How to Plant and Grow Society Garlic

Related to chives, this plant's flowers are pretty and edible.

society garlic in bloom

Peter Krumhardt

The perennial society garlic has delicate blossoms and works in rock gardens, sunny borders, herb gardens, and containers. Hardy in Zones 7-10, society garlic blooms in the summer and can last through the fall. This low-maintenance, heat- and drought-tolerant plant adds interest to any garden.

Society Garlic Overview

Genus Name Tulbaghia
Common Name Society Garlic
Plant Type Perennial
Light Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 2 feet
Flower Color Pink
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Fragrance, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Society Garlic

Plant society garlic in an area of the garden that receives full sun and has rich, well-draining soil. The plant will grow in partial shade, but it won't be as compact, and the blooms will be sparse.

These slow-growing plants spread via tuberous roots, making them a good option for edging. Use them as filler or groundcover. Since society garlic is not winter hardy in all areas, in cool climates, it can be grown as a container plant.

Society garlic has a potent aroma, especially when brushed or crushed, so plant it away from high-traffic areas.

How and When to Plant Society Garlic

In the spring, after the soil in your garden has warmed up, sow society garlic seeds on soil that has been amended with organic matter and cover them with 1/8-inch of soil. Keep the area moist, and they'll germinate in two to three weeks. After the seeds germinate, thin the seedlings so they are spaced no closer than 18 inches for best results.

For nursery-grown container plants, dig a hole in rich, well-draining garden soil. The hole should be twice as wide as the container and the same height. Slip the plant out of the container and place it in the hole. Backfill with soil and press down with your hands to remove air pockets. Water the plant and add 2 inches of mulch around it.

Society Garlic Care Tips

Society garlic is easy to maintain, requiring little attention or extra care.


For the most vigorous growth, be sure to plant society garlic in full sun. This ensures a nice, compact growth and the best color possible. It tolerates part shade but will have fewer blooms and more of a lax growth habit.

Soil and Water

Society garlic prefers organically rich, although slightly sandy, evenly moist soil with good drainage. Overwatering can result in root rot. Once established, it can withstand the occasional drought, but for extended dry spells, it needs supplemental watering.

Temperature and Humidity

Moderate frost is fine for society garlic, and so are extended droughts. If there's a mild freeze, society garlic will survive, but remove any damaged leaves from the plants.


Add organic compost to the soil every spring to maintain good drainage and promote flowering.


There's no need to prune society garlic other than to remove dead leaves and flowers occasionally.

Potting and Repotting Society Garlic

A good way to save a few plants for the following springs is to dig up a few tubers and plant them in a container. Bring them indoors just before the first fall frost to overwinter, placing them in a bright, cool area. Cut down on watering to simulate a dormant period.

Pests and Problems

Outdoors, society garlic faces few problems from pests or diseases and repels deer. However, indoor plants sometimes develop aphids or white flies. A strong water spray may be enough to get rid of insects, but if needed, use insecticidal soap to treat the infested plants.

How to Propagate Society Garlic

The best way to propagate society garlic is by division in late spring or early fall. Use a sharp spade to cut down through the middle of a clump of plants, leaving half the plant undisturbed in the garden. Cut off the top half of the foliage on the removed section to reduce transplant shock. Use your hands to separate the section into several individual plants and plant them right away, either in a pot filled with good quality potting soil or directly in a prepared garden bed. Water them.

Types of Society Garlic

'Silver Lace' Society Garlic

'silver lace' society garlic
Jerry Pavia

This variety of Tulbaghia violacea has lavender blooms held above attractive green foliage with silver margins. Zones 7-10

Variegated Society Garlic

Variegated society garlic Tulbaghia violacea
Denny Schrock

Tulbaghia violacea 'Variegata' bears lavender-pink flowers almost identical to the species, but its straplike foliage is striped green and white. Grow it in containers, beds, borders, or along the edge of a pond. Zones 7-10

Society Garlic Companion Plants

Blue Fescue

Blue Fescue Festuca glauca
Martin Tessler

Blue fescue is a clump-forming plant with uniform balls of foliage topped with feathery straw blooms in the summer. Zones 4-9

New Zealand Flax

potted Phormium
Jeff McNamara

This low-maintenance plant comes in many colors and has no problem with heat in the summer. It works well in containers. Zones 9-11

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is society garlic safe to eat?

    Yes, it's safe to eat. Both flowers and leaves are edible and add a mild garlic flavor to any dish. The flowers are often used in soups and salads. The leaves can be added to dishes that benefit from chives; just chop them up and add them to soups, salads and sauces. Refrain from using any chemical products on society garlic plants if you plan to eat them.

  • How did society garlic get its name?

    Society garlic gets its name from the belief of Dutch settlers in Africa, where it originates, that while it offers garlic flavor, it doesn't result in the bad breath eating garlic can create.

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