How Garlic Reproduces
Although it is a flowering bulb, garlic’s reproductive processes are more like that of a potato. The plant forms a bulb composed of multiple cloves, each of which can be used to grow a new plant. You can also plant sprouted garlic heads or the tiny bulbs (bulbils) that hardneck garlic produces at the top of its flower stalk. All of these methods produce a plant with the same genetic makeup as the original.
Choosing Garlic Varieties
You can use either hardneck or softneck garlic for cloves or sprouting. Only hardneck produces bulbils and, on rare occasions, seeds. Try these varieties:
- Inchelium Red – softneck grown by Native Americans.
- Spanish Roja – hardneck heirloom from the Northwest.
- Music – a heavy producing hardneck.
- Siskiyou Purple – a softneck often grown in hot areas.
Grow Sprouting Garlic
Garlic that is stored in moist conditions (like a refrigerator) may begin to sprout. It’s easy to separate the sprouting cloves and plant them. Dig a trench about three inches deep and place the clove in the trench with the sprouts pointing upward. Fill the trench with soil. Manage and harvest the garlic just as you would if it had been planted from cloves.
Grow Garlic From Cloves
Cloves are the standard method to regrow garlic from the original plant. Separate the cloves. Don’t remove the papery husks. Most garlic evolved in cold climates and hardneck garlic in particular will do better planted in fall. Plant the cloves three to six inches deep – deeper in areas with severe winters. In desert areas, you should plant both kinds of garlic in fall. Mulch well with straw to cool the soil.
Grow Garlic From Bulbils
Garlic rarely produces seeds. Instead, it grows small bulbs called bulbils, on its flower head. Bulbils, which range in size from a grain of rice to the size of a chickpea or garbanzo bean, are essentially another form of clove. They can be planted and will grow a garlic with a single bulb. They must be harvested and replanted for two or three years before they will actually develop a full head of cloves.