A certain type of allium pear is an essential part of many European dishes – shallots. How to grow them is not usually the first thought someone thinks, but once they see the price of them on the market, growing shallots suddenly becomes much more important.

So today we're going to talk about Allium cepa, which was formerly known as Allium ascalonicum. This onion produces a large onion that looks like any old onion until its outer skin is removed. At this point, it suddenly resembles garlic with large cloves. In each of these cloves it suddenly looks like an onion again, layer by layer of goodness.

Milder than the onion, much milder than garlic and less likely than bad breath. Shallot onions are a simple addition to your garden. And at a fraction of the price for the shallots in the supermarket, you can incorporate them into your regular rotation of garden fresh vegetables!

Good products for growing shallots:

Brief instructions on care

If you grow shallots 6 inches apart, they can spread out freely. Source: DayLove

Common Name (s)Shallot, multiplier onions, eschalot, French shallot, red shallot, gray shallot, griselle, potato onion
Scientific nameAllium cepa aggregatum, Allium ascalonicum, Allium oschaninii
Days to harvest90-120 days
lightFull sun to partial shade
Water:At least 1 inch of water a week
groundWell-drained loose soil
fertilizerPlant compost. Do not dilute the fish emulsion more than once a month.
PestsOnion maggots, thrips
DiseasesDowny mildew, neck rot, white rot

All about shallots

The more subtle taste of shallots is an incredible addition to your kitchen. The plant itself is also an incredible asset to your garden!

It is believed to originate from southwest or central Asia, and the popularity of this onion family member quickly spread to India. From there it jumped to the Mediterranean Sea and then to the rest of the world. Rumor has it that the Phoenicians were transported from these different points.

What do shallots look like? A shallot growing in her bed could look like a cluster of young onions at a glance. But shallots that grow out of a single clove actually form a garlic-like group of onions in a small space. You will have a few green tips that pop out of the ground.

Like their other Allium relatives, they can bloom, but harvesting the scallion landscapes is much tastier as soon as they shoot up. The end of the landscape, when ready for harvest, has a characteristic brush shape. When left alone, the inverted teardrop shape swells and turns into a round, bristly flower. But if harvested early, shallot landscapes are a fantastic bonus for growing these plants!

The tubular leaves can also be harvested and are somewhat milder than spring onions or spring onions. I prefer to leave them in place as they are a good indicator of when the shallot is approaching harvest time, but a few that were cut early in the shallot's life do not harm the plant.

If your shallot blooms successfully, do not expect the seeds that it forms to be viable. Most of the shallots have been crossed so intensively that they do not produce viable seeds.

Types of shallots

Shallot Inside the paper skin, there are two to three cloves of shallot ready to use. Source: Farmanac

While all shallots grow the same, there are different variations. Some shallot onions have a reddish hue and a red to red-brown paper-like exterior. Others are a real brown, and still others are colored gray.

We often refer to these different types as French red wines, French shades of gray or “potato onions” for the brownish variety. For some, the shades of gray are considered "real shallots", while the other types are less desirable. The French particularly love the shades of gray for haute cuisine.

Popular varieties are Allium oschaninii or the "French gray", which is considered to be milder and creamier in texture. Allium cepa "French Red", common on the US market; Allium cepa "Dutch Yellow", a variety of "potato onions" with a golden yellow skin; and Allium cepa "Ambition" with clearly purple flesh and red skin.

Plant shallots

Since the seed is rarely or never viable, shallots are planted from sets. These sets are dried shallot cloves, which are suitable for transplanting, are often smaller and can be easily stuck into the ground.

Shallots are usually planted in autumn and are great for cool weather. This does not mean that they cannot absorb a little bit of heat. So if you plant them in early spring, you may also succeed. In fact, some can handle two harvests if planted in early spring and early fall if they are in the right climate! But usually people plant their shallots in late summer until early autumn when the weather changes.

You want a bed with extremely well-drained and loose soil, which is filled with a lot of valuable organic material. It needs to be given full sun, but also tolerates shade in the hottest places of the day.

Plant only the base of each set with the pointy tip visible directly above the surface of the ground. Make sure the soil is loose enough for the plant to push it out of the way as it grows! Place your plants about 6 inches apart for good onion development. On closer inspection there is a risk that the plants will be displaced.


Sprout shallotsAfter planting, shallots gradually sprout new leaves. Source: Tony Austin

Now that you know how to plant shallots, what about growing them? Let us go through some of the best techniques to grow your shallots well.

Sun and temperature

Shallots are easy to grow in growth areas 4-10. You need full sun for the best growth. In zones 9-10, some penumbra is fine during the afternoon heat.

When planting an autumn crop, you should provide a few inches of mulch around them to protect the bulbs from the cold. This is not necessary in zones 9-10, but most other zones benefit from additional cold protection. Spring fruits do not need the same mulching protection for the cold, but benefit from the moisture retention that mulching offers.

Irrigation and humidity

Providing your shallots with about 1 inch of water a week is usually a good guideline. The floor should remain even and evenly moist. Water should not accumulate on the surface and excess water should drain away easily.

Soaking hoses and mulching can reduce the frequency of watering, but still require enough moisture to produce healthy onions.


Rich, well-drained soil with a lot of organic matter is ideal for your shallots. It should contain enough organic material so that it can easily retain moisture. Worm castings, aged composted manure such as horse manure or cow manure or plant-based compost can store moisture for the onions.

The onions cannot develop in a hard clay. Make sure your growth medium is loose when planting. Mulch around the shallots to prevent weeds from growing, as weeds can negatively affect onion development.

The pH of the soil should be relatively neutral. The ideal range would be between 6.0 and 6.8 pH, but shallots can tolerate slightly higher or lower pH ranges for short periods.


Shallot harvestStore harvested shallots in a dry, cool and dark environment. Source: DBduo

Most of the fertility your onions need comes from preparing the soil. If the soil contains plenty of organic material, they will grow well without additional help. A diluted fish emulsion can only be used monthly to provide an extra nitrogen spike, but is not necessary if you are well prepared.


No cut is required for shallots. You may want to harvest some of the green tubular leaves for fresh food, but be very picky in this case. You should be able to see individual stems from the ground. Do not remove more than one leaf per stem to ensure that they continue to be of a reasonable size for harvesting.


Most of the shallots are sterile and therefore do not produce viable seeds. Since they form in cloves, planting dried cloves, sold as sets, is the easiest way to multiply.

Plant sets in autumn or spring. When they start to grow green, mulch around them to retain moisture and protect the bulbs from the cold or excessive heat.

Harvest and store

Shallots ready to useMany shallots have a purple tinge in their flesh, similar to red onions. Source: Ruth and Dave

So your shallot garden has produced and it is time to harvest your onions. How do you know when to harvest shallots? Is there a way to keep them properly? Let's talk about it.


When your shallots are ready to be harvested, the green tips start to hang and turn yellow. Once they have softened and turn yellow, it's time to get your shallots out of the ground.

Take a cultivator fork and loosen the soil around the onions. They are relatively shallow-rooted, so loosening the soil shouldn't take too long. If they're 6 inches apart, you can loosen the soil for the entire row at once.

Dust off the remaining soil that sticks to the roots and place your shallots on a tray so the outside can dry off. Then place them in an onion bag or other mesh container with plenty of ventilation in a cool, dark place to dry further.


Store shallots in a cool, dark place in an onion bag or other mesh container at room temperature. You can use them anytime after harvest. However, if they are fresh, they must stay dry.

For longer storage, you can dice and freeze shallots. You can also caramelize and freeze them. Dehydration or roasting can also be used for dry storage. If you've used part of a shallot, you can chill the rest and use within a day or two. They are not stored long after the outer paper skin has been removed.


Young shallot plantsShallots form bundles of onions, similar to how garlic heads develop. Source: Eyebee

What problems will you encounter when growing shallots? Are there any dangers to watch out for? Let's talk about garden problems that will arise when growing this delicious crop.

Growing problems

If your shallots are not at least 6 inches apart, they may not grow to their potential size. The closest distance you should have in your garden is about 4 inches, but even that can be too close to each other. A minimum of 6 inches is recommended for optimal growth.

weed are a major problem for shallot growers. They compete not only for moisture and nutrition, but also for space. Since shallots really need space, this can be a big problem. Keep weeds away from your developing onions.


The onion maggots are the larvae of the Onion fly. This grub burrows in most allium bulbs as well as some other bulb plants. Where there is a grub there is always more, and up to 50 can eat the inside of a shallot. Useful nematodes attack and eat the larvae so that they are no longer a problem. It is best to use them in the spring to give them time to clear the garden of maggot larvae in the ground.

Thrips are somewhat common with shallots and mostly affect the green leaves or flower stems. A light spray of neem oil on the leaves should remove most of the problems with them.


While really common only on shallots in damp regions, Wrong mildew can become a problem. Regular use of neem oil should keep this in check.

Neck rot is a form of botrytis, botrytis allii. This is not readily apparent while the plant is growing. Once stored, the top of the shallots can quickly disintegrate. This disease is ground-based and once it is in the shallot, there is no way to get rid of it. Crop rotation to prevent this form of botrytis from forming in the soil. If you can, use fresh soil for your allies every year.

Finally, White rot is caused by the fungus Stromatinia cepivora. This fungus can live in the soil for many years and damage all forms of allium. A whitish mushroom mass appears around the plants, sometimes speckled with black spots. Once infected, the soil is no longer safe to plant allies, and there are no tools that can be easily used by the home gardener.

To avoid white rot, avoid planting allies in the same place year after year. Place future plants at a distance from previously infected locations and sterilize tools. Use resistant seed sets for planting.

frequently asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to grow shallots?

A: Initially, your shallot sets need around 30 days of cool temperatures to establish themselves before growing. As soon as they start to grow, depending on the variety, you can start harvesting between 60 and 120 days later.

Q: Can you grow shallots from shallots bought in the store?

A: Yes, but there is some risk. Shallots bought in the store may have been exposed to neck rot. That can infect your floor. It is safer to buy disease free kits from a reliable seller.

Q: Why are shallots so expensive?

A: In the United States, shallots are often treated as if they were tiny onions. And since most people want large onions, they are often ignored in the supermarket. Due to the low demand, the supply is lower and the prices higher. You are worth the effort!

The green thumbs behind this article:
Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime gardener