Updated: Mar 1, 2021
By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is a herbaceous perennial that produces long narrow leaves and grows in a cluster about 20” tall and 12” wide. The plant has a soft lilac pink star shaped flower which grows on a stem that stands above the plant itself and are delicate and sweetly fragrant. Flowering throughout the summer and into fall, this plant is a great addition to West Texas flowerbeds.
They should be planted in full sun but will survive in partial shade although the plant will not flower as much in the shade. This easy to grow plant prefers sandy soil so it thrives in a water wise garden in our zone. It makes a great border plant and is pretty in mass plantings. If grown in a pot, remember that full sun is needed for flowering so under a porch may not work well.
Water regularly during the growing season but less when the plant is flowering.
Society garlic will spread by rhizomes but is a slow grower so it is not considered aggressive. Tolerant of cold and drought (a definite positive here) it is also not a favorite of deer.
Society garlic can be divided when dormant. I have several of these in my yard and they are evergreen in my flowerbed so it is hard to tell when they are actually dormant. We have just been through a week of below freezing temperatures, and it is still showing green on top of the snow. Since you may not be able to tell when it is dormant, late January or early February is a good time to divide and replant. To propagate, gently dig up the plant and divide the clumps leaving five or six rhizomes on each plant. Water well after dividing.
The leaves and flowers smell like garlic when crushed and are edible. This plant is native to South Africa but is not actually in the same genus as garlic or onion.
Local nurseries usually have this plant widely available.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.