Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic) - A clumping evergreen perennial with fat, tuberous roots from which emerge flexible grass-like 1 foot long by 1/4 inch wide blue-green leaves. From spring into fall, and sometimes longer in frost free areas, arise slender stalks to 18 to 24 inches high topped by an umbel of about 10 to 20 small lavender flowers. The foliage has a strong garlic-like odor on warm days and when bruised by touching or from frost.
Plant in full sun to light shade with occasional to regular irrigation - somewhat drought tolerant but always looks better with more regular watering. Hardy and evergreen to around 23°F but root hardy to around 0°F and useful in USDA Zone 7 and above. This plant is useful as a low border plant or for the edge of the lawn, a pond or even in shallow water but one must keep in mind the smell when they decide where to plant as it can be very strong, and some find it objectionable. This smell is noted to keep animals (cats, dogs, deer away and perhaps even snails and slugs) but use rubber gloves when deadheading and resist the temptation to use the flowers indoors for flower arrangements. The leaves and flowers can be used raw or cooked in food preparation.
>p>Tulbaghia violacea comes from southern Africa (KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Province) where it grows along forest margins and stream banks and was used for food and medicine by the indigenous Zulu tribes. The genus was named to honor Ryk Tulbagh (1699-1771) the early governor of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and the specific epithet means violet-like in reference to the color of the flowers. It is called Society Garlic, possibly because the scent is not quite as strong its relative, true garlic (Allium sativum) and sometimes also called Pink Agapanthus, but this name better applies to the larger Tulbaghia simmleri (AKA T. fragrans). This plant received the coveted Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 2012.
We grew this plant from 1983 until 2010 and only discontinued it because it was readily available throughout the nursery trade and there were better selections that we continue to grow such as Tulbaghia violacea 'Edinburgh', Tulbaghia violacea 'Blanca', Tulbaghia violacea Purpleicious ['Hinetul1'], Tulbaghia violacea 'Oro Verde', Tulbaghia violacea 'Emerisa White', Tulbaghia violacea 'Savannah Lightning' as well as Tulbaghia simmleri (AKA T. fragrans) and Tulbaghia simmleri 'Alba' and the also the hybrids Tulbaghia 'Ashanti', Tulbaghia 'Cosmic', Tulbaghia 'Himba', Tulbaghia 'Fairy Pink' and Tulbaghia 'Flamingo'.
Information about Tulbaghia violacea displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.