horse manure + wood shavings. Since then that mulch shrank by half and the onions are just now making their appearance through it. I'm in zone 7b ish. Looking forward to see how they do this season and crossing my fingers for some flowers.

Now to this Project but not to Potato Onions

project update by
Sunday, January 10, 2021 - 09:01

Hello All
Not sure where I heard about potato onions, probably from Steven Edholm videos on SkillCult.
Found out about Kelly Winterton and in 2017 ordered two different strains of potato onion seed (SSE & GM) from him. Have had difficulty growing out this see, though germination was pretty good. Currently have in the ground 6 potato onions from 3 plants I planted last year from these seeds, will attach photo. I have definitely had problems with onions while in storage.

This year I soaked all my alliums in 10%bleach solution as recommended by Kelley Winterton, to combat fungal diseases. Details are near the bottom of his growing log, here is the link to it.…

I am growing in East Tennessee and deal with a lot of fungal diseases in alliums. Other alliums I grow are garlic, walking onions, perennial leeks(similar to Delft), Elephant Garlic and more.

I'm going to purchase some seeds from this project as I would like be working with more than 3 different sets of genetics on this.

Multiplier onions

project update by
Saturday, December 5, 2020 - 09:33

Mine have been in the ground for 2 growing seasons, no offsets yet. Still dealing w weed pressures but this year we got the permaculture beds dressed w manure and wood chips. Looking forward to seeing how the surviving plants do next year,

Dave's grow out report

project update by
Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 05:22

This is my interim grow-out report for 2020. I have not harvested all the bulbs yet so this is just about the seeds.

I planted the following 10/12/19:
63 ea EFN Potato Onions, (grown from seed in 2019)
36 ea Matador F1 shallots, (grown from seed in 2019)
21 ea Potato Onions, grown from bulbs for last several years

I harvested seed heads 8/24/20:
253 seed heads EFN Potato Onions
118 seed heads Matador Shallots
132 seed heads my Potato Onions

So far I have threshed and cleaned these seeds:
10.4 ozs EFN Potato Onion seeds
9.7 ozs Matador Shallot seeds
5.3 ozs my Potato Onion seeds

There is also a single seed head from the EFN crop that has several bulbils on one side of the seed head.

These Plants were all grown within about 20 ft of each other, so may all be cross-pollinated.

There are still lots of seeds which have not released from the seed capsules yet, and I'm bored with trying further to release them. Since I'm not really trying to be a plant breeder other than about ½ oz of each that I plan to keep, what do you want me to do with everything else?

aphan, if you'd like to respond off forum, my address is: [email protected]

Seedling onions dividing in first year

project update by
Thursday, August 13, 2020 - 09:07

Mid August my potato onions grown from seed are now actually dividing in their first year. I didn't expect that! Now I'll have more planting stock for this fall. Attaching a few photos.

*Edit: Apparently the website isn't taking my photos.


project update by
Monday, August 10, 2020 - 07:18

Hello everyone!!

I am new to EFN and incredibly excited to start contributing to this community! I’m hoping to experiment with growing potato onions in southern New England zone 6b, however I cannot acquire any seed from the site anymore due to it selling out , I recognize it is late in the season but I was hoping to acquire some seed and get it ready for sowing this coming spring. If anyone has any seeds left over (less than 10 even) please feel free to Email/reach out to me at [email protected]!!! I am so very excited to have the opportunity to contribute to this long term project. I will also be growing Egyptian walking tree onions!!

Next Steps on Potato Onions?

project update by
Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 09:20


I wanted to provide a visual on where our onions are at currently in zone 5b, Lincoln, NE. These were started from the seed from this project and have been in the ground since ~Apr 1.

There is quite a bit of diversity in here with the sizes and the yellow and white - there is also at least 1 red so far!

Should I wait for them to dry down more before harvesting? If I just leave them in the ground and give a good mulch for the winter, how likely are they to survive and will they just continue to divide next spring?

Any suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

Next Steps on Potato Onions

project update by
Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 09:20


I wanted to provide a visual on where our onions are at currently in zone 5b, Lincoln, NE. These were started from the seed from this project and have been in the ground since ~Apr 1.

There is quite a bit of diversity in here with the sizes and the yellow and white - there is also at least 1 red so far!

Should I wait for them to dry down more before harvesting? If I just leave them in the ground and give a good mulch for the winter, how likely are they to survive and will they just continue to divide next spring?

Any suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

Potato Onion Bulblets

project update by
Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 04:29

Not sure how often potato onions put out bulblets when they flower? I'll probably plant these in a separate area, and see if I get more of the same.
Did the original project seed have a chance to cross with anything?

Resources and Guides for Growing Potato Onions

project update by
Tuesday, July 21, 2020 - 06:19

I am in my first season growing a trial of these potato onions from seed. So far they are holding up well in the heat (90-100F days) and some of the onions are getting quite nice size. At least one has pink skin. I am just waiting for them to start dropping over and dry to harvest for storage.

Having never grown potato onions before I did some research on how to best harvest and grow them perennially and found some amazing info. I am now way more excited about this perennial onion and looking forward to grow much more next year! I am sharing a few links below in case it helps out other folks here.

The Historic Potato Onion: A compilation of early references

Resurrecting the Potato Onion…

Potato Onion Facts Booklet…

Sold out on the EFN store

project update by
Saturday, June 27, 2020 - 04:58

I was going to order these onions on the shop, but they're all sold out !

If anybody has seeds and is willing to mail them to Montreal in Canada, let me know.

Cross pollination

project update by
Saturday, June 6, 2020 - 04:14

This may be a dumb question, but intended for the project organizer. Your onions are in their second year and are flowering, I also have adjacent to them another planting of Matador F-1 shallots and some other yellow potato onions I've been growing for a few years. They are all blooming and close enough for some cross pollination, if I don't remove some flowers. Do you want to allow these other Allium cepas to potentially cross with yours or not. I'm not a breeder so it makes no difference to me. If you like I can de-flower the others, but it will need to happen in the next few days. What would you like?

Egyptian Walking Onion

project update by
Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 03:51

I have some of this planted in my garden, would this be of value for crossbreeding? I just joined today, so let me know how else I can be of service.

Already going into dormancy in July

project update by
Thursday, August 8, 2019 - 11:11

Most of my potato onions were already going into dormancy in July. A few are still a little bit green. I harvested most of them, and keep them dry. I hope they survive till spring.
I left a few in the garden, where they have overhead irrigation. I hope they do not rot.

Am I the only one where they finish growing so early? Or has it to do with the really hot weather this year?

Seed from Dave

project update by
Friday, June 28, 2019 - 12:13

Dave I would love to get some seed. I would be happy to pay.

Anyone want some seeds?

project update by
Friday, June 28, 2019 - 02:53

I’ve been growing these potato onions since I bought them from Maine Potato Lady in 2016. She says nothing about their provenance. They are good keepers but they are small. They are fall planted, along with my garlic, and are currently flowering profusely. I assume they will produce a great yield of seeds this summer, (haven’t paid any attention in the past). If anyone is interested in some of these seeds just let me know. Since aphahn’s seeds weren’t planted until this spring, these haven’t crossed with his.

My experience growing out Green Mountain Multipliers

project update by
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 06:16

I have been growing these in NW Oregon for the past four seasons. I originally got the seed from and started with over 100 seeds. I didn't have any reds, but a mix of mostly brown/yellow and white of various shapes. The darker onions have proved to be much more vigorous and have stood up better to my selection.

I store them inside through the winter on a kitchen shelf and only plant out bulbs that make it through to spring without sprouting or getting soft in my conditions (8+ months stored at room temperature and exposed to light). They are planted in April and I generally harvest in August. They have been one of my most hardy and reliable crops, despite some neglect.
Really my main selection criteria has been storability. This has favored more uniformly round onions with skinny stems. Every year I have grown these, a large portion went to seed and none of those bulbs were saved to plant out the next year. Even my fourth year (2018) after selecting out everything that flowered, many still flowered. I ended up just yanking them and leaving them in the garden where apparently many have survived the winter and are starting to grow. I included some photos of what I currently have stored as well as what has been left in the garden overwinter. There are a few clumps of small onions that I missed when harvesting! Only a small subset of the seeds I originally started with have reliably multiplied without flowering. I haven't saved any seed yet and would suggest that bulbs be grown out for at least a few years before collecting seeds to select against a strain of onions that produce seed every year (and make poor storage/multiplier onions). This year I may try to select out bulbs that don't multiply or only divide into two. My ideal multiplier divides into 3-6 medium onions. The ones that divide into 8-12 bulbs are just two small to bother peeling in my opinion. The very large onions don't store as well and only come from single or double divisions. I will try and save some seed this year if anyone is interested in adding seeds from my selection into the mix.