Ornamental Garlic Plants – Why My Garlic Is Flowering

Image by Martina_L

By Bonnie L. Grant

Garlic has a host of health benefits and livens up any recipe. It is a key ingredient in both regional and international cuisine. Do garlic plants bloom? Garlic bulbs are no different than other bulbs in that they sprout and produce flowers. Ornamental garlic plants are grown to produce these blooms, which are called scapes. These are delicious when sautéed and provide an interesting, starry pouf of tiny florets to adorn the landscape.

Do Garlic Plants Bloom?

Garlic plant flowering takes place near the latter part of the plant’s life cycle. Planting garlic for its flowers is as simple as allowing the plants to develop longer than you normally would for bulb harvest. I’m always thrilled to see my garlic is flowering, as it increases the interest in the herb garden and I can still harvest the garlic bulbs, although the inflorescence will redirect energy from the bulb. For larger bulbs, remove the scapes and eat them before the buds burst open.

Bulbs are complex storage organs for plants. They house not only the embryo, which causes the plant to form shoots, but also contains the energy needed to start the growth and flowering process. Flowering is part of a plant’s life cycle where it seeks to produce seed and perpetuate itself.

Although we most commonly grow garlic just for the intoxicating bulbs, allowing garlic plant flowering lends a unique and magical touch to the landscape. Intentionally planting garlic flowers is becoming popular due to the tasty scapes. These are simply the buds for the flower and have a long history as an edible in their own right.

Producing Ornamental Garlic Plants

If you want to try growing some of these aromatic bursts of white florets for yourself, start with planting garlic. If you want big, robust garlic bulbs, it’s inadvisable to allow them to flower, but letting the scapes themselves appear does not seem to slow bulb growth.

Plant numerous seed garlic in fall for hardneck bulbs or in spring for soft neck. Let a few of these develop scapes and produce starry balls of flowers just for the enjoyment. The rest of the plants should have their scapes removed and use these in salads, soups, sautés, sauces and any other dish that can be improved with their mild garlic flavor.

What to Do if My Garlic Plant is Flowering

If you have planted garlic for its bulbs and neglect to remove the scapes, the plant is directing its energy to producing flowers rather than bigger bulbs. You can still harvest the bulbs but they will be small and low in flavor.

In some regions, garlic can stay in the ground and produce a second year harvest. To reap the benefits the following year, remove the flowers and mulch around the garlic in fall. Let the green shoots die back. In spring, they should resprout and the number of garlic bulbs will increase. Pull away the mulch to allow shoots to emerge from the soil.

This way you have one season where planting garlic flower was the goal, but a second season of bulb harvest is still possible. These may still be smaller than they would be without flowering but the flavor will be intense and delicious.

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