Onion Landrace Project North FL Zone 8b

I planted onions last fall and they are beginning to bulb and terminate. Mid April to the end of May is typically very dry for us and beginning June till about October it is very wet/hot/humid. Does anyone have any suggestions on if I should pick, dry, and store the onion bulbs or should I leave them in the ground those 5 hot and wet months and let them flower next year? I’m worried they may not store for those 5 months at least if I pick them or they will rot in our wet and hot weather.


Mark R
Are your onions blooming? In my climate if I plant onion bulbs (sets) in spring and leave them alone, they usually bloom that same summer. If I plant onion seeds in spring and leave them alone, they don’t bloom till the second summer. Onion seeds or sets planted in late summer or fall bloom the following year.

Which did you plant last fall? Little bulbs (sets) or seeds? My onion landrace is adapted to be planted as seeds at the same time as they make their seeds, which is early to mid-summer. I can’t guess how onions will act in your climate, but they have to bloom and make seeds before you can adapt them to your environment.

I’m not an expert on onions or much of anything else for that matter but I think some plants, maybe onions, need a cold period, rather than just a two-season time frame to bloom. If you planted last fall and they are not blooming, I suspect it might be that they didn’t get the cold period they need. If that’s the case, it may be difficult to make a Florida landrace of onions, but I would not give up.

Best thing, I think is to decide which you would rather have them do. If you store and replant you will be selecting for genetics that adjust to that. If you leave them in the ground, you will be selecting for that. If you have plenty, you might try doing some of each to see which they prefer. First things first, is to get seeds produced from your own plants, then you will be on your way to North Florida landrace onions.

Lowell M
This is helpful, thank you. I planted them by seed in October of last year. They are also not blooming and we’ve had a pretty cold year this year. Their tops are drying up and falling as they put all their energy into bulbing which makes me think they’re going into a sort of dormancy. I’m thinking I’ll leave them in the ground and see if they sprout and flower later in the year. I don’t have many so it might end up a wash but that’s okay. There were a lot of stress factors and elimination throughout their growing period since I neglected them so maybe this fall I’ll start over with a few more varieties and give them just a little more care.

Lauren Ritz
If you have enough, consider pulling half and leaving half in the ground. See which group adapts better and how the behavior is different for future plantings.

Ray S
I’ve never had great success growing onions. Always manage to get some but many bolt too soon. Haven’t got the timing right I suspect. I like Mark’s idea of seeding at the time they set seed. I might just plant a bunch somewhere, leave them do their thing, and collect whatever seeds they produce. If I note the time I collect the seed that will be my planting time for the following season. The more I think about it, the more I like this idea.

Please indulge my weighing in. I think I would piggy back on storing some and leaving some. I wouldn’t store half because I’m a lazy no-tiller who doesn’t want to have to dig up or store a crop. If you store ten diverse bulbs (however you choose to define that) and they set seed next fall - - success, you did it. If everything else rots and feeds the soil, good data. You can still have a go with the saved bulbs next season and decide what level of coddling is acceptable to you then. If nearly everything else sets seed, eat the stored bulbs unless there was something really interesting and unique for some other reason.

This is all conceptual to me. I’m just cobbling together generalizable knowledge from stocks and software development with what I’ve read and heard from other breeders. I still find it really helpful to engage with these ideas though ahead of field testing them, so as long as it’s not bothersome to others I’ll keep on.

UPDATE 12/15/22

I actually ended up planting them back in the ground and they oversummered in dormancy. Two out of about 10 of the very small bulbs sprouted back this fall. However, I think I am scratching them out as breeding stock because they were hybrid seed. I ended up getting my hands on some diverse OP seed and three varieties of OP onion sets this fall and so am starting over. It already looks way more promising. This experience has made me think about experimenting with intermediate and long day type onions just to see how they grow here. If they don’t bulb then maybe they just keep growing, or maybe they form small bulbs, go dormant, and sprout again later. I certainly don’t know what they will do but next year I am thinking about giving it a try. There seem to be some grexes of intermediate and long day onion, but none for short day.

Fantastic!! Glad to hear it :slightly_smiling_face:. Hybrid onions are no good, eh? Is this a cytoplasmic male sterility things?

1 Like

Yes, the cytoplasmic male sterility is not something I want to keep, even if only two plants.

When I was growing onions, “long-keeping” was one of the primary selection criteria. I would pick the onions when they matured in September, and store them indoors 6 months until planting out in March. Anything that sprouted during storage was not used for seed.

My onions were not winter-hardy, and would die if left overwinter in the garden.

I grew another strain of onions that would overwinter in the garden.

Therefore, I think that there is enough diversity within onions to adapt to whatever is your preferred method of growing them. I would love to plant seeds in September/October.