Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is a perennial flowering plant native to South Africa. Although it is not a true garlic, the plant's leaves smell faintly of garlic and are useful for culinary purposes. Deer avoid eating this plant, but there is no evidence that it repels them from your garden. Society garlic grows from tuberous, bulblike roots that spread slowly, forming large clumps. It is sometimes used for ground cover but also works in an herb garden or any perennial bed.
Meet the Society Garlic
There are great height variations among different kinds of society garlic plants. The species plant looks like an especially showy garlic plant, with long, narrow, gray-green leaves and tubular pink flowers with six pointed stars at their ends. It grows to around 24 inches tall. The flowers appear sporadically from early summer through autumn.
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However, the Silver Lace cultivar (Tulbaghia violacea 'Silver Lace') is much shorter, growing between 12 and 18 inches tall. Both grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10.
Tricolor (Tulbaghia violacea 'Tricolor'), another variegated cultivar, grows from 12 to 24 inches tall. The dainty lilac-pink flowers appear on stalks rising above blue-gray foliage with thin white margins. It grows in USDA zones 7 through 11.
Caring for Society Garlic
Society garlic is not a messy plant. It does not require any pruning or maintenance other than watering, fertilizing, and pinching off dead leaves. The key to keeping the plant healthy is to site it appropriately in light, sandy soil and full sun.
Plant large society bulbs just below the surface of the ground. Space them 8 to 12 inches apart and water well when the top 3 inches of soil are dry. Keep the soil consistently moist during the first year of growth to allow society garlic's roots to develop and grow deep. The deeper the roots grow, the more they will be able to access water and nutrients.
Keeping Pests at Bay
Society garlic typically does not have issues with insects. In fact, it is often planted near other plants to keep insects out of the area. However, it is susceptible to snails and slugs.
Install a 4-inch-tall barrier of copper screen or flashing or a band of ashes 4 inches wide and 1 inch high to block them. Alternatively, sprinkle bait containing iron phosphate in places where snails and slugs congregate near the plants and follow label directions.