Onion 'Lilia' produce a beautiful shiny intense red, inner core with dark green leaves and make a stunning addition of colour to salads. This dual purpose variety can be grown and harvested when small as a spring onion or can be left to mature and develop into a bulb and harvested as a main crop globe onion. Despite their gorgeous appearance they have a delicately mild flavour when young, increasing with maturity.
An attractive variety, the bulb skins of 'Lilia' are vivid-red coloured and once matured, they develop into spinning-top shaped bulbs. Marketed in Italy as, and occasionally found here named 'Rossa da Inverno' meaning 'Red of Winter', this hardy variety stores well, for around four months and continues to give excellent flavour. One of the most popular crops red onions are a huge must for any home gardener, when fully mature 'Lilia' shows off its defined red and white inner rings.
Sow March to July, for harvesting June to October.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Onion 'Lilia' has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM). It was noted that this variety was particularly attractive and that it performed particularly well at Harlow Carr.
The gardens and trial grounds are in Harrogate, in the north of England, an area that famously enjoys particularly wet weather.
Choose an open, sunny site with good drainage which has preferably been dug and manured in the previous autumn. Do not plant or sow on freshly manured bed. Lime if the soil is acid. Avoid planting in an area where the previous crop was of the onion family. Many exhibitors grow their show onions in a permanent bed in order to build up fertility, but in the kitchen plot it is a much better idea to change the site annually.
Apply a general fertiliser if needed and rake the surface when the soil is reasonably dry. Tread over the area and then rake again to produce a fine, even tilth.
Timing: Sow in February to April
Seeds can be sown direct in autumn to be harvested in 46 weeks to produce large bulbs (not advisable in very cold areas) Otherwise sow in February under cloches or direct March to April and harvest in 24 weeks. In cold areas and for exhibition bulbs sow early under glass in January, harden off in March and transplant outdoors in April.
Sow very thinly in 1.2cm (½in) deep drills, leaving about 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12in) between rows. Water very gently if the soil is dry, and cover with soil.
When large enough to handle, thin the crop in two stages. Close spacing will give smaller onions than wider spacings. Lift the seedlings carefully – the soil should be moist and all thinnings removed to deter onion fly. (They may be used as spring onions)
Thin spring-sown seedlings first to 2.5cm (1in) then when the seedlings have straightened up to 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4in) apart.
Thin autumn sown onion seedlings to about 2.5cm (1 inch) in the autumn. Further thin to about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) between plants in the Spring.
Seedlings raised under glass should be transplanted 4in (10cm) apart, leaving 9in (23cm) between the rows. The roots must fall vertically in the planting hole and the bulb base should be about 1cm (½in) below the surface. Plant firmly.
Hoe carefully or weed by hand – dense weed growth will seriously affect yield. Water if the weather is dry (not otherwise) and feed occasionally. Feed an autumn-sown crop in March. Mulching is useful for cutting down the need for water and for suppressing weeds. Break off any flower stems which appear. Stop watering once the onions have swollen and pull back the covering earth or mulch to expose the bulb surface to the sun.
Harvesting: August to September
When the bulb is mature the foliage turns yellow and topples over. (Some gardeners bend over the tops as the leaves start to yellow). Leave them for about 2 weeks and then carefully lift with a fork on a dry day.
If you have just painted a room and the fumes are a little overwhelming, slice an onion in half and place it in a bucket of cold water. Leave the bucket in the room overnight. The fumes will magically disappear (or a least be reduced a fair bit).
How to slice an onion without crying:
Freeze the onion for ten minutes before cutting. The sulphuric compound that leads to tears will not react as quickly when it’s cold. If you forget, just light a candle, as a burning flame can burn away the sulphuric fumes.
Inspect the bulbs carefully – all damaged, soft, spotted and thick-necked onions should be set aside for immediate use in the kitchen or for freezing. The rest can be stored and will need to be thoroughly dried. Spread out the bulbs on sacking or in trays, outdoors if the weather is warm and sunny. Drying will take 7 to 21 days, depending on the size of the bulbs and the air temperature. Avoid storing whole onions in the refrigerator, which has a damp environment. Do not store onions next to potatoes. Both potatoes and onions emit a gas which causes them both to sprout and spoil faster.
Store the whole onions in a dry place, in an area where there is good air circulation. They should also be stored in a cool, dark area to prevent them from sprouting and rotting too soon as a result of light and humidity. Store the onions in trays, net bags, tights or tie to a length of cord as onion ropes and they will keep until late spring.
Prior to Linnaean taxonomy the Onion family was spread over four genera. The bulb Onion, Shallot and Welsh Onion were found in the Cepa genera. Garlic was placed in the Allium genera, Leeks were listed as Porrum and the Chive was classed as Schoenoprasum, its current species name.
The genus name, Allium comes from the Celtic All, meaning 'pungent', the species name cepa, is from the Roman cepae, meaning 'onion'.
The common name of onion seems to come from the Latin Unio or one, signifying that the bulb is of one unit.
Onion 'Lilia' is also marketed in Italy as 'Rossa da Inverno' meaning 'Red of Winter'
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5gms Average Seed Count 750 Seeds Common Name Dual Purpose - Spring Onion that matures to a Bulbing Onion Other Common Names 'Rossa da Inverno' meaning 'Red of Winter' Other Language Names Rossa da Inverno Lilia Family Alliaceae Genus Allium Species cepa Cultivar Lilia Hardiness Hardy Biennial Germination 21 days Harvest Dual Use Onion Time to Harvest Harvest as a Spring Onion, or grow to Maturity 130 days Notes Stored seed viability: 1-2 years. Yield from a 10 ft row: 4kg (8lb). Stored seed viability: 1-2 years.