Should I let my onions flower?

Answered by John Hunt

As an expert in gardening, I can provide you with some insights on whether or not you should let your onions flower. Letting onions flower, also known as bolting, can have both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s delve into the topic in more detail.

Advantages of Letting Onions Flower:
1. Seed Production: Allowing onions to flower and set seed can be beneficial if you are interested in saving seeds for future planting. This is particularly useful if you have a variety of onion that you really enjoy and want to propagate.

2. Attracting Pollinators: Onions produce beautiful, globe-shaped flowers that can attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies to your garden. This can benefit other plants in your garden that rely on pollinators for fruit or seed production.

Disadvantages of Letting Onions Flower:
1. Limited Bulb Growth: When onions start to bolt and produce a flower stem, their energy is diverted towards seed production rather than bulb development. This can result in smaller bulbs or bulbs that do not fully mature.

2. Shorter Storage Life: Onions that have bolted and produced flowers tend to have a shorter storage life compared to onions that have been harvested before bolting. The flower stalks can also become tough and fibrous, making them less desirable for culinary use.

Considering these advantages and disadvantages, it is generally recommended to prevent onions from flowering if your main goal is to harvest large, fully mature bulbs with a longer storage life. However, if you are interested in seed saving or attracting pollinators to your garden, allowing a few onions to flower can be a worthwhile endeavor.

If you do decide to let some onions flower, it is important to keep a close eye on them. Once the flower stalk begins to develop, it is a sign that the onion has bolted. At this point, you can choose to dig up and harvest the onion before it fully flowers and sets seed. These onions are still edible and can be used in cooking, so they won’t go to waste.

To summarize, it is generally recommended to dig up any onions that have bolted and are producing a flower stem if your main focus is on bulb growth and storage life. However, if you have specific reasons such as seed saving or attracting pollinators, you can allow a few onions to flower while being mindful of their growth and harvesting them before seed production takes place.

Remember, gardening is a personal journey and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to experiment and find what works best for you and your garden. Happy gardening!