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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

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.