Best Onions To Grow (20 Short-Day, Day-Neutral, & Long-Day Varieties)

If your only exposure to onions comes from your local supermarket, you might be under the impression that there are only three kinds of onions: yellow, white, and red. 

Dive into a seed catalog and you’ll see that there are nearly as many onion varieties as there are tomato varieties. There are delicious heirloom onions and disease-resistant hybrid cultivars. There are onions with torpedo-shaped bulbs, flattened bulbs, and bulbs that are perfect spheres. You’ll find onions in every shade of red, purple, yellow, and white, ranging in flavor from candy-sweet to sharp and pungent.  

Keep reading for a list of the best onions for your hardiness zone and cooking needs, organized by category. 

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All about onions

According to the University of Missouri, the onion is thought to have originated in central Asia more than 5,000 years ago. Since that time there hasn’t been a corner of the world that the pungent bulb vegetable hasn’t touched—some form of the onion is a staple in nearly every culture on every continent. 

onion plants
Onions originated in central Asia over 5,000 years ago.

Different types of onions

Onions are members of the allium plant family, which also includes leeks, garlic, shallots, scallions, and chives. Onions can be categorized further into bunching onions, pearl onions, fresh onions, and storage onions. 

green onions
You can harvest onions early to get pearl onions, or you can cut up the greens as seasoning.

Bunching onions (also called scallions or green onions) don’t form bulbs like traditional onions, and typically mature in 60 days or less. Green onions have a moderate taste akin to chives, making them ideal for culinary use and garnishing meals. 

Pearl, or cocktail onions, are small bulb onions harvested prematurely, at around 60 to 90 days. Fresh onions tend to be thinner-skinned than storage onions and have a milder taste. Storage onions are thicker-skinned and pungent, so they hold their flavor better over time.

Photoperiod sensitivity 

Another way of thinking about onions is to group them based on their sensitivity to light. Many onions are influenced by photoperiods, or the number of daylight hours relative to dark.

onion plants
Day-neutral onions (intermediate) are not affected by day length.

Photoperiod-sensitive onions are triggered to start making bulbs depending on how many hours of light they receive; we call these varieties short-day and long-day types. Day-neutral, or intermediate, varieties aren’t affected by day length, but begin forming bulbs after a certain number of days. 

Which onions should I grow in my area?

It’s crucial to grow the appropriate type of onion for your region. As a rule, short-day onions do better in the Southern United States, where summer days don’t exceed 12 hours. Long-day onions thrive in areas where summer days are longer than 14 hours–in the Northern hemisphere, that’s Virginia to Northern California and above. 

Short day onions are better for the Southern U.S., while long-day onions are better for the Northern U.S.

The key with photoperiod-sensitive onions is to plan for the plants to reach their full vegetative capacity right as the natural daylight triggers them into the next stage of growth.

In the South, this means fall-planting short-day onions, so that the plants will grow through the mild winter and start making bulbs in the spring.

If you start short-day onions in the spring, the plants won’t have time to grow robust tops before transitioning to bulb development. And the smaller the tops, the more puny the bulbs will be. 

red onions
Red onions include varieties like Red Grano, Red Creole, and Sweet Red.

Long-day onions, on the other hand, must be planted in early spring in the North. The onions won’t be triggered to make bulbs until after the summer equinox, giving the plants plenty of time to grow healthy tops and large bulbs.

Now that you understand a bit more about short-day and long-day onions, here are a few of our favorite varieties. 

Best short-day onions

Short-day onions start forming bulbs when days reach 10 hours in length. For this reason, short-day onions are ideal for warmer regions closer to the Equator–USDA hardiness zones 7 and warmer. 

onion falling ready for harvest
Plant short-day onions in the fall to get the biggest bulbls.
Image Courtesy of user Ramjchandran via:
Wikimedia Commons:

For the biggest bulbs, plant short-day onions in the fall—overwintering these varieties will allow the plants plenty of time for vegetative growth before transitioning to bulb development. Short-day onions mature in about 110 days.

1. Yellow Granex (Vidalia)

This yellow onion is known for its high sugar content. The large, flattened bulbs have a crisp texture that only gets better with cooking. Vidalia onions are Yellow Granex onions that were grown in the low-sulfur soils of Vidalia, Georgia. Yellow Granex is the go-to for baking and sauces, and for a short-day onion it stores relatively well—about a month.

2. Red Grano

This short-day onion has a pleasant red hue and symmetrical globe-shaped bulbs. Sweet and milder than other red onions, Red Grano is an excellent variety for slicing and salads. This heirloom variety is one of the most popular red onions in the U.S.

3. Texas Early Grano

This white short-day onion is derived from the Grano, a sweet heirloom onion originally introduced to the US from Spain. A breeding program in Texas produced an exceptionally sweet and early-maturing cultivar, which quickly gathered a cult following in the South and beyond.

4. Red Creole

Known for both its bite and excellent storage capabilities (half a year or more) Red Creole is the perfect onion to use in spicy Cajun dishes. The vibrant red globe-shaped bulbs are as attractive as they are flavorful, and the particularly pungent aroma actually repels pests.

5. White Bermuda (Crystal White Wax)

Often grown as a cocktail onion, when allowed to fully mature White Bermuda produces flat, three to four-inch bulbs with clean white flesh. Alternatively, you can grow White Bermuda as an early green onion that matures in about 30 days.

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6. Sweet Red

This colorful cultivar is a favorite in Italian Cuisine for its sweet, complex flavor that adds a kick to salads, subs, and burgers. The large bulbs are slightly flattened, and although Sweet Red doesn’t store as well as other red onions, the mildly pungent flavor is too delicious to not be eaten quickly!

7. Red Burgundy 

This beautiful short-day red onion is enriched with some disease resistance to botrytis and pink rot. The glossy, flat bulbs are firm in texture but mild in flavor, making this variety suitable for slicing and snacking. 

8. Texas Super Sweet

If cutting onions tends to make you tear up, this is the variety for you. Dixondale Farms claims that Texas Super Sweet contains very little pyruvate, which is the chemical that causes our eyes to water when we slice into a juicy bulb. But that’s not all this short-day yellow onion has going for it–the large, flat bulbs average six inches in diameter and are ideal for slicing, cooking, or roasting. 

Best day-neutral onions

Day-neutral onions aren’t affected by the amount of daylight, so they can be planted in any region, although these varieties do particularly well in USDA zones 5-7. 

Also called intermediate varieties, these onions can be spring or fall-planted depending on how mild your winters are. Plant day-neutral onions as soon as the ground is workable in the spring, or four to six weeks before your average first fall frost. Day-neutral onions mature in 110 days, on average. 

9. Candy

The quintessential day-neutral onion, Candy is adaptable to nearly every climate and region. The colossal bulbs can reach between one and two pounds in weight, but don’t sacrifice flavor for size—Candy is one of the sweetest onions around. A favorite among home gardens for its ease of growing and versatility in numerous recipes.

10. Sierra Blanca (Super Star)

Known in some circles as Super Star, Sierra Blanca is a beautiful globe-shaped white onion widely adaptable to nearly all regions of North America. Sierra Blanca thrives with spring or fall planting and has some disease resistance to pink root. 

11. Cimarron

One of the earliest and most productive day-neutral onions around, Cimarron is known to make bulbs sooner when spring-planted in the North and later when fall-planted in the South, ensuring the largest possible bulbs. This yellow onion is characterized by large, globe-shaped bulbs and a sweet, mild flavor. 

12. Red Stockton

A beautiful intermediate-day onion with red skin and crisp white flesh. Cut into a Red Stockton onion and you’ll be met with concentric pink and white rings. The thick-skinned bulbs have an excellent storage life and are quite flavorful raw or cooked. 

13. Tokyo Long White

One of the most popular bunching onions, Tokyo Long White is prized for its tall, blue-green stalks that are as flavorful as the bulbs themselves. This Japanese heirloom is heat-tolerant and resistant to pink root, making it an ideal cultivar for spring and fall planting. 

Best long-day onions

Long-day onions form bulbs when days reach 14 or more hours in length, so they’re best suited for growing in northern regions with longer days–USDA hardiness zones 6 and colder. Long-day onions tend to have a more pungent flavor and thicker skins due to the cooler temperatures, making these varieties generally better for storage than fresh eating. 

For the biggest bulbs, plant long-day onions in the early spring—the longer days of spring will provide just enough time for bulbs to reach their full size by midsummer. Long-day onions typically mature in 90 to 110 days. 

14. Walla Walla

This heirloom long-day onion is famous for its large and sweet bulbs characterized by a golden hue. This hardy variety does best when allowed to overwinter—fall-planted bulbs will be a little sweeter and much bigger than spring-planted ones. Walla Walla has a medium shelf-life and the high sugar content of the bulbs makes them perfect for roasting or caramelizing.

15. Yellow Sweet Spanish

A cherished variety among beginning and experienced growers alike for its reliable, mild-flavored yellow bulbs. Yellow Sweet Spanish is known to produce big bulbs—up to one pound— and store fairly well through the winter months.

16. White Sweet Spanish

Yellow Sweet Spanish’s paler sister, White Sweet Spanish is characterized by cream-colored symmetrical bulbs with a sweet, mild flavor and crisp crunch.

17. Copra

This long-day onion is a garden mainstay for its midsized, symmetrical globe-shaped bulbs. Copra boasts the sweet flavor and crisp texture of larger onions without sacrificing excellent storage ability.

18. Alisa Craig

One of the largest onions, this is the variety that growers take to market and win competitions with. Alisa Craig is known for its spherical golden bulbs that reach anywhere between two and five pounds when mature. A sweet onion with deliciously mild flavor, although perhaps not the best shelf life. 

19. Red Wethersfield

This long-day heirloom was developed by Connecticut farmers looking for a flavorful red onion with excellent storage capability. The large, flattened bulbs are protected by a thick red-purple skin that will keep for many months. 

20. Red Torpedo

This Italian heirloom is as beautiful as it is delicious. The purple oblong bulbs have tender flesh and a mildly sweet flavor ideal for slicing and salads. Red Torpedo has a medium shelf life—if you can stand to keep them that long. Their pleasant aroma and versatility in the kitchen make this one of the onion varieties you’re bound to use up first. 


No matter where you’re growing or what you’re cooking, there’s an onion for you. From the sweet Vidalia onions to the spicy Red Creole, onions come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and flavors.

Whether you live in a short-day, day-neutral, or long-day climate, the right onion cultivar can enhance your cooking, help your garden thrive, and bring your dishes to life.

You can learn about depth and spacing for onion plants here.

You can learn about some of the largest onion varieties here.

You can find some heat tolerant onion varieties here.

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“1015Y Texas Super Sweet Onion Plants.” Dixondale Farms, Accessed 6 February 2023.

Trinklein, David. “Onion: A Brief History // Missouri Environment and Garden News Article // Integrated Pest Management, University of Missouri.” Integrated Pest Management, 1 March 2011, Accessed 3 February 2023.

About the author:
When not writing content or growing flowers in her native Virginia, you can find Sarah hiking a long-distance trail deep in the woods. Follow along with Sarah’s adventures at

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Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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