Landracing oniony type alliums

I’ve been considering whether it would be worthwhile creating an onion landrace. Now is an ideal time here for sowing onion seeds. But I’ve read a few posts here that have got me thinking that perhaps I should broaden the scope to include other bulbing types like potato onions and walking onions. Then why not broaden it even further to include the non-bulbing types. Would this be just too messy to deal with? Thoughts?

@MarkReed is working with wild onions. On one of my posts he commented:

He’s probably a good person to chat about this with!

That’s about how I view it too regarding mixing wild things into my important and reliable crops. With onions though I do make an exception. With them I pretty much let nature take its course. We have a lot of different kinds of wild onions, two in particular that I find so delicious and so bullet proof as relates to weather, bugs or disease that I’d be very happy if they crossed up with the tame ones. The only bad thing with both of them is the small size of the bulbs but they make up for that to some degree with ridiculous abundance.


I was mostly moving in the same direction as Mark Reed’s approach, except I am only in my second year of growing Allium and I hadn’t put much intention into it. Therefore when I started reading about Mark’s method, knowing he is in a relatively similar climate, I have embraced the spirit of your approach.

I have found myself wanting to keep storage onions separate from green onions for the same reasons as Tom, although what that has meant so far is that there are two beds right next to each other, so cross pollination should still occur. Having been doing this just two years, I can only say that I have no regrets so far. No time for amazing success yet.

I haven’t been as successful with storage onions as with the green onions, walking onions, and garlic chives, but I put that down to my inexperience as well as a flood last summer.

Edit: I don’t see people discussing elephant garlic, but I am restarting it from two sources this year after the flood wiped me out in 2022. Unfortunately, one of the two sets of elephant garlic did not seem to do well, and I don’t expect they will have pollinated the other type. Like potato onions and walking onions, there aren’t too many sources for elephant garlic seed or bulbils.

Edit 2: elephant garlic isn’t really fitting the description “oniony” which might be one reason it hasn’t appeared yet in this discussion. I will not say more about it for the time being

Since I don’t have good storage space, I sort of focus overall on things that either be stored easily, basically at room temperature or that just lives outside all the time and can be harvested as needed, almost all the time.

Onions fall in that second group, and I grow them very differently, I think, than most people. I mix up everything, even bulbs from the grocery. I plant seeds and bulbs in late summer or fall, lots of seeds. That usually gives us lots of green onions, way into winter. Thes rest, that survive, which most do, go on to make more green onions in the spring and then to bloom. Although from what I understand they aren’t really supposed too many of them also make bulbs or clusters of bulbs, not giant by any means but decent size.

Back to the issue of mixing in wild genetics I agree with Tom

in most instances, but I love working with onions. And I love that one little wild one 've raved about already. It has great flavor and is seemingly impervious to everything. No bugs, no disease, doesn’t care about weather at all but does go dormant in summer.

And it’s a survivor in how it reproduces. Here are some that were dislodged by an overzealous helper the other day.

You can see how it clusters up, like potato onions. That little green thing in the middle is a seed capsule. Each bulbil cluster has a few of them sticking out. So, it’s got the reproduction thing down pat. Clusters, drops bulbils and makes seeds. And I wouldn’t have known it if not for the helper but look at those tiny little points on the biggest ones. These little buggers are ready to divide and replant!

I’d be real tickled to find something that looks or tastes like them but with bigger bulbs.


Thanks for all the comments. I think, for the time being at least, I’ll keep bulbing and non-bulbing as separate landraces.
I have two wildish species: Allium cernuum and Allium nutans. The former is suposed to form bulbs though mine never have. Both are perennial and slow growing. The leaves look like those of garlic chives and can be used in the same way though they are more oniony in flavour. Both can cope in very dry situations. The latter lives entirely from rainfall and sets seed generously as well as clumping. The former is very stingy with seed and clumps very slowly indeed.