Society Garlic: 9 Ways to grow it successfully

Grow society garlic in soil that has been enriched with organic matter. Pick an open sunny spot and water the society garlic in well once it has been planted into the soil. Remove old flower stems once they have finished and fertilize with liquid fish fertilizer in spring and fall. Use liquid seaweed on society garlic to reduce transplant shock.

Easy tips to grow society garlic successfully

  1. Pick an open sunny spot in your garden, society garlic loves full sun.
  2. Prepare the soil with organic compost and aged cow manure.
  3. Remove the society garlic from the pot and either divide the clump or plant it as a whole plant
  4. Water society garlic in well when planting to help them settle in the soil
  5. Surround society garlic with bark or tree mulch to keep moisture in the soil
  6. Remove old flower stems to encourage more flowers to grow
  7. Grow in garden soil or containers, use soil that drains well.
  8. Fertilize with liquid fish emulsion during spring and fall
  9. Strengthen society garlic roots and stems by watering with liquid seaweed
Society Garlic is easy to grow organically and will deter pest insects

Key Society Garlic growing facts

LeavesThis grows long strappy leaves that are green all year.  If you get the variegated variety, this will be white/green all year.   
SizeThey can grow to about 1 foot high, the flowers will grow up to 2 feet high  
FlowersPurple in groups of 4-6 on each flower head  
Growth habitThey grow from a rhizome (like a potato) which makes they great for propagating at home. You can often buy a small pot from the garden center which make contain up to 10 individual plants.  You can divide these and plant them out individually which makes them great value.  
OriginThey are native to the rocky grasslands of South Africa.  
Botanical NameTulbaghia violacea  
SoilPrefer a sandy soil but will grow in a range of soil.  
FertilizerI always add compost, aged cow manure and some organic chicken manure pellets.  

How to divide and plant Society Garlic

1. Remove the society garlic plant from the pot

Squeeze the outside of the pot and tap the plant out of the pot gently

2. Shake off excess soil from the plant

Remove excess soil from the bottom of the plant so you can see each stem and root system of the plant.

3. Split the society garlic into small groups of bulbs

I will always make sure they have a good amount of roots at the bottom before splitting it off.  This makes sure they will have a good chance of growing strong.

4. Trim off any excess roots

If roots are long and tangled, trim off excess from the bottom. Remove up to 1/3 of roots if necessary.

5. Trim any damaged leaves

Remove any damage leaves with sharp secateurs. Leaves can grow back quickly. I found that mine were back to full size around 4 weeks later and producing flowers.

6. Plant into soil at the same level they were in at the pot

Dig compost into the soil first and plant your society garlic out into your yard or pot.

7. Water well

Water the society garlic in well at the time of planting.

Why it is called society garlic

This plant got its name because it does not smell as strong as normal garlic, therefore it fits well in society – that is basically the story. That is a bit old fashioned, but it does have a mild smell, and I tend not to notice the smell at all unless I pick or crush the leaves.  You cannot really use the flowers in an arrangement because once cut, the garlic smell will be quite strong inside your home.

How to grow society garlic organically

These are one of the easiest plants I have ever grown so every time we move to a new house I will always plant some society garlic as a legacy.  They can tolerate dry or damp conditions and are not too fussy about having perfect soil.

Society garlic prefers full sun but will also grow in part shade. Let them lest out between watering if possible but they can tolerate quite a lot of rain.  If the ground stays too wet the rhizome can rot.

Growing society garlic in pots and containers

Society garlic will grow well in pots or containers.  They don’t mind drying out a little so will survive if you forget to water the pot now and then. They look great with so many plants with their tall, purple flowers. They are also narrow so can be a great option to fill small gaps in pots to add interest.

How to fertilize society garlic organically

The best fertilizer is an organic, pellet chicken manure.  I also like to add a liquid seaweed and an organic liquid fertilizer in spring. These are gentle fertilizers that will help your society garlic to grow big enough to divide.  These are such great value plants and will grow more and more tubers for you to plant throughout your garden or share with friends.

How to divide society garlic

Society garlic can be divided as often as you like but a good guide is every 2-3 years.  I actually lift and divide mine every year because they grow so well with this organic method.  I will simply dig them out of the ground, split them in half. I will then re-plant one half back in its original spot and then find a new spot for the other half.

When I buy a society garlic plant from the garden center I will always look for the one that has the greatest number of stems.  The more stems you have the more you can divide and plant out. 

Best soil for society garlic

The best soil for society garlic is well draining, full of organic material including compost and with some organic manure or fertilizer added. They actually enjoy a sandy soil however, society garlic is really adaptable so will tolerate a huge range of soil types.  If your soil is compact and hasn’t had any love in a while, it will be best if you add some extra compost before planting out your society garlic.

Companion plants for society garlic

VegetablesFlowersHerbs
BeetrootRosesDill
KaleGeraniumsChives and garlic chives
SpinachCameliasChamomile
BroccoliMarigoldsOregano
CauliflowerPetuniasThyme
Cabbage Rosemary
Kohlrabi  

Society garlic looks great as an edging plant. They look great with lavender, rosemary as well as with fruiting plants like lemon and limes.  I just make sure I give my fruit trees plenty of space underneath their branches so the roots have space to feed and plant the society garlic nearby.

Society garlic can also be planted throughout your vegetable patch.  The garlic smell can help to keep gnawing insects away and the bee attracting flowers are great to encourage bees into your patch.

Will society garlic repel cats?

From my experience in my own backyard, they certainly don’t seem to deter cats.  I live in a townhouse surrounded by people who own cats and get visits everyday from a variety of cats from the neighborhood.  I have at least 10 society garlic plants throughout my front garden and the cats seem to take no notice.

What plants are like society garlic?

If you want a plant that is like society garlic without the ‘garlicy’ smell I would suggest that you choose a Liriope. These can come in green strappy leaves, or variegated and have beautiful, purple flowers on long stems. If you want a grass that is super hardy, any of the Dianella varieties look great. They grow in a range of soil types and can be lifted and divided as they grow.

Is there anything that should not be planted with society garlic?

Society garlic is a mild plant, it will generally grow well next to anything and is not invasive. This is a clumping plant so will keep to its own space without taking over.

I have planted society garlic near citrus, annual flowers like viola and Australian natives with succees.

How to cook with society garlic

You can use both the flowers and leaves in cooking or salads.  Pick them and give them a good wash. They can actually be used as a garlic replacement as they have a mild garlic taste without being overpowering.  The flowers are often used in high end restaurants for a beautifully presented meal.

How to cut back society garlic

Cut back society garlic leaves if they are affected by frost or snow or if the tops turn brown.  When the weather warms the leaves will grow well from the healthy rhizome.

Growing society garlic in shade

Society garlic will growl in shade but it certainly won’t flower as well as in full sun. I grow my society garlic in part sun and part shade and they are happily flowering away.  If you have a semi-shaded spot, society garlic are a good choice for a hardy, good looking plant.

Society garlic vs garlic chives

Both of these plants can add a delicious garlic flavor to your dishes and look great in the garden. Check out the table below to compare these 2 plants

Society GarlicGarlic Chives
LeavesFlat, strappy leavesThin, tubular leaves
FlowersLavender or purpleWhite
CookingCan use leaves in cooking, has a stronger garlic flavor than garlic chives Flowers can be used as garnishLeaves can be used in cooking, milder flavor than society garlic Flowers can be used as garnish

How to grow society garlic – Summary

Society garlic is easy to grow and divide, simply choose a sunny spot with well drained soil and keep it well watered in the first 2-3 weeks. Society garlic will establish quickly and become drought tolerant saving you water in the long run. Society garlic has great looking flowers and can be used in cooking so give it go.