Planting wild garlic: when, where & how?


Having worked as a journalist for many years I studied horticulture and now work as a professional gardener. I work as a specialist kitchen gardener, growing a wide range of vegetables, fruit and herbs for chefs in the north of England. I am passionate about gardening and writing, and love growing edibles and trying to inspire others to get outside and grow their own.

Favourite fruit: Apples and Raspberries
Favourite vegetables: Beetroot, celeriac, parsnip and broad beans

Flocks of people venture out foraging for wild garlic leaves and flowers each spring to use in the kitchen. There is also a growing interest from people wanting to grow their own. Find out how to plant wild garlic in your garden.

Wild garlic leaves and flowers
The flowers and leaves of wild garlic are edible [Photo: Wirestock Creators/]

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is a common sight, flowering in swathes and giving off a glorious and recognisable scent in woodlands across the UK in springtime. There are several options available for anyone wondering how to grow wild garlic at home. You can plant wild garlic bulbs or grow wild garlic from seed if you want to enjoy this plant in your own garden. And as it is a perennial plant, you can enjoy wild garlic year after year.

When to plant wild garlic?

When planting wild garlic bulbs, you will find retailers selling the bulbs from midsummer onwards, all the way through autumn. The best time to plant wild garlic bulbs is the end of summer, after the plant has usually bloomed, but they can also be planted in early spring. Planting wild garlic bulbs around August or September allows them to get established and get roots down ready in time to start growing and blooming next spring.

You can buy wild garlic bulbs ‘in the green’, which means they are bulbs which have just flowered. These will arrive whilst still in growth, making it easier for them to establish themselves in the home garden.

Growing wild garlic from seed is a relatively simple and cost-effective way of getting plants. Sow the seeds undercover between October and March, or alternatively wait until April onwards to sow directly outdoors after the risk of frosts have passed and temperatures have increased. An early autumn sowing in a warm greenhouse means a potential harvest the following spring, while later sowings will mean the plants have the year to establish and grow ready for a bumper crop the following year.

wild garlic plant growing in woodlands
Wild garlic enjoys growing naturally in shady woodlands [Photo: rejdan/]

The perfect location

If you are wondering where to plant wild garlic, then rest assured there is a range of possibilities as the plant is fairly easy-going. Wild garlic loves a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. It will be happy in almost any soil; however, it is not drought-tolerant so avoid planting them in really dry areas of the garden. Wild garlic can thrive in either full sun or dappled shade. When planting wild garlic consider the ancient woodland that it is normally seen growing in and find an area of the garden that could best replicate those conditions, such as a shady area near shrubs or trees. It is a rare thing in that it is a vegetable that can thrive when grown in shade.

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When planting wild garlic in your garden always take into consideration the fact that it can spread very easily. One way to combat this could be growing wild garlic in pots or consider putting in a barrier to prevent the plants spreading. To grow wild garlic in a pot, choose a pot with a diameter of at least 30cm and a depth of 15cm. Plant two or three bulbs per pot. Make sure to keep the pot well-watered, but never waterlogged, and place it in a shaded area of the garden. As mentioned prior, wild garlic likes a rich soil, so you need a good potting compost that is full of nutrients. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is peat-free and contains added fertiliser that can help plants grow strong and healthy.

wild garlic bulbs in the green
Wild garlic bulbs can be planted ‘in the green’ after they have flowered [Photo: Ivan Marjanovic/]

Planting wild garlic: seeds or bulbs?

Wild garlic bulbs can be found for sale in garden centres or online and offer a quick and simple option to anyone considering planting wild garlic in their garden. Bulbs tend to be fairly inexpensive and can be bought as graded bulbs to provide an extra guarantee of quality. Plant the wild garlic bulbs at a depth of 3 to 4 times their size, around 10cm apart. After several years in the ground, the wild garlic bulbs will have spread and formed large clumps. After flowering, divide and replant these to have even more wild garlic in the garden.

A cheaper but longer process will be to grow wild garlic from seed. It can take up to four years from sowing the seeds to get strong enough plants for the first harvest. Again, seeds are commonly sold online or in garden centres and each packet will come with instructions for growing wild garlic. Wild garlic seeds need to be sown fresh. They will only germinate when sown within four to six months of the seed ripening. So, if you are planning to collect your own seed, then ensure to use it quickly.

Wild garlic bulbs laid out ready for planting
Plant wild garlic bulbs at the end of summer [Photo: J Need/]

Also, the ideal time to sow wild garlic is in late summer to autumn, as the seeds require a cold period to initiate germination. Sow the seeds 1cm deep in trays or pots filled with a good quality seed compost, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, and keep them outside for the winter season. Once winter has passed and the seeds have been exposed to a lengthy cold period, they may start germinating once temperatures climb. Wild garlic seeds need temperatures of 15°C to 20°C to germinate, and they need to be kept moist. Expect to see wild garlic seedlings within a week to 10 days once conditions are ideal and keep growing them on in their trays until large enough to plant outside in clumps a few months later. However, sometimes the seeds need more than a single winter to induce germination, which often makes growing wild garlic from seed a patience-testing experience.

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The third option, and that with the most instant impact, is to purchase wild garlic seedlings ready to be planted straight out into the garden. Wild garlic grows in dense carpets in nature, so plant seedlings in clumps rather than in straight rows to give a more natural effect. Dig a large hole to pop the seedling in, fill the hole and water well. Consider mulching around the plants to keep moisture in the ground, add extra nutrients to the soil, and help prevent weeds from growing. Wild garlic is part of the Allium family so if you are planting it in the vegetable garden, avoid a position where onions (Allium cepa) have been planted in the last three years. If you do not grow onions but are interested and would like to learn more, check out our dedicated article on growing onions at home.

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