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Toxic parts

There have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of this plant. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible[1].

Edible uses


The plant forms small bulbs at the top of the flowering stem, these can be eaten raw or cooked[2][3]. They have a strong onion flavour and are often used as pickled onions or added to salads[K]. As long as the bulbils are dried properly at harvest time, they store well[4].

Bulb - raw or cooked. The bulb can be up to 4cm in diameter and has a strong onion flavour[K]. Chopped into slices, it makes a good addition to salads and can also be used as a vegetable or as a flavouring in cooked foods[K].

Leaves - raw or cooked. A strong onion flavour, it makes a nice flavouring in salads though it should not be harvested in quantity because this would reduce the yield of bulbils[K]. The leaves are produced from late autumn, though we have found that harvesting them at this time will often encourage diseases such as mildew[K].


Material uses

The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent and can also be rubbed onto the skin to repel insects[5].

The plant juice can be used as a rust preventative on metals and as a polish for copper and glass[5]. A yellow-brown dye is obtained from the skins of the bulbs[6][7]. Onion juice rubbed into the skin is said to promote the growth of hair and to be a remedy for baldness[5]. It is also used as a cosmetic to get rid of freckles[5].

The growing plant is said to repel insects and moles[8]. A spray made by pouring enough boiling water to cover 1kg of chopped unpeeled onions is said to increase the resistance of other plants to diseases and parasites[8].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Although rarely used specifically as a medicinal herb, the onion has a wide range of beneficial actions on the body and when eaten (especially raw) on a regular basis will promote the general health of the body.

The bulb is anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, lithontripic, stomachic and tonic[4][5][9]. When used regularly in the diet it offsets tendencies towards angina, arteriosclerosis and heart attack[10]. It is also useful in preventing oral infection and tooth decay[10]. Baked onions can be used as a poultice to remove pus from sores[10].

Fresh onion juice is a very useful first aid treatment for bee and wasp stings, bites, grazes or fungal skin complaints[5][8]. When warmed the juice can be dropped into the ear to treat earache[10]. It also aids the formation of scar tissue on wounds, thus speeding up the healing process, and has been used as a cosmetic to remove freckles[5].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Harvest bulbils in late summer and replant immediately or store them in a cool dry frost-free place and plant them out in late winter or early spring. Division of the bulbs after the leaves die down in late summer.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Allium cepa proliferum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil[11] but succeeds in most soils that are in good condition[2]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 to 8.3.

The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply[11]. Some modern works have moved this plant from A. cepa, seeing it as being of hybrid origin with A. fistulosum and therefore renaming in A. x proliferum. The tree onion is a genuinely perennial form of A. cepa that is sometimes grown in the herb garden for its edible bulbils. Plants rarely if ever produce seed, instead the flowering head is comprised of a number of small onions or bulbils[2][3]. Plants are propagated by means of these bulbils or by dividing the main bulb that grows underground[K]. By no means a heavily productive plant, though the bulbils are very well flavoured and the plant is fairly easily grown[K]. Its main problem is that slugs seem to be attracted to it and can eat to death even well-established plants[K]. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes[12][13][14]. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other[8]. Said to be immune to onion root fly[2].

Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[15].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Allium cepa proliferum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Allium cepa proliferum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Allium cepa proliferum
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
    2. ? Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-050-0 (1977-00-00)
    3. ? Organ. J. Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table. Faber (1960-00-00)
    4. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    5. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Carruthers. S. P. (Editor) Alternative Enterprises for Agriculture in the UK. Centre for Agricultural Strategy, Univ. of Reading ISBN 0704909820 (1986-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
    8. ? Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting. Cassell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-304-34324-2 (1993-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    10. ? Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    12. ? Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants. Watkins (1979-00-00)
    13. ? Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0-88266-064-0 (1978-00-00)
    14. ? Hatfield. A. W. How to Enjoy your Weeds. Frederick Muller Ltd ISBN 0-584-10141-4 (1977-00-00)
    15. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)
    16. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)