Potato onion is a common name for a type of multiplying onion. They’re also known as hill onions, mother onions, or pregnant onions.
One bulb can produce up to 8 or more onions.
Where to Plant for Best Results
If you want these onions to do their best, plant them in great garden soil that has an abundance of organic matter. For many years I planted them in my flower borders because I didn’t want to give them much room in the garden. They never produced as well in the flower borders, but they love the loamy rich soil of the garden.
Why Grow Them
I’ve grown yellow potato onions for years in order to make sure I have onions on hand after we’ve eaten all our regular onions by late fall. Back in a time when more people depended on their gardens for their food, potato onions were very popular. In some parts of Virginia they were gifted to newlyweds as a start for their new home garden.
The potato onion is not as sweet for eating fresh as regular sweet onions grown in the spring, but they’re still good, and excellent for cooking. One is usually all you need to flavor a dish.
A White One
There’s also a white multiplier, that I’ve not grown, said to produce green onions for fall use.
Once Started You Won’t Have to Buy them Again
Usually, once you get yellow potato onions started you’ll have plenty to plant the following year and in years to come. But this past winter, I lost all of mine to the extreme cold and will start fresh again this year with ordered bulbs.
Order Early in the Season or You’ll Miss Out
By the way, keep in mind these onions can be hard to find especially if you wait too long to order. To make sure they don’t sell out before you get yours, order in the early spring even though they’re not usually shipped until fall.
I’ve got about 24 bulbs to plant. (Cost was about $24, but once you get them started it pays off.)
How I’ve Always Planted
In years past, I’ve never given a lot of thought to my potato onions. I’ve planted them in the fall. Sometimes October. Sometimes as late as December. I pushed the bulb into the soil just deep enough that the tip is buried. Then covered with a light layer of straw and then covered with another 3 inches of straw or leaves once the weather started to get really cold.
Top growth starts in the fall and can be winter-killed, but will resume in the spring.
When to Harvest
Potato onions are usually ready to harvest by late June or early July. By the time you harvest, they won’t have any live roots, as they go dormant in the summer.
Cure them as you would onions. I’ve had them keep 18 months or longer!
Change of Strategy to Hedge My Bets
Since I’m starting over this year, I’m paying more attention. I’m planting six bulbs in October, six in November, six in December and saving the last 6 for early spring planting.
Fall plantings are said to give the best yields, but saving some for spring plantings to test what does best for you. (Update 8/2019 – I planted in the spring this year and my yields were much better!)
Spacing – You Can’t Cheat
One more thing, you can’t cheat with spacing if you want bigger or more onions. (I’ve tried it many times.) The best spacing is 8 to 12 inches.
If you’re serious about wanting food fresh from your garden all year, you’ll want to start growing potato onions.
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