How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Climbing Onion Plants

Climbing onion (Bowiea volubilis), additionally generally known as Zulu potato or Bowiea sea onion, is an easy-to-grow and really unusual-looking houseplant. Regardless of being a member of the Asparagus household and having widespread names that liken it to onions and potatoes, no a part of the plant is edible.

Climbing onion crops are fascinating, low-maintenance houseplants. They resemble a tangle of leafless, delicate, inexperienced stems with frilly-looking tendrils rising from a big, spherical, bulb-like base. After they go dormant, you’re left with a fleshy, inexperienced, bulb-like base that rests quietly earlier than awakening with recent inexperienced progress.

All you want to develop one is a vibrant window, heat temperatures, a pot with good drainage, well-drained soil, and a bit of bit of normal watering. As soon as your plant is about up in location, it ought to be fairly trouble-free, and you’ll take pleasure in it for a few years to come back. 

When you’re in search of a low-fuss however high-interest plant to develop at dwelling, think about including a climbing onion to your houseplant assortment. Let’s now dig in to be taught extra about their care and upkeep.

Plant Overview

Plant Sort

Houseplant, tender perennial

USDA Hardiness Zone

10 – 11

Solar Publicity

Full solar to partial shade

Soil Sort

Gritty, well-drained

Watering Necessities



Division, pruning

Recommended Makes use of

Houseplant, containers

Bloom Season

Winter, spring

Resistant To

Drought, warmth

Plant Spacing

4 – 6 inches

Plant Pure Historical past

Close-up of growing Bowiea volubilis bulbs among succulents in a garden. The plant has large, round, slightly flattened greenish-brown bulbs. Young shoots grow from the centers of the bulbs. Echeveria elegans is a stunning succulent with a distinctive rosette form. The plant is characterized by its tightly packed, fleshy, pale blue-green leaves that form a perfect, symmetrical rosette shape. The leaves have a powdery coating.
Climbing onions thrive in heat, arid circumstances.

Fascinating climbing onion crops are native to jap and southern Africa’s heat, dry climates. They flourish in uncovered, sunny, desert-like environments. Of their pure habitat, they develop on dry, rocky hillsides, typically in unfastened, gravelly soil.

It is a tender perennial. Relying on whether or not you’re rising indoors or outdoor, the sunshine and local weather circumstances have an effect on the timing of lengths of dormancy. No matter precisely when it occurs, these crops usually go dormant for a few months, so don’t fear in case your onion vines wither and switch brown. So long as the bulb is thick and healthy-looking, it’s simply saving its vitality for its subsequent progress spurt!

Regardless of its title, this plant isn’t an onion, neither is it edible. Don’t attempt to eat it. Climbing onion is, in reality, barely poisonous and may cause gentle digestive misery if any a part of the plant is consumed. Don’t permit your indoor pets to devour this plant, both.


A closeup view of Bowiea volubilis leaves reveals a unique and intricate structure. The leaves of Bowiea volubilis are slender and strap-like, featuring a glossy, deep green color.
Vining stems develop quickly with out tendrils, forming a lacy tangle round help constructions.

Initially of their energetic rising season, skinny, vibrant inexperienced vining stems emerge from the middle of every bulb. Every bulb could produce a single stem, or generally two or three stems will sprout from a single little gap on the heart of the identical bulb. 

The leafless stems are uniformly inexperienced and fast-growing. They loosely develop up any close by help. Because the stems lengthen and mature, facet shoots develop, making a lacy tangle of skinny, delicate vegetation. In contrast to many different climbing vines, nonetheless, the climbing onion doesn’t produce twining tendrils. As a substitute, the vines merely entangle themselves in and round any close by construction, sometimes gently twisting round an obtainable holding web site.

Someday through the peak of its energetic progress section, you might discover tiny, star-shaped flowers that seem singly alongside the stems. The flowers are nearly precisely the identical shade of inexperienced because the stems, making them a bit troublesome to see until you look very carefully.

There’s a massive succulent bulb on the base of every plant. In splendid, pure circumstances, this bulb can develop 15 to twenty cm throughout. Within the dwelling atmosphere, bulbs are unlikely to develop greater than 5 to 10 cm throughout. This bulb sits on the soil floor and makes a big, rounded, light-green, clean mass. Older bulbs develop a skinny, papery coating that resembles the pores and skin of an onion. 


The simplest approach to propagate is by division of bulbs. It is vitally uncommon for a climbing onion to provide seeds, but when it does, new crops will be began from these seeds.


Close-up of a farmer sowing seeds in small containers with fertile soil on a blurred green background. Plastic black seed trays are filled with soil mixture. A gardener in a pink T-shirt takes seeds from a small blue bowl.
Develop from seeds by masking the floor with a skinny layer of sand and holding them moist.

When you purchase seeds from a climbing onion plant, go forward and attempt to develop them! This could possibly be a enjoyable mission, and it could be fascinating to observe certainly one of these crops develop from a tiny seed.

Place your seeds on the floor of unfastened, well-drained soil and canopy them with a really skinny layer of sand, vermiculite, or perlite. Hold the soil floor moist till the seeds germinate and begin to develop bulbs.


Close-up of Bowiea volubilis in a black plastic pot indoors. The plant features intricate, coiling stems that give it a distinct, vine-like appearance. The wiry stems are adorned with delicate, spherical bulbs and slender, strap-like leaves. The bulbs are characterized by a papery outer layer that varies in color, adding texture and visual interest.
Separate bulbs throughout dormancy by gently dividing and replanting them individually.

Each few years, a wholesome climbing onion will produce bulb offsets. These will then develop and mature alongside the mum or dad bulb. You do not want to divide bulbs from one another until the pot is getting too crowded or until you need to propagate your crops. Throughout any time of dormancy, separate the bulbs from one another and repot them in separate pots with recent potting soil. 

To divide the bulbs, loosen the soil and take away all the plant mass from the pot. Utilizing your fingers, gently separate the bulbs from one another. They need to separate simply. Every bulb can have its personal set of roots on the underside, so attempt to hold the roots intact on each. Put together pots and soil as described under and punctiliously replant every bulb in a recent, clear pot with recent soil.


Top view, close-up view of a Bowiea volubilis bulbs in a black pot on a terrace. The bulbs are round in shape, green-brown in color. Vertical green slender stems grow from the centers of the bulbs.
Select a well-draining pot barely wider than the bulb and use cactus or succulent soil.

One of the vital necessary issues to know when transplanting a climbing onion is to decide on a pot with a drainage gap. It wants freely-draining soil, and the soil can’t try this with out substantial holes within the backside of the pot. Ceramic pots with drainage holes within the backside are finest as a result of they’re extremely breathable. 

Pot dimension is necessary with these crops. They like to develop in considerably cosy circumstances. You possibly can create splendid circumstances by holding them in a pot simply a bit of wider than the bulb itself. Don’t fear about your onion outgrowing its pot too quickly. They develop slowly. 

The opposite merchandise you’ll need, together with a well-draining pot, is unfastened soil. A soil mix designed for cacti and succulents is a superb choice. If you wish to create your individual soil combination, mix an roughly 50/50 mix of houseplant potting soil and sand. Combine these two collectively completely and use this as your potting soil. 

How one can Develop

These houseplants are very simple to develop. They want daylight, heat, and sufficient water to often moisten the soil. 


Close-up of a climbing onion (Bowiea volubilis) in a black pot in the urban garden. The plants have several bulbs from the centers of which vining and twining stems grow. The bulbs are medium in size, round in shape, green in color with a brownish papery outer layer. The plant's leaves are slender, strap-like, and have a glossy green hue.
Present full solar to partial shade for optimum progress.

Your climbing onion wants full solar to partial shade. In addition they carry out nicely indoors when grown below a full-spectrum develop mild. When you develop them in a big window with direct solar publicity, transfer them again if you happen to discover burns on the foliage. Nonetheless, any vibrant window ought to present loads of daylight. 


Close-up of Bowiea volubilis in a large clay pot. The small, spherical bulbs exhibit a textured, papery outer layer, displaying a range of earthy tones from pale brown to reddish-brown. The slender, strap-like leaves emerge gracefully from the bulbs, showing a glossy green surface.
Let the soil dry between waterings, then water and take away extra.

Enable the soil to dry completely between waterings. After the soil has dried, give the pot an intensive watering. Then, permit the soil to dry once more. After the additional water has drained out the underside of the pot, take away the additional so the pot doesn’t proceed to face in water.


Close-up of female hands in white and green gloves pouring fresh soil into a flower pot on a table covered with craft paper. The pot is medium size, clay. The soil is loose and brown.
Go for unfastened, sandy, well-drained cactus soil.

The soil you utilize ought to be unfastened, sandy, and well-drained. Use cactus and succulent soil. These crops are finest tailored to develop in considerably nutrient-poor soil and don’t require natural, high-nutrient soil. You don’t want to make use of a really deep pot both, as these crops have shallow root methods.

Local weather and temperature

Top view of a Bowiea volubilis in a black plastic pot. The soil is covered with a layer of small decorative brown pebbles. The plant has rounded green-brown bulbs from the centers of which thin green stems grow. This succulent features wiry, twining stems with glossy, strap-like leaves of bright green.
Climbing onion thrives in heat climates, tolerating temperatures between 40-50°F (4-10°C) and diverse humidity ranges.

Climbing onion is customized to a heat local weather. The minimal temperature these crops ought to be uncovered to is 40 to 50 levels Fahrenheit (4 to 10 levels Celsius). These crops tolerate each excessive and low humidity. 

If you wish to, transfer your potted plant outdoors for the summer time. This may be splendid you probably have a sheltered location that receives some vibrant mild through the day. You don’t need to place it in full, direct daylight outdoor, as this can be a bit too intense for a plant used to the indoors. A shaded porch is an efficient selection. Convey your plant in if the temperature drops under 50 levels Fahrenheit (10 levels Celsius).


Close-up of Bowiea volubilis bulbs in a garden bed with climbing stems. The plant's leaves are slender, strap-like, and glossy green, emerging gracefully from the central stem. The leaves often cascade and arch, emphasizing the climbing nature of Bowiea volubilis. The bulbs are of different sizes, round in shape, green in color with a brownish outer layer.
Feed frivolously throughout energetic progress, avoiding dormancy intervals.

Climbing onions are nicely tailored to nutrient-poor soil and don’t require supplemental feeding. A typical well-drained houseplant soil combination ought to present adequate vitamins on your plant.

When you really feel that you could fertilize, accomplish that very frivolously and solely during times of energetic progress. Don’t fertilize when your plant reveals indicators of dormancy and isn’t actively rising.


Close-up of climbing onion bulbs in a large black plastic pot. These bulbs are small, spherical structures that feature a papery outer layer, displaying a spectrum of colors from pale brown to reddish-brown. These bulbs serve as the foundation for the succulent's graceful foliage.
Enable bulb offsets to develop in a clump, and divide them if the pot turns into overcrowded.

In case your climbing onion has reproduced and created bulb offsets, you may permit them to proceed rising in a clump. In case your clump will get too massive for the pot, nonetheless, you ultimately need to divide it to make certain the pot doesn’t change into overcrowded

The opposite common upkeep is pruning. As soon as the plant goes dormant and the stems wither, flip brown, and die again, prune them off. Use sharp pruning snips or clear, sharp scissors and trim off the spent stems close to the bottom, simply above the bulb. 

These crops wish to climb, however they can even path alongside. You possibly can add a small construction to your pot on your onion to climb alongside. You may also permit it to path over the sting of the pot and sprawl alongside beside its pot.

An alternative choice is to develop them in a dangling basket. Some stems will in all probability climb up the helps for the hanging basket, whereas different stems will path over the sting for a sleek inexperienced show.


There may be one species of climbing onion, Bowiea volubilis, and inside this species, there are two very comparable subspecies. The first species, Bowiea volubilis, is the species mostly encountered as a houseplant. They every have very comparable traits and rising necessities.

Bowiea volubilis ssp. gariepensis 

Close-up of a flowering plant, Bowiea volubilis ssp. gariepensis in a sunny garden. The slender, strap-like leaves are glossy green, emerging gracefully from the central stem and creating an elegant and symmetrical arrangement. The plant produces tall and slender flower stalks topped with clusters of small, star-shaped flowers. These flowers are small and creamy white in color.
The Southern African Bowiea options shorter, thicker stems and small, white, six-petaled flowers.

This species of Bowiea comes from southern Africa. It has barely shorter and thicker stems with tiny, white, six-petaled flowers.

Bowiea volubilis ssp. volubilis

Close-up of a flowering plant, Bowiea volubilis ssp. volubilis on a black background. The plant's leaves are slender, strap-like, and glossy green, arranged in an attractive and symmetrical manner along the vining stems. the plant produces tall, wiry stalks topped with clusters of small, star-shaped flowers of pale green color.
This Bowiea subspecies showcases lengthy, skinny, branching stems with refined inexperienced, star-shaped flowers.

This subspecies has lengthy, skinny, many-branching stems with inconspicuous star-shaped inexperienced flowers. It is usually from South Africa.

Widespread Issues

Close-up of rotting bulbs of a Bowiea volubilis plant in a pot. Encased in a papery outer layer, the bulbs vary in color from pale brown to reddish-brown. The bulb itself is pale green. One bulb has a rotting part.
Preserve a thriving climbing onion houseplant by avoiding chilly publicity and overwatering, stopping root rot.

Climbing onion crops are typically trouble-free. So long as you don’t let your plant get too chilly or too moist, you must be capable of preserve a thriving houseplant for a really lengthy and satisfying length of time.

Root Rot – It’s simple to keep away from root rot in these crops. Watch out to keep away from overwatering. Enable the soil to dry out fully between waterings.

If the soil stays moist, your climbing onion is prone to develop root rot because the plant experiences water stress and fungal pathogens assault. When you discover that the bulb has turned delicate and mushy, this can be a positive signal that rot has settled in. The only approach to take care of root rot is to stop it.

Often Requested Questions

This might not be the most typical houseplant obtainable, however you’ll sometimes see them on the market at greenhouses and nurseries alongside different houseplants. You may also discover them on-line from specialty growers. When you occur to know somebody with a plant, ask if they’ve an additional bulb they may share with you. When it matures and produces offsets, you may share them with your folks.

A well-cared-for climbing onion generally is a very long-lived houseplant! They’ll simply stay 10 years or extra. In reality, as you proceed to divide the bulb offsets, you may basically hold your plant rising indefinitely.

When you stay in plant hardiness zones 10 or 11, you may develop these crops outdoors year-round. After they go dormant outdoor in a heat local weather, cowl them with a skinny layer of unfastened mulch to guard them from any surprising chilly. When you preserve your crops in pots, deliver them inside anytime the temperatures drop under 50 levels Fahrenheit (10 levels Celsius).

Remaining Ideas

Climbing onion crops are simple to develop, low upkeep, and make very rewarding houseplants. They don’t take up an excessive amount of house, are fascinating to take a look at, and don’t require any particular therapy. So long as you might have a sunny window, heat temperatures, and a bit of little bit of house, you must be capable of simply develop your individual. Take pleasure in watching it cycle between energetic progress and dormancy, and hold a watch out for its tiny flowers!

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