Planting Wild Garlic: How To Grow The Wild Garlic In The Garden

Wild garlic loves humusy, moist soil and also feels at home in the shade of deciduous trees. Once it has established itself in the garden over the years, the foliage, buds and flowers can be used to flavor dishes. However, there is a risk of confusion with poisonous plants such as meadow saffron and lily of the valley.

How can wild garlic be planted in the garden and how can it be reliably distinguished from its poisonous doppelgangers? The article provides answers to these and other questions.


Where does wild garlic get its name?

Botanically, wild garlic is called Allium ursinum. Allium stands for the term leek, ursinum comes from the Latin word ursus and stands for bear. From this derives the name bear’s garlic. The reason for this is not conclusively clear. One theory is that the ancient Europeanic tribes chose the term because bears ate this plant first after hibernation. Other explanations aim at the fact that bear’s garlic grows deep in shady forests under deciduous trees, which is preferred as a habitat by bears. In fact, wild garlic is more abundant in semi-shaded and moist forests, along streams and small rivers under deciduous trees. There, Allium often grows in the company of wood anemones and ferns. The wild herb is also called forest garlic, wild garlic or witch’s garlic.

Wild garlic in the garden

Wild garlic exudes a garlicky aroma and makes an excellent base ingredient in pesto or for flavoring salads and other dishes. The aromatic herb is uncomplicated to plant and harvest in the home garden. But beware: wild garlic is very vigorous and so it can happen that over the years the leek plant conquers the garden beyond the intended location. Who wants to prevent this, provides a rhizome barrier, also known as root barrier. This will withstand the outbreak attempt of the bear’s leek. Suitable root barriers include vertically buried concrete slabs or robust geofoil made of HDPE, such as is used for bamboo.

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The right location and soil conditions for wild garlic

Derived from its natural habitat, wild garlic prefers humusy, well-moistened and well-drained soil in semi-shady to shady locations under trees and shrubs. Bright, sunny locations are unsuitable for wild garlic, even though the herb likes warmth. For example, plant wild garlic in beds with a northern exposure or in the shade of walls and walls. Under trees and shrubs with dense foliage is also a favorable location from a light standpoint. Cover the soil with a layer of mulch. To do this, for example, in the fall you can use the fallen leaves or use mature compost from the compost pile.

Wild garlic is also good to keep in a planter. Be sure to comply with the soil and site conditions. On a semi-shaded balcony or terrace, wild garlic is right in a tub with humus-permeable soil. Water it regularly and keep the substrate moist. When the wild garlic retreats into the bulbs in summer, you can add astilbes or liverworts, for example. These also provide an eye-catcher on the balcony and terrace in summer.

Planting wild garlic

In principle, you can plant wild garlic all year round, except during periods of ground frost. However, the rate of growth is higher if you follow the instructions below regarding sowing and planting time. You have three options for planting wild garlic:

The first option to propagate and grow wild garlic is to sow it. However, sowing is not as easy as it sounds, because the germination period of the seeds is very long. Wild garlic belongs to the cold germinators. If you sow wild garlic, between the end of October and February is the right time. Sow the seeds directly on the spot. Without a sufficiently long cold stimulus, the seeds will not germinate. Cover the seeds with a layer of soil of about one centimeter and keep them permanently moist. The germination period is at least three months and can last up to two years in mild winters.

The second option is to plant the bulbs in the fall. The bulb must be fresh and healthy, and should not show signs of desiccation. Place the bulb in the ground at a distance of 15 to 20 centimeters, a little seven to ten centimeters deep, and keep the planting area moist.

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The most reliable way to grow wild garlic is to buy young wild garlic plants in the spring from a garden center, nursery or perennial plant nursery and plant them directly in the bed. If you want to grow wild garlic in a targeted manner and quickly achieve an areal result, plant the plants 15 to 20 centimeters apart. The planting depth is ten centimeters. The soil should be kept moist for several weeks during the growing phase.
Once the wild garlic is well established, its water requirements are not as high. It takes a little patience for wild garlic to become properly established. After three to four years, however, the plant forms lush clumps and the plants multiply. The herb grows reliably and spreads bit by bit in the areas that offer good site conditions for it.

Wild garlic spreads!
The bulbous plant develops tuberous rhizomes that have a perennial character. Once wild garlic has established itself in a favorable location, the wild herb spreads reliably by self-seeding and can cover larger areas as ground cover.

Caution, danger of confusion

The leaves of wild garlic resemble those of lily of the valley and meadow saffron. Lily of the valley causes nausea and vomiting even when eaten in small amounts. Meadow saffron contains colchicine. Consumption of even small amounts can have fatal consequences. Therefore, it is essential to be able to distinguish between the plants.

Maiglöckchen und Bärlauch

Distinguish wild garlic from lily of the valley and autumn crocus.

Again and again we read that it is enough to test the smell of wild garlic by rubbing the leaves between the fingers. The smell of garlic characterizes wild garlic. Lily of the valley and autumn crocus do not have this scent. But the smell test is not reliable.

Once you grind a leaf of wild garlic between your fingers, the garlic smell will stick to it. If you later test another leaf with the rub sample, the garlic scent will still permeate. Therefore, you should by no means rely solely on the smell. If you want to harvest wild garlic in spring, take a close look at the leaves and, if in doubt, the roots or rhizomes. In the following we have compiled differentiation criteria for you.

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Wild garlic and its use: tips for the kitchen.

If you are growing wild garlic for consumption, harvest the leaves before the flowers sprout in early spring. This rule of thumb applies: the younger the leaf and the wetter the location, the milder the smell and taste. Older leaves and leaves from plants that grow in rather dry locations smell spicier and taste more intense. The flowers are also edible. You can use the buds or the opened star-shaped flowers of wild garlic.

Why is wild garlic so healthy?

Wild garlic contains a lot of vitamin C. The plant also provides potassium and magnesium. You can eat wild garlic raw, season soups and salads with it or refine pasta dishes and vegetable pans. Wild garlic can be used in a similar way to parsley. It is also processed into pesto and other spreads.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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