Tulbaghia violacea
Common Name: society garlic
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: South Africa
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Lilac-pink
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 where it may be planted in the ground as a perennial. It is best grown in average to organically rich, light, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants have good heat and drought tolerance, but generally appreciate consistent moisture during the growing season. Plants will grow in part shade, but with decreased flowering. Tuberous roots spread over time. In the St. Louis area (Zones 5b-6a), plants may be grown as if they were annuals (repurchasing new plants each spring) or they may be grown in containers (for decks, porches or terraces or planted to the rim in garden areas) with the containers brought indoors each year before first fall frost for overwintering in a bright, cool area (40-50 degrees F) with very minimal watering. Notwithstanding the recommended winter hardness zones for this species, plants grown directly in the ground may survive mild St. Louis winters if they are sited in protected locations and given winter mulch.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tulbaghia violacea, commonly called society garlic, is a tender perennial that is native to grassland areas in southern Africa. It somewhat resembles garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) in appearance. From a tuberous rootstock, a clump of narrow, strap-shaped, gray-green leaves rises to 12” tall. Leaves and rootstock have a strong garlic smell when bruised, hence the common name. In early summer, flowering scapes rise to 20” tall bearing terminal umbels of sweetly fragrant lilac-pink flowers. Each small flower (3/4” long) has a tubular corona spreading to an open star with six pointed tepals. Flowering continues on and off throughout the summer into fall. Flowers and leaves are edible (mild garlic flavor), and may be used in soups and salads.

Genus name honors Rijk Tulbagh (1699-1771), Dutch Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.

Specific epithet means violet-colored.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problem. Slugs and snails may damage the foliage.

Garden Uses

Rock gardens. Sunny borders. Herb gardens. Edging. Containers.