Society Garlic: How to Grow and Care for Tulbaghia Violacea

It is known in the trade as Society Garlic – Tulbaghia violacea [tul-BAG-ee-uh vy-oh-LAH-see-a] is a clumping evergreen perennial plant type with fat, tuberous roots in the Amaryllidaceae family.

Native to the grasslands of southern Africa (KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Province).

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

blooming Tulbaghia violacea

The plant’s genus name is in honor of the Cape of Good Hope’s Dutch governor, Rijk Tulbagh, (1699 through 1771).

The common name, Society Garlic, is based on the notion it’s possible to eat this type of garlic without the negative consequences of bad breath.

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

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

Some other names you may hear this plant by include:

  • Pink Agapanthus
  • Wild Garlic
  • Sweet Garlic
  • Spring Bulbs
  • Spring Flowers

Society Garlic Care

Size & Growth

Plants grow to be 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 & Fragrance

This plant has lilac-pink flower colors small in size.

The flowers grow in large umbels at the top of long stems.

The blossoms are tubular and have six petals.

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

The plant produces flowers in all warm weather.

It’s growing season will vary depending upon your climate.

When bruised the leaves and rootstock have a strong garlic smell.

Its main bloom time is nearly year-round:

  • Early Spring through Late Spring.
  • Early Summer through Late Summer.
  • Early Fall through Late Fall.

Light & Temperature

The 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 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 & 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 using a granular general purpose fertilizer annually in the early springtime.

Soil & Transplanting

This plant needs good drainage to prevent root rot.

The best is a light, organically rich, well-draining soil.

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

Grooming & Maintenance

There is no significant grooming necessary.

Trim back dead leaves and flowers.

In some landscapes, the 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 into your garden or share with friends.

Wild Garlic Pest or Disease Problems

This hardy perennial does not typically experience severe disease or insect problems.

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

As with all plants, if left to stand in water, root rot will result.

Is Wild Garlic Toxic or Poisonous?

Leaves and flowers are edible and make an excellent addition to salads and soups.

The plant’s rhizomes are also edible.

Use Society Garlic any time a recipe calls for garlic chives or onion chives.

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

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

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

Are Sweet Garlic Flowers Invasive?

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

Suggested Uses for Pink Agapanthus

Society garlic makes an excellent groundcover or mass planting.

Use in containers, herb gardens, rock gardens, or as an edging or border plant.

Grow it in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, 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.

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

Bring plants inside before the first frost in icy settings.