Society garlic is a strange common name for Tulbaghia violacea, which looks a fair bit like garlic chives with the same strap-like leaves and the same strong aroma when you get near it and much stronger if you brush past it.
This plant is an evergreen perennial which refers to the fact that the plant will live for longer than two years.
This is an ornamental plant used extensively in borders and rockeries, it also does well as a container plant.
Indigenous to southern Africa and naturalised in Mexico and Tanzania, the plant grows to about 40cm high and will clump about 40 to 50cm wide.
Grow the society garlic in a variety of aspects; it loves full sun but will grow with partial shade just as well. It is drought tolerant and hardy and will also survive in moist garden locations.
The foliage is quite edible, cut and used like chives, and the flowers are also edible and can be used in salads. This plant prefers an organic rich soil that has good drainage
Tulbaghia flowers throughout the warm months and often throughout the hot months, only stopping in the cool of autumn. The lilac/pink flowers are star shaped and delicate in appearance, they have a sweet fragrance and grow in clusters on stems that rise above the foliage.
This plant is relatively slow growing and it spreads well, making it a perfect choice for filling bare patches in the garden.
So society garlic has a lot going for it - it looks great, it’s edible and it’s hardy.
There is a but – I can smell this plant before I see it and I find the smell slightly disagreeable. I wouldn’t want to grow this plant where the smell could waft into the house. Some people may love the smell of this plant, I just wouldn’t want to smell it all the time.
If you’re going to plant multiple specimens in your garden I strongly advise you check out a site where this plant is already growing.
It’s popular with councils so you’ll find patches in many locations. Stand among the plants, brush against them and if you find the smell overpowering, use another plant. If you don’t mind the smell, then happy planting with society garlic.
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