Mary's Veggie Garden

February 5, 2011

Growing Cipollini Onions

Filed under: Gardening,Onions,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 9:54 pm

Cipollini onions

Cipollini onions are a flat Italian heirloom variety. Various catalogs describe the taste as either spicy or pungent. A cooked Cipollini onion has a distinctive sweet flavor which you either love or hate: I loved it, but my gardening neighbor Jim, aka The Onion Man, dislikes it.

In 2010 I planted Cipollini. I started 30 seeds and transplanted the biggest 25 plants.  Cipollini grows a bit differently than other onions: the flat toped bulb does not push above the surface like the typical globe-shaped onion.  At maturity, the leaves of Cipollini dried back from the tips, but they never  bent at the neck and flopped over as the other varieties do. As a result, I harvested Cipollini last.

I was disappointed by the harvest. My 25 transplants resulted in 20 usable onions, weighing 4 pounds total. Even some I counted as ‘usable’ had to be cooked immediately because of problems.  Some were rotting, either at the outside layer where the skin should be, or from the neck down through the center. It looked like the somewhat depressed top of the bulb collected water and rotted instead of shedding water and drying. I did not expect these sorts of problems with an onion that is supposed to be good for storage.

A Cipollini onion that won't last long. I cooked it after removing the skin and next layer.

Cipollini onions taste good enough that I will grow them again, but I will modify my growing process to attempt to avoid the problems. When onions start maturing, I will harvest a Cipollini every few days to check their progress. When the tops of other varieties flop over, I will push over Cipollini’s tops with a rake. At maturity I will remove the mulch from the top of the Cipollini bulbs, to encourage drying. With any luck, I’ll have some of these tasty onions for eating during the fall.


Yesterday, 7/31, I harvested my Cipollini onions. They are in good condition with the exception of two that have very juicy necks. (Its not normal to bend the neck of an onion and have liquid squeeze out; the neck should be drying.) These two will be eaten soonest.

What did I do differently this year?

The onions were planted out of the range of my neighbor’s oscillating sprinkler – no over-watering.  I started checking the Cipollini bulbs in mid-July and discovered they were sizing up nicely and some were big enough to eat. Because the mulch covered their flat tops, it was not obvious at a glance how big the Cipollini had grown. I harvested a couple of weeks earlier than last year, 7/31 instead of mid-August.



  1. can’t find chipollini onion anywhere moved from NJ to Md/

    Comment by ginger — November 30, 2011 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

    • If you want to grow your own next spring, the seed is easy to find online – just google ‘Cippolini onion seed’.

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — November 30, 2011 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  2. can you grow them from bulb? bought at grocery store, i am wondering if i plant one of them i will get a stalk and seeds

    Comment by Ben — September 9, 2012 @ 12:22 am | Reply

    • All onions are biennials. They form a bulb in their first year and in the second year they will bloom and set seed. So yes, your grocery store bulb will send up a stalk. However the foliage is edible. Sometimes they manage to go through the entire two year cycle in one year, with a bulb harvested in early summer sprouting again in late summer. Usually it doesn’t have time to bloom and just withers.

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — September 9, 2012 @ 7:40 am | Reply

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