How to Grow Scallions

scallion harvest

The Spruce / K. Dave

Scallions (Allium wakegi) bring the flavor of onions without the long wait in the garden or the peeling in the kitchen. Although the terms scallions, green onions, and spring onions are often used interchangeably to mean any onion harvested before the bulb fully forms, they are actually distinguished from one another as follows:

  • Green onions: These are regular onions (Allium cepa) harvested when they have very small bulbs; the leaves are good for eating.
  • Spring onions: These are Allium cepa onions harvested when the bulb is smaller than a quarter; the leaves are edible but not good for eating.
  • Scallions: These are clump-forming onions with very thin bulbs; the leaves and bulbs are good for eating and are often more tender and mild than those of green onions.

Scallions are perennials that form long, dark green, tubular leaves that change to white bulbs underground, despite being considered "bulbless" onions. The leaves can reach up to 3 feet in height but are typically harvested when they're around a foot tall. Both the stalk and the bulb are prized for their bright yet mild onion flavor, and they are usually eaten raw. Scallions have a rapid growth rate and are ready to harvest in 60 to 80 days after sowing. They are best planted in the spring for a summer harvest. In climates where scallions grow well as perennials, they can be harvested annually without replanting.

Botanical Name Allium wakegi
Common Names Scallion, Welsh onion, bunching onion, Japanese leek
Plant Type Perennial, bulb
Mature Size 1–3 feet tall, 1–2 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic to neutral (6.2 to 6.8)
Hardiness Zones 6–9 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Toxic to cats and dogs
scallions poking out of the soil

The Spruce / K. Dave

scallions poking out of the soil

The Spruce / K. Dave

scallions and mulch

The Spruce / K. Dave

Scallion Care

You can start seeds indoors about eight to 10 weeks before your projected last frost date, or direct sow in the garden once the threat of frost has passed. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. As with other onions, germination can be slow and poor. The most important element scallion seeds need is constant moisture, which makes starting them indoors where you can keep an eye on them a good choice. Seedlings should emerge in one to two weeks.

Once you have growth, thin the seedlings to about 2 inches apart. In addition, make sure you promptly pull any weeds that surround your seedlings, as weeds compete for water and nutrients. For a continual harvest, succession-plant new crops every three to four weeks. This succession planting also will help to reduce any competition from weeds in the area.

0:30

Watch Now: How to Grow Scallions

Light

These are leafy vegetables that can handle a bit of shade. But they do best and remain healthiest in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days.

Soil

Scallions prefer rich, loamy, well-draining soil. Add organic matter, such as compost, into the soil at least 6 to 8 inches deep, and remove any stones. If you are growing scallions as perennials, apply a thick layer of mulch in the late fall for cold-weather protection, and remove it in the spring when the soil has warmed. You will get an earlier crop this way.

Water

Scallions have a shallow root system, so regular watering and/or rainfall is a must as soon as the soil starts to dry out. However, do not let them sit in wet soil, which can lead to rot and other diseases. The soil should be consistently moist but not soggy. A drip irrigation system will keep roots well-watered while protecting foliage from excess moisture, which also can cause disease.

Temperature and Humidity 

Scallion seeds generally need a soil temperature of at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate, though warmer is better. The plants like temperatures between 68 and 78 degrees. They do not mind humid conditions, as long as they have good drainage to prevent rot and other diseases.

Fertilizer

Give your plants a balanced fertilizer monthly. Fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, such as fish emulsion, will keep them green and growing.

Scallion Varieties

There are several scallion varieties, including:

  • 'Guardsman': This variety is ready for harvesting within 60 days of planting.
  • 'Nabechan': This is a Japanese variety prized for its flavor.
  • 'Red Beard': This one features purple-red stalks and is quick and easy to grow.
  • 'Tokyo Long White': This is another flavorful perennial variety with long, slender stalks.

Harvesting Scallions

Scallions are tender and mild when they are young. You can start harvesting as soon as the plants reach about 5 to 6 inches tall and are as wide as a pencil. Harvest the whole plant simply by pulling it out of the soil, wash it, and use as desired in dishes. If you are growing perennial varieties, it is recommended that you avoid harvesting during the first season. This allows the plant to become established and produce a more bountiful crop. Then, trim off the leaves as needed.

How to Grow Scallions in Pots

A narrow but deep pot will work well for scallions, as the plants need room for their roots to stretch down. Ensure that the pot has ample drainage holes, and empty the saucer right away if it fills with water. Use a quality organic potting mix, and water regularly to keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy.

Common Pests & Diseases

There are several pests that can cause issues for scallions. Watch out for cutworms, onion maggots, onion nematodes, slugs, thrips, and allium leaf miner. If you start noticing problems, such as damaged foliage or lack of healthy growth, planting your next crop in a different area of the garden can help.