Allium Types

Widely grown as an essential seasoning crop in virtually every type of cuisine, members of the Allium family are all strong tasting and strong smelling. That doesn't deter gardeners from growing them or cooks from cooking with them. Members of the Allium family are best planted during the cool weather of early spring and harvested when their tops turn brown and fall over in late summer. Different varieties mature at different times, beginning with chives in early spring. This means you can get fresh onion flavor from the garden at virtually any time during the growing season.


Also called green onions or spring onions, true scallions (Allium cepa var cepa) grow tender white stalks topped by green hollow "leaves." True scallions will never form a bulb, unlike so-called "bulb" onions. Plant seeds of scallions in full sun in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Slender green onions will form in about 65 to 70 days, and the stalks will increase in diameter throughout the summer. If left in the ground over winter, the white portion used in cooking will survive winter and the green leaves will re-grow the following spring, giving you full size green onions months before those grown from seeds planted in the current spring.


One of the most popular herbs grown in home gardens, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) grows clusters of tiny green onions, but only the green hollow leaves (tops) are used. Chives produce spiky lavender flowers in late spring, which are also edible. Chives are perennial and are easily started from seed, although they take an entire growing season to form a large, vigorous clump. They are hardy through USDA zone 2 without winter protection and once established will live for years. Shear them down to about 2 inches high once or twice during the growing season to encourage them to put out tender, succulent new growth. Chives have better flavor if they are only lightly fertilized.


Garlic (Allium sativum) produces a bulb with many small cloves, rather than one large bulb like most other members of the onion family. It also has flat leaves, unlike the hollow leaves of other Allium family members. Plant garlic in the vegetable garden in fertile soil that is high in organic matter. Garlic is planted in very early spring as soon as the soil dries out enough to work, or it can be planted in fall and overwintered to begin growing extra early the following spring. Space individual garlic cloves 4 inches apart about 1/2 inch deep. Harvest can begin when the tops start to dry in late summer.

Keywords: allium types, onion varieties, types of onions

About this Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.