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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

Onions going to flower in 3rd year

project update by
Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 06:07

All of my surviving 3rd year potato onions are flowering. This is the same thing that happened with the onions in their second year (100% of survivors flowered). I was under the impression that by the 3rd year some of them would not be flowering and would simply divide. The flower stalk prevents the onion from bulbing up much like they did in the first year. Can someone with more experience comment on how many years of replanting until the flowering starts to subside? Is there any difference in flowering and dividing behavior when overwintering in the ground vs overwintering in dry storage? Thank you!

All the Seed I have has been spoken for

project update by
Thursday, February 10, 2022 - 03:26

Hi everybody,
All the potato onion true seed that I have has been spoken for. As soon as I receive a SASE from those who have contacted me, it will be in the mail.
Happy gardening

Communicating about true seed for potato onions

project update by
Monday, January 10, 2022 - 10:17

Hi all
I posted earlier that I do have some true seeds for potato onions. I have gotten a couple of emails saying someone has commented about getting seed, but when I come to this site I don't see anything as far as comments. I would like to connect with those who would like seed. I want it get it to folks who will grow it out. Would want to to send me a stamped, self addressed envelope and I will send it back with seeds. Please email me at Wish there were a way to do a private message on this site.

Potato Onion Seed

project update by
Thursday, November 11, 2021 - 08:23

Hi all
I'm just beginning to see results on a germination test for the potato onion seed I harvested this summer. So far 5 days in it is better than 50%. How does distributing seed though this group work? I would love to give seed to those who would grow it out. My initial seed came from Kelly Winterton in December 2017. I got both his Green Mountain and SSE seeds and am not sure which these are descendants of. I have about 1/4 cup of seed which seems to amount to about an ounce or something in the neighborhood of 7000 seeds or enough for about about 50 packages of over 140 seeds each. Definitely enough to get someone started on the "find a locally adapted variety" hunt. How do we proceed from here?

2021 results / 2022 Goals

project update by
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 04:17

My goal this year (2nd year growing potato onions), was to produce seeds from those that were started in 2020. In 2020, I spring planted about 24-25 surviving seedlings that were harvested in August. Then fall planted in October, 2020 at the same time I plant my garlic. About 1/3 of them did not emerge in 2021.

About 6 of them flowered and after cutting the flower stalks/stems and leaving in a glass of water for a few weeks, was able to dry the flower heads and collect seeds.

Yields of the 2020 plants were low, but it gives me seeds to start with in 2022.
I also planted about 15 more seedlings in 2021 and will use these and the 2020 bulbs in 2022 to try to produce better yields. I am thinking of planting about half in the fall and half in the spring to compare how they do.

Segregation from both batches has been ~50% with varying degrees of red or pink, and ~45% yellows. There was 1 white bulb (~2%)

My original seeds were from the Cultivariable Participatory Breeding Project (OSSI pledged), so they are not directly from EFN, but I believe EFN was probably a contributing source.

I am in Rhode Island (USA), on the edge of zone 6b/7a.

Some Success in 2021

project update by
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 02:07

I bought some seeds from EFN back in January 2021:
I am in zone 7 (Maryland). I had pretty poor germination, only about 10 plants sprouted.
-Planted them indoors on 05 February
-Transplanted outside on 09 March
-Harvested 8 plants on 16 July
(Note: They did survive quite a bit of onion maggot pressure in the late spring).
There is definitely some variation in size, color and shape of the resulting bulbs. See photo. They are not huge, the largest is about 1.5 inches in diameter.
I plan to plant these in the ground later this month to overwinter them and see what happens in the spring. If I do get more bulbs or seeds, I'd be happy to share. I will keep you posted.

Need Advice on when to collect Potato Onion Seed

project update by
Friday, July 9, 2021 - 06:37

Hi all,
I have 8 large potato onion seed heads and am trying to figure out how long I need to leave them, some of them are trying to fall over. Currently the seeds inside the seed capsules are black but very juicy. Can I bring them in now or do I need to leave them outside until the seed is dry and the capsules begin to split. I live in a humid, high rain area in East TN. I did bring in several other seed heads that had fallen over, but the seed in them does not appear to be maturing. If they dry down I will do germination tests to see if they are live.

Attaching a photo. The lavender seed heads in the background are elephant garlic.


project update by
Sunday, May 30, 2021 - 05:46

My shallots seems to all be blowing to flower. Sante, dutch yellow potato, dutch red, and french red. They were planted on Halloween. NY zone 6bish
Very dry spring, turned very hot. Last day or two is freakishly cold and very rainy. Hope they don't rot. I am disappointed they are mostly going to flower. I was hoping only a couple would and I would have most for storage. Will probably caramelize and freeze after harvest. Will be interesting to see a hybrid of yellow potato and a red shallot. The first shallots I grew were french red last year. I harvested shallots smaller than what I planted, unfortunately. Hope this year will be better.

The assorted bloomers are in the bed on the left. Grey Griselle on the right. They certainly look different in color and growth pattern. GG never stood up straight like the other shallots. They are also lighter green, thinner leafed, and longer leafed. They also constantly divide as they grow. Regular shallots I see, if they come up with 6 plants, you harvest 6 plants. GG if they come up with 6 plants, every few weeks they keep multiplying. One GG has 41 plants!!

Hello from Wales, United Kingdom

project update by
Sunday, May 30, 2021 - 08:09

Hi everyone, just got my hands on 4 varieties of potato onion and really excited to grow them for the first time. Looking forward to seeing people’s progress. I’m in Mid Wales (8a) growing zone.

Multipliers from Spring 2020

project update by
Friday, May 21, 2021 - 01:56

From the packet of seeds planted in Spring 2020, six survived in hoophouse. They are sending up what looks like flower stalks from the middle of fronds, not from the bottom of the bulb itself. None have more than a few fronds. Don't really know if I should do anything but let them sit, as opposed to mulching or cultivating. Hoping to bring them all the way to seed for replanting and sharing.

From Virginia

project update by
Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 03:01

Hi everyone! I joined this project and would love to assist with growing out and testing these onions, does anyone have any seeds or bulbs of these onions available?

2021 end of April Update

project update by
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 - 02:08

5 of the 6 potato onions that I had started from seed have grown well and each is multilplying into 4 or more onions. Better news is that some of them are forming flower scapes. If they actually produce flowers and seed I might have some to share here. I will keep you all posted.

The seed I started with came from Kelly Winterton.


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: