Native to southern Africa, Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic) is a tender perennial with sweetly fragrant lilac-pink flowers in large umbels, elegantly rising above a foliage clump of narrow, strap-shaped, gray-green leaves in early summer. The dainty flowers are tubular, slightly less than 1 in. long and wide (2 cm), spreading to an open star with six pointed tepals. Blooming continues on and off throughout the summer into fall. While the flowers enjoy the lovely fragrance of hyacinths, both leaves and rhizome exude a strong garlic smell when bruised. Flowers and leaves are edible and may be used in soups and salads.

  • Growing up to 12-20 in. high (30-50 cm) and 9-12 in. wide (22-30 cm), Tulbaghia violacea is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial that will spread slowly by its rhizomes, but will not become aggressive.
  • Won the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society
  • Easily grown in moderately fertile, light, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Good heat and drought tolerance, but requires consistent moisture during its growing season. Plants will grow well in shade, but may not flower much. Tulbaghia violacea is a summer-flowering plant that is winter hardy to zones 7-10. Protect your Society Garlic in colder areas with a deep dry mulch over winter.
  • Pest and disease free, deer ignore it!
  • Stunning in sunny borders, beds, borders, rock gardens, cottage gardens, city gardens, herb gardens or edging. A popular container plant, leave it out on the patio all summer and bring it indoors for the winter. Perfect for Mediterranean gardens too! For best visual impact, plant in groups.
  • Propagate by seed, sown when ripe, in containers in a cold frame or division in spring

This plant was named after Ryk Tulbagh, a Dutch governor on the Cape of Good Hope who died in 1771. The Tulbaghia genus is not very large and has no more than 20 different species. In days gone by, the Tulbaghia was used in baths for people suffering from rheumatism, and its leaves were used to brew a tea. Various species include Tulbaghia acutiloba which grows to a height of 6 in. (30 cm) and bears 2-6 greenish flowers; Tulbaghia alliacea with its garlic scented leaves emerging during the winter and followed in May by flowers with a pleasant fragrance at night.