Society Garlic: How to Grow and Care for Tulbaghia Violacea

It is known in the trade as Society Garlic – Tulbaghia violacea is a clumping evergreen perennial plant type with fat, tuberous roots in the Amaryllidaceae family.

Society Garlic plant is native to the grasslands of South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Province).

blooming Tulbaghia violaceaPin

This is not the same genus as onion and garlic (Allium), but they are members of the onion family.

The plant’s genus name honors the Cape of Good Hope’s Dutch governor, Rijk Tulbagh (1699 – 1771).

The common name, Society Garlic, is based on the notion that eating this garlic type is possible without bad breath’s negative consequences.

Please keep in mind various climates change the height, bloom time, and color of this plant.

So while we’ve made every afford to describe these ornamental garlic plants accurately, they may differ in person.

Some other names you may hear this plant by include:

Tulbaghia Violacea Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Tulbaghia Violacea
  • Common Name(s): Society Garlic, Pink Agapanthus, Wild Garlic, Sweet Garlic, Spring Bulbs, Spring Flowers, Silver Lace
  • Synonyms: N/A
  • Pronunciation: tul-BAG-ee-uh vy-oh-LAH-see-a
  • Family & Origin: Amaryllidaceae family, native to South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Province)
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 7-10
  • Size: Grows up to 1-2 feet tall and wide
  • Flowering: Blooms in summer with pink or purple flowers
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
  • Temperature: 40° – 50° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Well-draining soil
  • Water: Water regularly, but do not overwater
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize with granular general slow-release fertilizer annually in the early springtime
  • Pests & Diseases: Generally pest and disease-free, but can be susceptible to aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs
  • Propagation: Propagate through division or from seeds
  • Plant Uses: Used as a culinary herb, ornamental plant, and for its medicinal properties. Can also be used as a natural insect repellent.

Society Garlic Plant Care

Size and Growth

Society garlic plants are clump-forming herbaceous perennials that grow 1′ – 2′ feet high and wide.

This herbaceous perennial grows in clumps and produces grass-like, narrow leaves.

The grayish-green leaves are about a foot long; the flower stalks stand above the plant about 2′ feet.

Flowering and Fragrance

Society garlic flower Tulbaghia has lilac-pink flower colors small in size.

The lavender blooms grow in large umbels at the top of long stems. The blossoms are tubular and have six petals.

The tubular flowers are fragrant and showy and attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

The plant produces flowers in all warm weather in summer.

Its growing season will vary depending on your climate.

When bruised, the leaves and rootstock of society release a strong smell of garlic.

Its main bloom time is nearly year-round:

  • Early Spring through Late Spring.
  • Early Summer through Late Summer.
  • Early Fall through Late Fall.
Society Garlic blooming in the landscape Pin
Society Garlic in bloom planted in the landscape at Tanger Outlet – Daytona Beach, Florida | PlantCareToday

Light and Temperature

What Is Best For Society Garlic: Sun or Shade?

The society garlic plant grows in partial shade, but flowering will be sparse. For best performance, place these society garlic flowers in full sun.

This remarkably hardy plant can tolerate both drought and cold temperatures.

It’s also capable of tolerating light freeze and moderate frost.

Winter hardy in USDA zone or hardiness zones 7 to 10.

Bring container plants indoors for winter in freezing climates.

Overwinter in a cool area receiving bright indirect sunlight.

The overwintering temperature should be between 40° – 50° degrees Fahrenheit (4° C – 10° C).

Watering and Feeding

Once established, society garlic is very drought tolerant.

Water regularly through the growing season. Allow the top 3″ inches of soil to dry and then water deeply.

During the winter months, reduce or cease watering.

Fertilize society garlic using a granular general slow-release fertilizer annually in the early springtime.

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Soil and Transplanting

Society garlic needs a well-drained soil type to prevent root rot. But it will also thrive in sandy soil or well-drained loam.

The best is light, fertile soil rich in organic matter.

When rhizomes become crowded, lift them and divide them to propagate more plants.

Grooming and Maintenance

Society garlic requires no significant grooming. Trim back dead leaves and flowers.

In some landscapes, the straplike foliage and flower stems are back to the ground in the late autumn. But it is not required.

Mulch to protect the plant against freezing during the winter.

How To Propagate Sweet Garlic

Society Garlic propagates best by division.

  • Dig up a big clump of the plant.
  • Split the clump into manageable pieces using a knife or hand pruners.
  • Split off individual plants with a knife ensuring there’s some root.
  • Cut the foliage in half. This helps with transplant shock to help the plant survive with a limited root system.
  • Using a good quality, well-draining potting mix, half-fill a pot.
  • Gently put a plant in the pot, careful not to break off the fragile roots.
  • Carefully fill the pot with potting mix.
  • After potting your new plants, give them a thorough drink of water.

In 6 – 8 weeks, your plants will be ready, complete with flowers.

Plant them in full sun in your garden or share them with friends.

Related: Homemade Garlic Spray for Aphids

Wild Garlic Pest or Disease Problems

This hardy perennial does not typically experience severe disease or pests.

This is because its strong garlic smell repels insects.

However, snails and slugs may eat the foliage if plants are crowded or kept too damp.

Aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs may also occasionally attack this plant. So ensure to use insecticidal soap to remedy it.

Like most onion family members, Society Garlic is deer and rabbit resistant.

In addition, its tubers are prone to rot, so avoid soggy or wet soil.

Are Sweet Garlic Flowers Invasive?

Spring flowers grow by spreading rhizomes, but this is a slow process, so the plants are not considered invasive.

Potted, blooming Society Garlic growing in full sun St Johns Town Center, Jacksonville Florida Pin
Flowering Society Garlic plant from South Africa in full sun in front of Tiffany & Company,
St Johns Town Center, Jacksonville Florida | image:

Suggested Uses for Growing Society Garlic

Society garlic violacea makes an excellent groundcover in mass planting or a rock garden.

Use in full sun growing in containers, herb gardens, rock gardens, or as an edging or border plant. You can also grow in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, greenhouses, and planters.

If you’re growing the plant in a container, be sure to place the container in an area getting plenty of full sun and expect some garlic smell.

Containers of Society Garlic make an excellent addition to terraces, porches, patios, and decks.

Bear in mind that the mild garlic flavor also produces a garlic smell, so you should not plant it in an area with a great deal of foot traffic.

Brushing against it or trampling it will release the garlic scent.

Use Society Garlic whenever a recipe calls for onion or garlic chives. It makes an excellent addition to salads and soups.

Bring plants inside before the first frost in icy settings. In addition, the plant’s leaves and rhizomes are also edible and can be used in dishes.

Moreover, its crushed leaves can be used to repel ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes by rubbing on the skin.

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