Grow Onions From Discarded Onion Bottoms




This Instructable outlines how to grow fresh onion plants from discarded onion bottoms that would otherwise be thrown in the trash.  You can theoretically create an endless supply of onions without ever having to buy bulbs or seeds, and if you're as big of an onion lover in the kitchen as I am, you'll have a full bed of onions in no time.

3 Week Update:
New roots have formed on the example onion used in this Instructable, and the starts of leaves are forming which can be seen by the two distinct rises at the top of the onion.  This onion will more than likely form two plants just like fully formed example on this Intro page.

4 Week Update:
New leaves are forming above the soil, and it's clear that this plant will be able to be divided.  It has now gone through a hard freeze in its pot sitting on a growing table.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:
  • Onion
  • Clean Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Starter Pot with Potting Soil (optional)

Step 2: Slice Off Onion Bottom

Chop off the onion bottom with all the roots still intact.  The more of a bottom you leave on, the better.  Try for 1.5"-2" of attached "meat".

Allow to dry for a few hours to a couple days in a shaded, well-ventilated area to allow for callousing.

Note:  You might only need a few hours for callousing.  If the cut portions are dry to the touch and slightly shriveled, it very well might be calloused enough.

Note:  I'm skipping the dry time for this Instructable.

Step 3: Potting

Fill the starter pot 2/3 of the way full and compact.

Create an indentation in the center to cradle the onion bottom and allow for good soil contact.

Cover with 1-2" of soil.

Water as needed.

Note:  You can skip the starter pot if you can't be bothered and plant it directly in the ground.

Step 4: Finish

Once the onion bottom has developed a few leaves, remove from the pot.

Remove old onion scales.

Separate plants as needed by slicing between plants and leaving a portion of the roots attached.  You may have more than 1 plant develop from a single onion bottom.

Replant in a prepared growing bed.

Cut leaves down to 1/3 of the size to allow the bulb to develop.  This might seem harsh, but the onion will regrow those leaves with less stress.

Repeat the process.  Harvest as green onions or fully developed mature onions.

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246 Discussions


Question 2 months ago

Can the other half of the onion be used to sprout new growth as well? I've placed the other half in water before and have seen it grown new shoots, wonder if it will turn to roots eventually


Question 6 months ago on Step 2

Will cutting off a bit of the root inhibit growth?


5 years ago on Introduction

I've been doing this for a while now. The onion's new growth will always be from the center area of the onion, so you can peel away most of the old grow before you put it into the soil. I also plant the tops of pineapples. Just pull green part off and tear back the bottom half inch of leaves to expose more of the stalk and then stick it in about a half an inch of water for a couple of days. When the roots have grown out to where they could start utilizing the soil, put them in the soil. They are extremely unfussy. I grow them successfully in medium sized containers and I don't even have to water them. I also grow cumin, fenugreek and mustard from my spice cabinet. I have a three year old avocado tree that I grew from an avocado pit. I grow store bought ginger and turmeric as well. Also shallots, celery and of course onions. I'm in an apartment and the plants are all outdoors (except I just brought in my celery, thanks to advice below) and no one complains. The key to success is the quality of the soil. You have to have container mix if you plant in containers, not "top soil". Gardening is soooo rewarding.

17 replies

Reply 8 months ago

Hi i was wondering if you can share with me how to grow herbs from the cabinet? This is my first year gardening and so far its been challenging even though theres no where else i want to be but in my garden. Thanks in advance.

Thanks so much for this information. I am dying to try container gardening, and it encourages me that you are doing it successfully here in Florida. I've hesitated to try because of how awful our soil is and I've been unsure where to even buy good soil for container gardening.

Home Depot.

Unfortunately I live in an apartment and have to keep the plants close to the house where they don't get enough sun. :(

I'm in a house and thankfully have space in both sun and shade but my problem is I don't know enough about gardening to know what grows best in which setting. My mama could grow anything, but she's been gone 8 years now and I have a black thumb. :(

Perhaps you should find a nursery in your area and tell them what you want to do and then take their advice, Maybe start with one or two plants until you get the hang of it.

With containers, the way you know when it is time to water (if it hasn't rained) is to put your finger into the dirt about an inch down. It should feel damp there. If it feels bone dry or almost bone dry then it needs water. Otherwise, don't because you'll over-water it.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

In my place, light is also an issue. I re-grow a lot of veggies with an inexpensive gooseneck lamp. Much to my surprise, bunches of basil and cilantro in glasses of water have rooted and grown into vibrant plants

in organic potting soil.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Great! Well be sure and use the new compact fluorescent bulbs because they are actually the same light value as sunlight, unlike the incandescents, and they are a lot cheaper and environmentally friendly to operate.


Never buy or use compact fluorescent bulbs - for any purpose. The science is very clear and voluminous. They damage health and the environment through their entire life-cycle, from manufacture through usage and discard. During usage, they produce unheathy transients in wiring, also referred to as "dirty electricity". They also produce high levels of unhealthful 60 (0r 50, in EU) Hz fields, relative to same-wattage incandescent bulbs. Their light is digital, like a strobe, which is disruptive to brain function and to the corresponding functions in plants. By contrast the light of incandescents is rather constant, closely approximating the signal of natural sunlight. Compact fluorescents do not last as long as most incandescents, needing more frequent replacement; and they expose humans, animals and plants to toxic mercury vapors when broken. Although their combined energy usage is often less than that of incandescents, their dysfunction is more frequent. Don't fall for the compact bulb industry's green-masking! There is NOTHING green about toxic, hazardous compact fluorescent bulbs!


Reply 2 years ago

I am not a big fan of CFL's now that LED bulbs have come down in price, but you are making some significantly incorrect claims.

1.) Incandescents are far, far from the 'signal of natural sunlight'. Just because they are simple doesn't mean they are close to full-spectrum. Anyone who grows (or tries to grow) plants with incandescent bulbs is misinformed.

2.) "Dirty electricity"--This sounds like a misuse of the term 'dirty'. As far as I know, dirty electricity refers to inconsistent frequency (i.e. variation from 60.000 Hz) in the mains power. This is caused at the generating station, not caused by use of electricity. AC electricity has a frequency of 60 hz whether its going through a hair dryer, a CFL, or an incandescent bulb.

3.) You claim that CFL's disrupt brain function. Hmmm. OK, even if that is true (and I am skeptical of your 'voluminous science'), what exactly do you mean by the "corresponding [brain] function in plants"? Plants don't have brain functions. They have chlorophyl, which carries out photosynthesis when a photon strikes it. Whether those photons arrive in a steady stream or a pulsed fashion doesn't seem to matter.


Reply 2 years ago

When the ballast of a florescent tube is failing they create a strobe affect and this may be what Ryan is talking about. I have read about the problems caused by this.


Reply 1 year ago

Fluorescent lights always flash just usually you aren't aware of it and you're right when the bulb or ballast is failing the flashing gets more noticeable. In the USA they flash at the same 60hz as our power system, with old tube tech monitors the refresh rate needed to be higher than 60hz or your screen would have lovely black bands moving down the screen under fluorescent light.


Reply 1 year ago

Flourescents are never allowed in my home or work environment and stores or businesses that use them in large quantities I avoid like the plague. My reasoning is quite simple and somewhat unusual, I am allergic to fluorescent lighting. It brings on not only physical symptoms but also neurological and emotional problems. Therefore, everything I grow is with either natural light or plain old fashion light bulbs. Additionally, I ran. an interior plantscaping business and 99 % of my clients did not have fluorescent. This few that did actually had problems with their plants thriving. Just a bit of f.y.I. .


Reply 1 year ago

CFL's can produce light a lot closer to the blue spectrum than any incandescent light can and for less money and they hands down last longer. Any photographer will tell you that incandescents tend way more to red, ever take a photo indoors with a film camera (using daylight film) and get that nasty yellow cast to your photos, that's because incandescent light is nowhere near daylight temperature. Today we don't have that problem because digital cameras automatically white balance for the light in the room. I agree with you that LED bulbs are da bomb but so far I have yet to see a LED bulb that is on the cheap side that can produce light close to daylight spectrum, I know they exist but they are generally a sort of panel setup not something you plug into your lamp and very very expensive. So for now, if you need near daylight color light and can't afford a few grand for a professional setup cfl is it.

A friend had an indoor garden using cfl, he had blue for one cycle and red for the other (grow vs. bloom) the plants did well without spending three grand for something like a mercury vapor tech bulb which needed an expensive ballast and sucked a lot of power and made a LOT of heat as well. I think by noise he means the ballast may make "noise" on the circuit which only some very sensitive equipment would be bothered by. In the old days computer techs would tell people not to plug into a circuit with any device that pulled a lot of amperage when it first started up, that included AC units, compressors (as in your refrigerator or a shop air compressor) or vacuum cleaners because that startup usually caused a sort of brown out and then a surge which could damage circuitry and something that created noise in the circuit might affect the shape of the sign wave in the AC current also possibly causing a problem. Tech has grown past a lot of those issues.

Many years ago I recall watching a PBS science show (possibly a NOVA) that investigated how fluorescent bulbs in the workplace could be causing fatigue to people who work under them all day long. While you cannot consciously see a fluorescent bulb flash (incandescent is a heated element while fluorescent tech is a gas that gives out light when it is excited by the small amount of power supplied by the ballast thus the flashing) subconsciously your brain can see the flashing and that could lead to fatigue. The solution for that issue was a ballast that created a faster update but the bulbs were pretty expensive, I do not know the current state of fluorescent tech as to if the new stuff out right now updates faster than the old ones did.

There is a growing belief that some folks are more sensitive to magnetic fields than others and it could cause health issues. Remember those stories about farmers with AC transmission lines over their farms who claimed their cows stopped giving milk? There have also been some reports that people who live near maglev train tracks complain of constant headaches and depression, our brains are electrical why would it be such a stretch that we could be affected by magnetic fields? In Europe there is growing support for an illness called EHS or electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome. People with this issue need to live away from all magnetic fields some are so sensitive that even the alternator in the car causes them discomfort, you may say baloney...well no one believed that fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome were real either for quite some time. Ever have an MRI and wonder why you felt so exhausted afterwards? MRI uses one heckuva strong magnetic field to literally change the magnetic field in your body to create the images. Don't laugh off the idea that some folks could be adversely affected by magnetic fields there may be something to it but I really doubt a couple of cfl bulbs could be an issue but who knows. Remember when cell phones came out, some folks said having them so close to your brain might cause brain tumors and the use of a headset was strongly encouraged. Well somebody also said that when we turned on that new gigantic collider in Europe that we'd open up pinhole singularities all over the world and end our existence too. The point is that we don't know everything.

While it's been shown that plants have at least a simple nervous system (nothing like we have) I'm sort of doubting any negative effects from a cfl bulb. Plants like light and proper soil salinity and water salinity, if they don't get it they don't grow as well and that's that.


Reply 2 years ago

totally agree with the craziness of having these bulbs forced on us. Nothing good having these mercury filled things in our houses. Can't even buy the old bulbs anymore.


Reply 2 years ago

You're right, I've never liked fluorescent lights in offices - hadn't heard of 'dirty electricity'... Found they brought on headaches and just felt generally unwell and there's a hotel near us is lit up with blue lighting from the outside, gives me a headache after just seconds while walking past at night, I wonder what that's about - is it safe?