How To Know When Onions Are Ready To Harvest – Detailed Guide

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The onion bulb is hidden under the ground, so how to know when onions are ready to harvest? Well, it is like a gambling game. How can we know the right time when only the leaves are visible to our naked eyes? 

Seeming impossible, however, there are some key signs that you can grok immediately that your vegetable harvest time has arrived. Delve into it now on!

How To Know When Onions Are Ready To Harvest

So, how to tell when red onions are ready to harvest? You can observe and count the plant’s leaves. 

Normally, the mature onion will reach 13 leaves. Some other varieties may have fewer leaves, but 13 is standard. When you notice 7 leaves on the plant, it is nearly at the harvest time; you can refer to four hints below to reap onions in their prime time. 

how to know when onions are ready to harvest

The Height And The Time

If the top portion of green onions reach the height of 15 cm (about 6 inches), you know they’re ready for any recipe. Collecting at this vantage point, you can enjoy onion taste at its peak. If you give it more time to grow, the top will grow stronger and more rigid. 

If the plant has flower buds or makes flower stalks, it is a sign that you should pull it up and use it immediately. You will not want to let it stay longer, even with how beautiful the flower is.

For the bulb, the collecting time happens when it comes in between the period of 3 months to 4 months after you grow it, and it is up to the cultivar as well. The best time you can harvest is early in the morning when it is still cool and not hot!

Feel The Onion Neck Soft

The second hint to answer the question of how can you tell when onions are ready to harvest lies on the plant’s neck. 

how to know if onions are ready to harvest

The onion neck is the part where the plant bulb meets the leaves. If you feel a soft neck, it implies that the carbohydrates from the leaves have been entirely transported to the onion rings. 

At this time, the last cell division in the rings also has finished! You don’t need to water it as frequently as you do throughout the growing period to avoid the black mold or the sour skin when the soils are wet. 

Therefore, when you feel the softness, it’s time for a busy harvest season. You can also notice the neck’s color leaning towards the white shade. 

Otherwise, if the top is heavy, the neck is still stiff and straight, or there is still some rigidity left, you should leave it there because it still develops/grows more. Some onions will mature sooner than others, so don’t harvest it all at the same time when the time has not come yet!

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90% Top Falling

The second indicator of how to know if onions are ready to harvest is monitoring the tops of onions. When it falls over, it is the golden time.

How To Identify

When nearly 90% of the leaves droop, it indicates that the top half of the plant is soft. If you want to use it immediately, feel free to pick it up. 

Onion at this stage is still on skin development. It still has some green tops that support the sunscald prevention when you dry to store the vegetable

how can you tell when onions are ready to harvest

When 100% of the leaves are down, the pulling sugar process from the top and absorbing moisture is completed. However, skin development is still on. 

Hence, wait for 90% of the leaves to fall over before harvesting. At this point, you can water it every now and then to let it respire a bit of moisture before bringing it out from the ground. With sweeter onions, you may need to water it more often! It depends on each type of plant, so remember to test the water!


One caution you need to check is whether the “tops down” is natural or not. Perhaps some gales or heavy rain can impair your vegetables, dirt falling over making it can not straight out, and it bends too. 

Therefore, always remember that it is not the time as long as the neck is firm and stiff. Leaves falling over and the neck being soft naturally are the rules of thumb!

The Last Leaf

The last sign you can decide whether to pull the plant out or let them go a little longer is the last leaf. 

You need to inspect all the leaves. The leaf sheaths will mature and then dry respectively from the first to the last leaf appearance. 

Therefore, in case you collect the plant too soon, right before the last appearing leaf has a chance to dry, putrefaction can occur in the storage stage. Wait until the last leaves completely dry if you don’t need to consume right away!

How To Harvest Onions

how can you tell when onions are ready to harvest

Understanding how to pick onions traditionally is critical since you don’t want to risk losing the tasty bulb or the entire plant!

The right method is to use your strength at a medium level and gently pull them up. Or, more carefully, you can dig around the ground and take it out. 

Allow the top to remain intact rather than cutting it. Then, you can shake a little bit to get rid of the soil sticking to the bulb.

How To Store Onion After Harvesting

Fresh onion can last for up to 3 months when it is at ideal storage conditions. Therefore, the preserving process is super important to extend the lifespan of the onion. You need to dry it first. Here is the storage onions way:

  • Choose a clean, dry surface and spread these bulbs out. It is best if it is a well-ventilated area.
  • You need to let it cure for about a month. When you see the dried tops, necks, paper skin, the foliage is shrinking and turning brown, you cut for about an inch to test. If you can not spot any green tint in the cut area, the entire process of curing is done. 
  • You can store it in a canvas bag, a basket, or any other kitchen item after it has been cured. Please ensure that the area is well ventilated and that the surrounding environment is ideal. Temperatures range from 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity level should be kept between 65 and 70 percent.

Caution: Don’t store it in a damp location. Rotting may happen. 

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how to know when onions are ready to harvest

Can I Eat Onions After I Pick Them?

Yes, you can. But remember that if it is a freshly harvested plant, you may consider washing it under the running water instead of just peeling the outer layer!

How Long Can I Let Onions Stay In The Ground?

When the top parts fall over, you can let them stay under the soil for a couple of days in conjunction with the dried ground. Still, if it is raining or the ground is too wet, you must pull it up to keep the bulb from rotting!

Does Anything Happen If I Don’t Harvest Onions?

It is all up to the wet level of the ground. If you let it stay under the ground when it is wet, there is a high chance that the bulb will rot. 

However, if the ground is dry, the sprout will likely come back next season after a long time of dormancy.

Can I Start Harvesting When I See Onion Flowers?

Yes, you can. Collect them immediately! If not, the flower will absorb the nutrients from the underground part – the bulb!


Now you are an onion expert too. You know exactly how to know when onions are ready to harvest. Even though you can not see through the ground, it can not be a riddle to solve anymore. We hope that you have an abundant crop and delicious dishes with onions.

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