For those who want an attractive garden and also produce for the table, this dynamic little plant meets both objectives. A low growing, warm weather plant that thrives in strong sunlight, Society Garlic is a great edging plant. Spear-like leaves grow year round and from approximately April through October dainty purple flowers bloom.
Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) plant is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family that originated in South Africa. According to folklore the plant gets its name from the belief that you won’t get bad breath if you eat it. The plant has a strong garlic smell that carries on the wind. The leaves are edible raw and can be used in cooking like garlic chives in salads and other dishes.
Society Garlic’s pretty flowers are produced on tall stems over a long season. Clusters of fragrant, lavender or lilac-colored flowers sit atop stems that rise above the clumps of garlic-scented, grass-like foliage throughout summer and fall. The raw flowers are on the peppery sweet side with an onion-ish flavor.
But for those that just enjoy beauty, the compact foliage makes this plant a very welcome accent for any garden. The leaves have two colorations: solid deep green or a two toned, white-green variegated leaf. If you have a fountain Society Garlic is a good plant to put around the splash area as its short maximum height won’t block the view and the plant likes the extra moisture.
Society garlic grows best in soil that is moderately fertile and rich in organic matter, but it will adapt to almost any soil type as long as it is well-drained. Note that the bulbs rot in soggy or wet soil so it is imperative to ensure that you plan ahead for the rainy season torents. It is best to work a couple of inches of compost into sandy soil to improve the organic content before planting. Don’t cover the crown of the plant with mulch or compost. The plants need full sun and protection from strong winds.
Society Garlic prefers a deep watering to saturate the root zone during the absence of rain throughout the tropical dry season in fall and winter. Allow the soil to become almost completely dry in winter. To keep your plants healthy add a layer of compost or the addition of a general-purpose fertilizer once a year in early spring.
Unlike most tropical plants, Society Garlic plants grown outdoors seldom have problems with insects.
This plant makes a great addition to your herb collection or you can plop it into a decorative pot for yearlong color. The low maintenance Society Garlic plant is a perfect edge for your tropical flower bed or garden path. Plant it once and enjoy the scent and beauty for years.