Can you eat society garlic

Hitting mosquitoes on the nose with scents that repel

Society Garlic bulb giveway is at Kanapaha’s Spring Garden Festival this weekend.

Venture outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather, and you may encounter the first signs of Floridians’ dreaded nemesis.
Mosquitoes are returning, thirsty for blood and eager to annoy those who are not prepared. If you have not given thought to how you’ll defend yourself and your family this season, the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens might have the solution for you.
Guests at this weekend’s Spring Garden Festival will each receive two or three bulbs of Society Garlic, said Don Goodman, the gardens’ executive director. The bulbs, which have been overwhelming the geometric pattern of the Knot Garden due to their height, are more than just a gift to the festival’s patrons — they are a natural mosquito repellent.
Society Garlic, an ornamental evergreen species, repels mosquitoes due to its garlic scent, Goodman explained. The smell is not overwhelming, but it’s enough to keep mosquitoes at a distance of about 20 feet.
“Somebody with a better sense of smell than me can walk by the plant and get a very, very faint sense of garlic,” Goodman said. “It’s not offensive at all. It’s actually very nice, but the mosquitoes can’t stand it.”
The bulbs produce attractive purple flowers in the summer, and expand in large clumps after being planted. These bunches grow so large, Goodman said, that Kanapaha’s own collection to be given away is estimated at 20,000 bulbs.
“Once you’ve put (Society Garlic) in,” he said, “you’ve got a lot of it.”
Kanapaha’s garlic gift is just one of numerous natural ways to keep pests away this mosquito season.
Goodman also suggested adding garlic oil in standing water to kill larvae and fend off adult mosquitoes. Citronella bracelets or candles do the trick, too.
Natural repellents, including oils found in citronella and geranium plants, have proven to be effective, although researchers don’t exactly know why, said Ulrich Bernier, a research chemist for the USDA Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology’s Mosquito and Fly Research Unit.
“Our best guess is mosquitoes find contact with those compounds irritating,” Bernier said. “If you put your hand down on a hot stove, you’re going to pull your hand away. It’s almost a similar response (in mosquitoes), only with an uptake in terms of taste. Their systems are picking up the compound and reacting in a way we don’t quite understand yet.”
The city sprays pesticides, which Bernier said are relatively safe for humans and animals, to control mosquito populations. However, when venturing out on your own, using a personal repellent is important.
But everyday repellents, such as DEET, may not be a desirable option for people seeking more natural remedies.
Gloria Starita, owner of Hawthorne’s Jade & Pearl, was one such resident who did not want to expose her body to DEET’s chemicals, so she created her own all-natural solution — Beat It!
“If you’re using something like this every single day, and it’s a neurotoxin,” Starita said, “you have to think about how much you’re ingesting because your skin is your largest organ. Anything you put on it goes into your other organs.”
Similar to Society Garlic, Beat It! repels mosquitoes and other pests through smell. While people may enjoy it’s lemony scent, mosquitoes avoid it.
It’s a small step toward more natural solutions to mosquitoes, but it’s a step in the right direction as far as Starita sees it.
“The world is so toxic right now,” she said. “So, if you can make a choice to lessen the toxicity that you’re using, this is really a simple thing.”

With Zika fears growing every day, mosquitoes have become public enemy number one. But fighting them off does not require dousing yourself with harmful chemicals or locking yourself indoors.

Several types of flowers, herbs, and grasses keep mosquitoes away.1 The essential oils in these plants are natural repellants. The oils are released into the air, particularly when a plant is cut or “bruised.” Higher temperatures also cause more of the oils to be released.

Here are nine plants that ward off mosquitoes:

  1. Marigolds. The flower’s aroma not only repels mosquitoes, but marigolds are easy to care for and add beauty to your yard.
  1. Lavender. Many of us love the scent, but mosquitoes can’t stand it. Lavender is great for people who are lazy about watering. It is drought resistant. Crush the leaves and rub them on your skin and clothes for personal mosquito protection.2
  1. Citronella and lemon grass. These related herbs have a lemony scent. Lemon grass is used in Asian cooking. If you buy citronella, make sure you get the varieties Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. They work best.3,4
  1. Garlic. A 2005 study found that eating garlic does nothing to ward off mosquitoes, contrary to popular belief.5 However, garlic plants do repel them. You can plant the edible form of garlic. Or try society garlic. It’s an ornamental garlic that is not edible. But it has pretty purple flowers that these insects hate.6
  1. Rosemary. The pungent pine-like scent drives away mosquitoes. It does well in the ground in warm climates. But if you live in the north, grow it in a pot and keep it inside in the winter. Use it generously in cooking. As a bonus, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant. It is linked to longevity and improved memory.
  1. Basil. Before your backyard barbecue, bruise a few leaves on your basil plant to help repel mosquitoes.
  1. Catnip. Mosquitoes can’t stand it and your cat will love you for growing it. It can be invasive and take over your yard. So restrict it to pots.
  1. Mint. Mint is also best grown in a pots because it spreads aggressively.

The #1 Natural Mosquito Repellant

  1. Lantana. It may be the best mosquito-repelling plant of all. Researchers in Africa found it was so effective that it helped control malaria. Scientists planted lantana outside 90 homes in Tanzania. They used another 231 homes as a control group. The lantana-planted homes had 83% fewer mosquitoes.

All of these plants will thrive in most parts of the country in the summer months when mosquitoes abound. An excellent strategy is to keep pots of them near doorways to keep mosquitoes out of your house. And plant them in high traffic areas throughout your yard.

As a reminder, before you install vegetation, rid your property of standing water. This is the most common breeding ground for mosquitoes.

In Good Health,

Angela Salerno
Executive Director, INH Health Watch

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Information On Society Garlic Care

Showy flowers grow in umbel-like clusters on the society garlic plant (Tulbaghia violacea). Society garlic flowers appear atop 1 foot (.4 m.) tall, grass-like stems from early summer to autumn, making this plant a desirable addition to sunny flower beds.

Growing Society Garlic

Society garlic care is minimal in USDA gardening zones 7-10, where it is hardy. Growing society garlic produces sweet-smelling flowers with stems that smell faintly of garlic when crushed. Society garlic flowers bloom in a tubular shape with 8 to 20 flowers on each cluster. Flowers widen to an inch (2.5 cm.) on this long-lived perennial, which spreads slowly and is not invasive.

Of the Amaryllis family, society garlic flowers may be lavender, variegated or pink in color. Larger society garlic flowers grow on the cultivars ‘Silver Lace’ and ‘Variegata,’ with cream-colored stripes. The ‘Tricolor’ variety has pink and white variegation.

Society garlic performs best in light or sandy soils and needs full sun for the most abundant flowering. Society garlic care includes keeping the plant watered and removing foliage that may be damaged by frost. Society garlic flowers return reliably each year.

Can You Eat Society Garlic?

Many sources agree the bulbs and leaves of the society garlic plant are edible and can be used as a substitute for garlic and garlic chives. Society garlic is often sold as an herb. Flowers are edible as well and may be used for decoration on salads and desserts. The name of the society garlic plant stems from edible parts not leaving an offensive odor on one’s breath after eating it, but the bulb may be best left in the ground to continue the production of showy, fragrant flowers

In addition to edible uses, the society garlic plant is said to deter moles from vegetables and other flowers when planted in a surrounding row or border. The garlic fragrance emitting from the plant repels deer, making it useful as a companion plant in the garden and containers.

Other uses of crushed leaves of the society garlic plant include repelling fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes when rubbed on the skin. So the answer to, “Can you eat society garlic?” is yes, but make sure to take advantage of its many other uses.

Society Garlic

A native perennial to the grasslands of South Africa, society garlic has delicate, fragrant blossoms. This plant does well in rock gardens, sunny borders, herb gardens, and containers. Society garlic blooms in the summer and can last through the fall. This low maintenance, heat- and drought-tolerant plant makes a great complement to any garden.

genus name
  • Tulbaghia
  • Sun
plant type
  • Bulb,
  • Perennial
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • Up to 2 feet
flower color
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Gray/Silver
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Drought Tolerant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Fragrance
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9
  • Division,
  • Seed

Garden Plans For Society Garlic

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Colorful Combinations

Society garlic resembles its relative garlic chives. The foliage is long and narrow, and often found in a gray-green color. However, there are several variegated varieties, too. The variegated types feature a stripe of white or silver down the length of the leaf, adding interest even when these plants are not in bloom. Like garlic chives it has a potent aroma, especially when brushed or crushed.

The blossom of society garlic has a star-shape, and each small flower has a tubular corona that spreads open at the tip with six pointed petals. These delicate, sweetly fragrant flowers are often a soft lilac-pink color and are borne in a cluster that grows to be about 20-inches tall. Flowering occurs throughout the summer and often into fall. The flowers and leaves of society garlic are edible. The flowers are often used in making soups and salads.

Find more edible flower varieties here.

Society Garlic Care Must-Knows

For the most vigorous and floriferous growth, be sure to plant society garlic in full sun. This ensures a nice, compact growth and the best flowers and foliage color possible. Society garlic tolerates part shade but will have fewer blooms and more of a lax growth habit.

Society garlic prefers an organically rich, evenly moist soil with good drainage. It can tolerate the occasional drought once established, but for extended dry spells it needs supplemental watering.

These slow-growing plants spread via tuberous roots making them a good option for edging, or use them as filler in bare spots in the garden. In areas with cooler climates where society garlic is not quite winter hardy, they can happily be grown as a container plant. This is also a good way to save a few plants for the following spring: just dig up a few tubers and plant in a container. Bring them indoors to overwinter just before the first fall frost, then place in a bright, cool area; cut down on watering in order to simulate a dormant period.

Check out our best bulb care tips here.

More Varieties of Society Garlic

‘Silver Lace’ society garlic

This variety of Tulbaghia violacea has lavender blooms held above attractive green foliage with silver margins. Zones 7-10

Variegated society garlic

Tulbaghia violacea ‘Variegata’ bears lavender-pink flowers almost identical to the species, but its straplike foliage is striped green and white. Grow it in containers, in beds and borders, or directly in shallow water in the water garden, just as you would regular society garlic.

Gardening expert and no-dig allotmenteer Jack Wallington provides weekly advice on how to grow food yourself

While my allotment’s herb bed comprises mainly familiar herbs, I’m experimenting with useful lesser-known plants, too. One of these is society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), an allium with edible garlic-flavoured leaves and flowers. The name derives from the traditional belief that it 
is less likely to make your breath smell 
after eating it. This is, of course, 
completely wrong.

Society garlic is native to the southern 
tip of South Africa. It is borderline UK hardy in full sun and free-draining soils, so those of us who can leave dahlia tubers outside over winter will succeed with this. Otherwise, grow it in a terracotta pot, sink the pot into soil from spring until autumn and then lift and place it into a conservatory or cool greenhouse over winter.

Like other perennial edibles, this plant is increasing in popularity among millennials; the promise is a garlic substitute that comes back every year, spreading via rhizomes with no effort required except for weeding and picking. Easy to grow, yes, but you’ll probably still want some regular garlic as a recipe ingredient, T. violacea being best used in salads, soups and for flavouring cooked veg. The lilac flowers in particular, which last from mid-to-late summer, 
make an attractive and garlicky garnish 
like our earlier-flowering native wild 
garlic, Allium ursinum.

I’m a member of Plant Heritage 
(, the charity responsible for hundreds of National Collections of valuable plants. This altruistic gesture offers 
a personal reward; if you can demonstrate you’re adept at not killing plants, you can unlock a gold mine of rarities as part 
 of their plant guardian scheme. Thanks to Frances Moore, Tulbaghia National Collection holder, I’m now growing the rarer Tulbaghia acutiloba.

Alternatively, buy society garlic from Beth Chatto Gardens.

Growing in my parents’ garden at the moment is an edible plant with garlicky foliage that is pretty tasty when stir-fried. They were given a clump of the plant a few years ago, and it has been growing in the garden ever since. For the longest time, we assumed these were Garlic Chives, also called Chinese Chives (or “Gow Choi” in Chinese).
But then as I was doing research for this blog post, I discovered that Garlic Chives had white flowers, and the plant in our garden had violet flowers!
It turns out that this wasn’t a chive plant at all.
A few days later, as I was sifting through packets of seeds at our local garden centre, I stumbled across a packet with pinky mauve flowers on the front that bore a close resemblance to the flowers on our plant. The packet was labelled “Society Garlic” seeds.
So the mystery was solved, this was, in fact Society Garlic (also called Social Garlic, Tulbaghia Violacea), a native plant of South Africa and a member of the onion family.
And it seems that this plant is often confused with the Garlic Chive plant (phew! so we weren’t the only ones!), because of their similarities in appearance, odour and taste. In fact, the only distinguishing feature between the two is their flowers.
Growing Society Garlic is a perennial plant that is low maintenance and pretty easy to grow. Once established the plants are quite drought resistant.
We grew our Society Garlic out of a container in Sydney, Australia.
Harvesting To harvest the foliage of the Society Garlic, you simply have to cut the leaves with a sharp knife or scissors. (And then you too, can take lovely photos of yourself grappling with a bunch of fresh greens!)
Uses (Culinary)
The foliage of the society garlic can be used as a herb in Asian style cooking. The leaves have a pleasant, mild garlicky taste and the younger leaves are used to add flavour and texture to noodle dishes. Dispose of any larger older leaves as they can get a little tough and fibrousy.
We stir fry them with rice noodles and bean sprouts in the Malaysian dish “Char Kuay Teow” (as pictured above). Another favourite way to eat them is in spicy noodle soups such as Malaysian “Prawn noodle soup”.
Whilst most reference books I have read list the flowers of Society Garlic as being edible, there is less documentation to be found on the culinary uses of the leaves. One article I have read even suggests that they are not suitable for eating.

Green Culture Singapore “Getting to know Society Garlic”
“Organic Vegetable Gardening” by Annette McFarlane/ Gardening Australia (ABC)
“Dig” by Meredith Kirkton
AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: buy or get emailed when available
BOTANICAL NAME: Tulbaghia violacea
COMMON NAMES: Society Garlic
FAMILY: Alliaceae, the onion family
Society garlic is an attractive ornamental, perennial plant from South Africa. It forms a low growing clump to 30 cm, with dainty star-shaped, lilac-mauve flowers at the end of long stems. Flowering is over a long period from October to April. The strap-like grey-green leaves grow from a dense clump. The roots are thick, white and tuberous. When not in flower it looks similar to garlic chives and the leaves have a similar smell. The leaves stay green all year. Society Garlic is easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. It can cope with heat and drought and is also fairly cold tolerant. It does best in full sun and in well-drained, sandy soil. They can be grown in containers where space is limited.
Food: the leaves are used chopped in sauces, soups, salads and as a garnish. The flower buds steeped in vinegar give it a mild garlic flavour and can also be used as a garnish. They look attractive in salads.
Ornamental: attractive edging plant for herb and vegetable gardens, the cut flowers last well in water.
Recommended planting time: Divide clumps in spring or autumn.
Planting depth: Cover the tuberous roots with 2 cm of soil.
Plant spacing: Plants should be spaced 20 cm apart.
Growing details: To divide the clumps, trim the tops, lift them, trim the roots and separate the pieces. Division every few years improves the vigour of the clumps.

The flowers of a society garlic plant in the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center Plant City Teaching Garden. Photo by C. Wildes.

Society garlic is a groundcover that produces delicate, star-shaped purple flowers. These perennial plants grow to about a foot tall and are wonderful in borders or mass plantings.

Native to the rocky grasslands in eastern South Africa, society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is actually not in the same genus as garlic and onions, which are in the Allium genus. They are however in the same plant family as onion. The common name “society garlic” comes from the old rumor that this plant tastes like garlic without leading to bad breath.


Society garlic is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with narrow, grass-like green leaves and clusters of small lilac flowers. Leaves reach about a foot tall and flowers rise up on stalks about two feet tall. The tubular flowers open up at the end to look like six pointed stars.

Varieties include ‘Silver Lace’, also called ‘Variegata’, which has larger flowers and cream striped leaves; ‘Tricolor’ has pink and white variegations.

Tolerant of both cold and drought, this plant grows in zones 8 to 10 and flowers in warm months. The leaves smell of garlic when disturbed, so keep this in mind when selecting a location for planting. Having society garlic in a high traffic area may be visually attractive, but unless you like the constant smell of garlic every time the plant is brushed against, this placement is not ideal. On the brighter side, it’s also resistant to deer damage.

The rhizomes and leaves are edible and can be used in dishes the same way that garlic or garlic chives are used. Flowers are also edible and can be used as a delicate garnish.

Planting and Care

Society garlic is great for a sunny, water-wise garden. This easy-to-grow plant prefers sandy soil, and performs best in terms of flowering with full sun; it can be grown in partial shade but it will not flower well. Plants thrive with regular watering during the growing season, less frequent watering when flowering, and reduced watering during the winter dormant period. Established plants will be able to survive extended droughts when necessary. Society garlic can tolerate moderate frosts and light freezes.

Society garlic plants in the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center Plant City Teaching Garden. Photo by C. Wildes.

You can propagate your plants easily by dividing the clumps while the plant is dormant. When grown outdoors, plants spread slowly by rhizomes but are not considered aggressive.

Society garlic is also great for growing in containers however it will still need bright sunlight for best results.

For more information on society garlic, contact your county Extension office.

UF/IFAS Publications

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Purple Plants

Variegated Society Garlic
Botanical Name: Tulbaghia violacea

Variegated Society Garlic is an evergreen perennial which is highly ornamental and very useful as a garden border plant. It has long narrow leaves, similar to garlic or chives, extending up to 30 cm. It may often be called ‘Silver Lace’ in reference to the white margins, on the blue green leaves, which give a silver hue. The showy 1.8cm flowers are a lilac colour and appear in clusters of 8-20 flowers, held on 30-60cm stalks. The clumps can grow up to 60cm wide and the leaves arise from the rhizomes which creep underground.

The plant was named society garlic because it has a delicate garlic aroma and taste, without the lingering anti-social odour. The attractive blooms are not able to be used as cut flowers, because cutting the stem releases the garlic scent and overwhelms the sweet floral fragrance.

Growing Conditions

Society Garlic is an easy plant to grow, both in the garden and in pots. The best flushes of flowers appear in summer and spring. Full sun to part shade is preferred with a well-drained soil. It is hardy and drought tolerant, but does better if given water and allowed to dry a little before the next watering. Excessive dampness in the soil may cause tuber rot. It will survive in the ground with temperatures as low as -3 degrees Celsius and should return in spring. However, results may vary and not always be directly related to winter ground temperature. In regions where it is too cold, the plant is treated as an annual or planted in protected containers.

The plant can be fertilised during the growing season and clumps should be divided every 3-4 years, especially if grown in containers. Dividing in spring will help the plant maintain vigour. Although the plant does spread via rhizomes it is not invasive. Society garlic may also be propagated by sowing seed direct to the ground.

Culinary Uses

Dutch settlers in South Africa used Society Garlic as a garlic replacement, but today it is used more as an ornamental plant. However, it is possible to snip the leaves and stems into small pieces and use them in salads or cooking. They have a garlic scent when crushed, but not the strong lingering odour of garlic. The flowers can be used as an edible garnish or sprinkled through salads.

How to Plant and Care for Society Garlic

Edible Society Garlic Sweet Smelling

Society garlic or Tulbaghia violacea is an ornamental plant with violet or purple flowers and leaves with garlic smell. The plant gets its name society garlic from the clump-forming nature and the garlic smell of the leaves. The blossoms of the plant, however, lack the pungent smell. These plants are also known as pink agapanthus and they belong to Alliacea, the onion family. The plant is indigenous to Southern Africa, but is naturalised in other parts of the world like Tanzania. This clump-forming perennial can be used as borders, in garden beds, rock gardens or as edging plants in gardens. They will last for days when used as cut flowers. The fragrance of flowers will attract bees and birds. Controlling the growth of the plant is easy as they are non-invasive.

Plant description

The clump of society garlic grows to a height of 30 cm. The leaves are strap-like and greyish green in colour. Lilac or purple flowers are star-shaped and flowering season is from early summer to autumn. Flowers are produced on a leafless stalk, which are 1 to 2 feet tall. Each stalk will hold 7 to 20 flowers. You can grow society garlic in containers if there are space limitations. They are drought tolerant frost resistant perennials that will grow almost anywhere.

How to grow?

It is easy to grow this plant in a garden bed as they can withstand different soil conditions. They can tolerate heat and drought conditions and can withstand cold conditions to a certain extent. These plants require consistent moisture during the growing period. These plants produce abundant flowers when placed in areas with bright light and a well-drained sandy mixture of composted soil. The foliage of the plants gets easily damaged by coldest parts of Australia, a temperature below minus 4 C. When planting the bulbs, make sure that a space of 8-12 inches is provided between them so that the plant can spread. Plant the bulbs just below the ground level. Potted plants can be placed outdoors during summer and can be brought into the building in areas experiencing extremely cold weather. Plants placed in shady areas may not flower properly. The plant does not require much feeding. Fertilising the plant occasionally with diluted liquid fertiliser is enough to ensure proper blooming.


Propagation of society garlic can be done using the division method. The clumps can be divided in spring or autumn and can be planted in new areas. Before dividing, the clumps trim the leaves and separate the bulbs. Dividing the clumps roots once in every two years will improve the vigour of the plants and will result in more number of flowers. Propagation by seeds is a time taking process.


Apart from the use of this plant as an ornamental plant and as cut flowers, the leaves of the plant are used in adding flavour to food items such as soups, white sauces, stir-fries, and salads. The flowers of society garlic are edible and are used with their sweet smelling petals to garnish in salads. The flowers look wonderful in large landscaping projects. For years and right now they are popular and getting a lot of exposure through councils, planted in the hundreds around roundabouts, traffic islands and they look very affective. When the leaves of the plant are rubbed on the skin, the garlic smell will repel mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, etc.

Society Garlic Seeds – Tulbaghia Violacea Silver Lace Flower Seed

Flower Specifications

Season: Perennial

USDA Zones: 7 – 11

Height: 14 inches

Bloom Season: Mid spring to late summer

Bloom Color: Purple

Environment: Full sun

Soil Type: Light, sandy soil, pH 5.6 – 7.5

Planting Directions

Temperature: 70F

Average Germ Time: 14 – 21 days

Light Required: Yes

Depth: 1/8th inch

Sowing Rate: 2 – 3 seeds per plant

Moisture: Keep seeds moist until germination

Plant Spacing: 3 – 6 inches

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia Violacea) – Start Society Garlic seeds for both an ornamental and a kitchen herb. The Society Garlic plant has a pleasant garlic smell, and the leaves can be chopped like chives and added to salads, soups, and many dishes. Tulbaghia Society Garlic is also a lovely perennial ornamental that blooms for much of the summer. The leaves are 12 inches long and are grayish green and grass-like. Society Garlic flowers are much showier than those of regular garlic and form umbel-like clusters. Grow the Society Garlic herb in the flower garden or herb garden where it contrasts nicely with plants of other colors, textures and habits.

A native of South Africa, Society Garlic is a member of the lily family. Because Society Garlic is tender to frost and damaged at temperatures below 25 degrees, only in USDA zones 7 and above can grow it year-round outdoors. The plants do best in full sun and in light, sandy soil. To grow pots of Society Garlic, cut off spent blooms and keep the soil moderately moist when the flowers are in bloom, dry if the plants become dormant.

How To Grow Society Garlic: For container grown plants, sow Society Garlic seeds in soil that is very porous. A recommended soil mixture is 1 part perlite, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part potting soil. If growing the plants outdoors, amend the soil with organic matter so that it drains well. The Society Garlic plants will rot if the soil retains water. Sow the Society Garlic herb seeds on the soil and lightly cover with 1/8 inch of soil and keep the flower seeds moist until germination.

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