Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 627 Allium fistulosum

Common Names: scallion, green onion, bunching onion, ciboule Family: Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis Family)

Steve keeps a perennial patch of Allium fistulosum that provides bunches of bunching onions year after year.


Green onions to the cook, scallions at the super market, Welsh onions in England, ciboule in France, or bunching onions in most books, they all refer to Allium fistulosum, a very distinctive member of the onion family. Bunching onions form perennial evergreen clumps up to 1 ft (0.3 m) in diameter and about 2 ft (0.6 m) tall. The leaves are hollow and tube-like, inflated their entire length. The bulbs are elongate and not much thicker than the stem. After a cold spell, bunching onions send up hollow stalks topped with little greenish flowers in round umbels (clusters with all the flower stems arising from the same point), that are 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) in diameter.

There are many cultivars, including some with red skins ('Santa Clause', 'Red Beard'); some with shorter, thicker stalks ('Shimonita'); some with larger bulbs ('Yoshima'); and some that are exceptionally cold-hardy, such as 'White Lisbon', 'Evergreen White Bunching' and 'Winter Over'. It is not unusual to harvest these under the snow. Bunching onions also have been hybridized with other Allium species, especially the common bulbing onion, A. cepa. These hybrids are sterile, and must be propagated by division of side shoots. 'Beltsville Bunching' is one such hybrid, noteworthy for its tolerance to hot and dry weather.


The bunching onion, Allium fistulosum, was developed in Asia from a wild relative, possibly Allium altaicum, which occurs in NW China and neighboring Kazakhstan. It was brought to Europe in the 17th century.


Bunching onions are fast growing and very easy to grow. They are the perfect vegetable for the young "seedling" gardener. Light: Does best in full sun, but quite well in partial shade, too. Moisture: Regular garden watering for best growth, especially in the summer, but bunching onions can tolerate drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. This is a perennial and one of the few vegetables that can be harvested all year long. Bunching onions are grown as annuals in colder climates. Propagation: Bunching onions can be grown from seeds, but once you have them established, all you have to do is divide them to make more plants. When you need some green onions, use a trowel to loosen the soil around a clump, lift the clump, take out what you need, and put the rest back in the ground. If you want to start another clump, just reset one of the individual side shoots in its new location. Plant it deep, so more of the lower stem will be blanched. I've had the same clone of bunching onions in my vegetable garden now for more than 8 years. They've been moved around a lot, but they keep on producing


Bunching onions are used extensively in oriental stir fries. They also are used raw in salads, as a garnish, and as a substitute for chives (Allium schoenoprasum) or leeks (Allium ampeloprasum, Porrum Group) . We like to serve an appetizer plate of scallions and other raw veggies such as radishes (Raphanus sativus ), celery, kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes), carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus), and broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) with a creamy dip or just some salt. Every vegetable garden should have a perennial scallion patch. Some gardeners like to plant bunching onions in rows along the edges of other vegetable crops.

bunch onion blossom
The bunching onion's attractive and unusual flowers are set atop hollow round stems.


Spring onions are small and immature bulbing onions (Allium cepa, Cepa Group), and are used in place of bunching onions. The name, green onions, can refer to either bunching onions or immature bulbing onions. The term scallion is used for bunching onions and also sometimes for shallots (a.k.a. multiplier onions, A. cepa, Aggregatum Group), which are a type of bulbing onion grown for their small garlic-like brownish bulbs, as well as for their leaves which are similar to those of bunching onion. The common name, Welsh onion, is derived from the German, "Walsch", which means foreign, and has nothing at all to do with Wales.

Some authorities place the onions, garlics, leeks and their relatives in a family of their own, the Alliaceae, and others put them in the lily family, the Liliaceae. There are about 400 species in the genus Allium, including some magnificent ornamentals (like the giant onion, Allium giganteum!)

Steve Christman 2/1/00; updated 9/13/03

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Allium species profiled on Floridata:

Allium cepa Cepa Group

( onion, bulbing onion )

Allium fistulosum

( scallion, green onion, bunching onion, ciboule )

Allium giganteum

( giant onion )

Allium sativum

( garlic, softneck garlic, hardneck garlic, rocambole )

Allium schoenoprasum

( chive, cive )

Allium tuberosum

( garlic chives, Chinese leeks, Chinese chives, flat chives )

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