Growing Plants

How To Grow Pearl Onions: Detailed Instructions

Growing your pearl onions is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for any home gardener.

These small, mild-flavored bulbs are delicious and add a touch of elegance to various culinary creations.

In this guide, I will walk you through how to grow pearl onions, from selecting the right variety to harvesting your bountiful crop.

What Is A Pearl Onion?

how to grow pearl onions

A pearl onion, also known as a cocktail or button onion, is a small-sized onion variety characterized by its petite, round shape.

It belongs to the Allium family, which includes other members like garlic, shallots, and leeks.

The pearl onion plant typically grows about one inch in diameter and is usually harvested when it is still an immature bulb.

Their mild and sweet flavor sets button onion plants apart from regular-sized onions. They taste slightly sweet and crisp, making them popular for various culinary applications.

Cocktail onions are commonly used in pickling, roasting, stews, soups, and as a garnish for cocktails and appetizers.

How To Grow Pearl Onions? 

To plant pearl onions successfully, you should pick a suitable location and the right seeds, prepare the soil, plant them 8 weeks before the last frost, and apply proper care for the onions.

Choose A Suitable Location

When choosing a suitable location for growing pearl onions from seeds, sets, or transplants, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Sunlight: Select a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. Regular onions thrive in bright sunlight, essential for their growth and bulb development.
  • pH level: Pearl onion seeds prefer slightly acidic to normal soil, with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
  • Space availability: The plant can be grown in rows or clusters, so plan accordingly and provide enough space between plants to allow for proper air circulation.
  • Protection from wind: Select a location that is less susceptible to strong winds. Excessive wind can damage the foliage and hinder the growth of pearl onions.

Prepare The Soil

To prepare the soil for growing pearl onions, start by clearing the area of weeds and debris.

Loosen the garden soil to 8 to 10 inches depth (20-25 cm) using a garden fork or tiller, and remove any large clumps. Add organic matter to improve soil fertility and drainage if needed.

Make sure the soil is moist but not saturated before planting. Finally, level the garden soil surface with a rake for smooth and even farming.

By following these steps, you’ll create a favorable environment for the healthy cultivation of your green onions.

Planting Time

The best time for pearl onions growing varies depending on whether you’re using seeds or sets.

If you’re using seeds, it’s recommended to start sowing them indoors around 8-10 weeks before the last frost date.

Alternatively, you can cultivate them directly into your garden once the soil has warmed up in late winter or early spring.

Additionally, planting onion sets in early spring when the soil is ready for cultivation is best.

Finally, consider the specific recommendations for your particular types of onions and view local climate conditions.

Seed Selection

It’s important to choose the right seeds. When selecting sources, factor in your taste preferences and the conditions in your garden.

Look for fresh, high-quality seeds from reputable suppliers that are free from diseases, and consider the seeds’ adaptability to your local climate and whether you prefer organic or hybrid varieties.

Planting Seeds

growing pearl onions

To plant pearl onions from seed, start indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. Use containers with good drainage and fill them with seed-starting mix.

Make shallow furrows in the soil, about ¼ inch (0.6 cm) deep, and sow the seeds about ½ inch (1.3 cm) apart. Cover lightly with soil, mist with water, and moisten the soil.

Place the containers in a warm location with grow light or indirect sunlight. The seedlings should be transplanted outside when they reach 2 inches (5 cm) in height and have true leaves.

Finally, gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions before planting.

Planting Sets

For pearl onion sets, select a sunny location with well-draining soil. Dig shallow holes or trenches, spacing the groups about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

Put the sets with the pointed end facing up, ensuring they are level with or slightly below the soil surface. Gently backfill the soil around the stages and water them thoroughly.


  • Water deeply and gently, supplying approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water each week, including rainfall.
  • Water in daylight allows foliage to dry during the day and reduces the risk of fungal diseases. For more efficient watering, you can employ drip irrigation or soaker hoses.
  • Regularly monitor soil moisture and adapt watering for healthy white onion growth.


Apply mulch, such as straw, wood chips, or shredded leaves, circling around the plants. Mulching retains moisture, hinders weeds, regulates soil temperature, protects the soil, and adds organic matter.

Remember to leave a small gap around the plant stems to prevent moisture-related problems.


Choose a balanced fertilizer specifically designed for vegetables or onions to fertilize pearl onions.

Remember to apply the fertilizer before planting or during the early growth stages, following the instructions on the package.

After fertilizing, water the plants to aid the roots in nutrient absorption. Then, regularly monitor the plants’ health and provide additional fertilizer if necessary.

Weed Control

To control weeds in your pearl onion patch:

  • Apply mulch: Use organic mulch like straw, wood chips, shredded leaves, or coconut mulch around the onion plants to suppress weed growth and conserve moisture.
  • Hand weed: Regularly inspect and manually remove any emerging weeds or bugs potentially damaging the onion plants.
  • Hoeing: Lightly cultivate the soil around the onions with a hoe to disrupt weed growth, being cautious not to disturb the onion roots.
  • Use weed barriers or landscape fabric: Consider using these barriers around the onions to prevent weeds from establishing.


When harvesting your pearl onions, wait until the tops turn yellow and fall over.

Carefully loosen the soil around the plants, lift the bulbs, and let them cure to dry the outer skins.

Curing And Storage

After harvesting, cure your pearl onions by laying them in a single layer in a warm, well-ventilated area for 2-3 weeks.

Then, trim the tops and roots once the outer skins are dry and papery, and store the cured onions in a dry, cool, and clean place.

Furthermore, maintain temperatures between 32°F to 40°F (0°C to 4°C) and humidity around 65-70%.

What Are The Benefits Of Pearl Onions? 

what is a pearl onion

Pearl onions offer several benefits:

  • They have a mild and sweet flavor, making them versatile in various recipes.
  • They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, supporting overall health.
  • Pearl onions contain dietary fiber for digestive health and vitamin C for immune support.
  • The plants may have cardiovascular benefits and potential anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Incorporating perl onion into your meals adds flavor and nutritional value to your diet.


How Long For Onions To Germinate?

Onions typically take around 7 to 14 days to germinate. However, the germination time can vary depending on the onion variety, growing conditions, and temperature.

How Long To Grow Onions From Seed?

Normally, onions take 90 to 120 days to reach maturity from sowing the seeds.

Some varieties may have shorter maturity times, around 60 to 90 days, while others may take longer, up to 150 days or more.

Additionally, factors such as temperature, sunlight, soil conditions, and proper care and maintenance throughout the growing season can influence onions’ overall growth and maturity timeline.


How to grow pearl onions? With the right knowledge and patience, growing pearl onions can become a successful venture for any gardening enthusiast.

You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of harvesting your own homegrown pearl onions and adding their unique taste to your favorite dishes.

Embrace the joy of gardening and savor the flavors of these delightful little bulbs. Happy planting!

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

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