Plan for a Bumper Yield of Shallots

, written by gb flag


The very first time I grew shallots from sets I knew I was on to a winner. Whereas onions produce just one bulb per planted set (immature bulb), shallots commonly produce anywhere between four and 12 bulbs per set. And their flavor is meltingly sweet, perfect in rich stews or topping an uncomplicated puff pastry tart – I’m thinking beets, shallots and goat’s cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar…mmm!

When it comes to size, the shallot is a runt compared to the mighty onion, but then size isn’t everything! Shallots are handy if you only have a couple of mouths to feed and they’re quicker to cook than onions. But since they’re so diminutive, it’s well worth taking steps to ensure your shallots are primed to be as productive as possible.

Best Growing Conditions for Shallots

Shallots are pretty picky about their soil. For good yields, they need to be grown in rich, light, well-drained soil. Lighter soils allow the newly-emerging sets to expand and swell into fat bulbs, while heavy soils are less obliging. Shallots will rot in wet soil, so if your soil is very heavy and wet, you’ll be better off growing them in raised beds or perhaps containers.

The technique I use for planting shallots ensures light soil around the sets and plenty of nutrients for the growing plants to gorge themselves on. It’s also very simple!

A couple of weeks before planting, I spread about 5cm (2in) of garden compost onto the soil surface. A bulb planter, of the type used for planting tulips and other ornamental bulbs, makes an excellent tool for planting shallots and other alliums. Use it to excavate a plug of soil just a bit deeper than the size of the shallot set. I then drop a handful of organic poultry manure pellets into the hole, release all of the soil in the bulb planter back into the hole then plant the shallot set into the loosened soil. Only the elongated tip of the shallot should be left poking above the soil.

Plant your shallots carefully if your soil is heavy

Alternatively, if your soil is on the heavy side, only put half of the soil back into the hole to start with. Position the shallot gently but firmly on top, then add the rest of the soil. This prevents potential damage to the set’s basal plate, from where the roots will grow, when you push it into the soil.

Inquisitive birds may pull up the odd shallot before they’ve had a chance to root in. A layer of fleece over the planting bed will prevent this from happening and will also help to protect your shallots from frost while they’re busy putting down those first anchoring roots.

Depending on your climate and the variety you’re growing, you can plant shallots in either fall or late winter. Fall plantings tend to yield better if your climate isn’t too cold or you can provide them with winter protection.

Improving Yields of Shallots

Spacing your shallots too closely will result in fewer, smaller shallots, while wider spacing encourages a higher yield of bigger bulbs. Equidistant spacing of 18cm (7in) is about right.

Spacing shallots too closely reduces the number and size of shallots produced

Weeds can quickly swamp shallots. You can scythe them down with a short-handled onion hoe, but weeding by hand is best to avoid accidentally damaging the developing shallots. Mulching regularly with organic matter will help to keep weed numbers down too.

As soon as your shallots are large enough you can harvest them for immediate use, but if you plan to store them they need to be left until the foliage starts to go yellow and keel over. Cure in the same way as for onions.

Lift your shallots carefully with a fork. The shallots can be separated into individual bulbs at once, or left together until you need them. Avoid bruising them, as damaged bulbs won’t keep. Perfect shallots should easily store until spring.

Saving Shallots for Replanting

My stored shallots are finally all gone, apart from those I set aside for replanting. The first time I bought shallots for growing I remember being appalled at the price for just a few sets. I soon found out that they do represent good value for money because each set begets up to a dozen harvested shallots.


If you save a few for replanting it makes the initial investment pretty much irrelevant. They don’t need any special care beyond the curing process; just replant in the exact same way as the original sets.

Which variety you choose is important when planning for a bumper yield of shallots, as some are markedly more productive than others. ‘Golden Gourmet’ for instance is a yellow-skinned, bolt-resistant variety that produces larger bulbs that are less fussy to prepare in the kitchen. A staple in my garden is ‘Longor’ which, as the name suggests, is elongated in shape. I’ve found that it typically produces eight to ten decent-sized shallots per planted set.

We’d love to know your best tips for growing masses of shallots. Drop us a comment below and share them with us!

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Show Comments


"Will store bought golden shallots propogate?"
John Clark on Tuesday 30 January 2018
"Interesting question John. In theory they should, but I have heard of them failing, with the usual reason given being that they have been treated with some sort of growth inhibitor to stop them sprouting. You could certainly try! Organic ones would probably be your best bet if you can get them."
Ann Marie Hendry on Friday 2 February 2018
"Store bought shallots are usually grown from seed and won't grow when planted out . "
George Pender on Wednesday 28 February 2018
"I have tried to grow banana shallots from store bought bulbs but not one germinated,alongside normal shallots!"
Tony Romain on Wednesday 28 March 2018
"I have followed Barbara Pleasants tip on growing onions from seed only I have used banana shallots. Sowed in early January, they have just been transplanted into 3" pots and are in my cool greenhouse. My question is, should I continue to trim the leaves down to 5" or so in the same way as Barbara does with her onions. I also have some sets planted in modue trays and they are ready to go out into my raised bed. Should I also restrict their leaf growth in the same way. Also at what point is it advisable to stop trimming the leaves? Thanks for great articles on the Growveg site. Alan Corbett, Derby, UK"
Alan Corbett on Friday 30 March 2018
"Hi Alan, I've never trimmed shallot seedling leaves myself so I don't see it as essential, but every gardener has their own technique! Trimming leaves is certainly not required with sets."
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 3 April 2018
"Growing shallots, At harvest time should I harvest them or leave them in the ground ? If I harvest now they will be in storage for 8 months. I will have 2 more months of the growing season if not pulled, is that okay? I want to replant them next year."
george on Saturday 23 June 2018
"Hi George. When the foliage starts to go yellow and flop over, it's time to dig up your shallots - they won't grow any more once the foliage has collapsed. Store them in a dry, well-ventilated and frost-free place. If you're planning to replant some cloves, you can either plant them in the autumn (if your winters are not too severe), or leave them in storage until early spring."
Ann Marie Hendry on Saturday 23 June 2018
"I planted my shallots from seed last spring. They never grew very big balbs, so I left them and this spring they have flowers. Should I pull them or will they eventually make more balbs?"
Jenna on Sunday 5 April 2020
"Hi Jenna. Flowering and setting seed means your shallots have completed their life cycle, so it's game over - I'd dig up and use what you can as soon as possible. You could save the seeds for sowing in the autumn or winter, but it's a bit late to get a good crop from seeds sown now. "
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 7 April 2020
"Is there any chance that shallots will grow if planted in early April? I just planted some and did not know that I should have planted them much earlier."
LC on Thursday 9 April 2020
"I am becoming more confused. I can’t discriminate between shallots, spring onions and now leeks. I have unintentionally produced what I now believe are leeks, by letting them grow beyond normal cycle. They are huge, while still crunchy, with crisp green tops. I just love them, but sadly they are running out."
John Clark on Thursday 9 April 2020
"LC, depending on your climate you might still get a good crop. Personally for me here in Scotland, I'd expect very small shallots if planted this late."
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 14 April 2020
"John, some gardeners sow shallots close together and use the green tops as spring onions, but they will die back in summer rather than thickening up like a leek. True spring onions and leeks don't bulb at the bottom. "
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 14 April 2020
"I have just harvested a bumper crop of shallots planted from a bag of shallots bought from the greengrocers dept of Sainsburys for 75p! I shall be saving some to plant for next year."
Christine on Saturday 24 July 2021
"Good luck Christine!"
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 27 July 2021
"Would you recommend Autumn or Spring planting of Longnor Shallots in the Aberdeenshire area? My plot is an exposed site in a rural area North of Inverurie, around 150m above sea level and not mountainous."
Chris Briggs on Tuesday 5 October 2021
"Hi Chris. I'd go with spring planting to be on the safe side, but with protection (eg a plastic tunnel or horticultural fleece) you might get away with planting them in the autumn. "
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 5 October 2021
"Hi,how long before u see any shoots coming out,mine are doing nothing,from australia,,,,,,"
Graham platt on Sunday 19 June 2022
"Often they will begin to shoot in winter, but it may be early spring before you see signs of life above ground. Don't lose heart Graham - they will likely get there sooner or later, and start growing away strongly in spring."
Ann Marie Hendry on Tuesday 21 June 2022
"I've just learnt Lidl get their garlic from Yunnan. Shocked, when we've Farms here able to use British fields to grow produce. Wish TV had programmes that alerted viewers about buying home grown stuff but I guess we should make concerted efforts to find out ourselves. Or grow your own as our family aredoing this year, which is how I stumbled across your great info on growing. Thank you for that. "
Jan on Thursday 19 October 2023

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