Growing Garlic from Bulbils


Growing Garlic from Bulbils

Bulbils are vegetative clones of the garlic plant that they grew on.

When a hardneck garlic plant reaches its full height, it will produce a scape. A scape is a flower stalk which grows up the centre of the plant and droops over at the top or forms a few curls before ending in a flower umbel. When left on the plant, bulbils will form and grow in the flower umbel and it will soon open into sometimes wild displays of tendrils.

Depending on the variety, a single capsule can contain anywhere from a few very large bulbils that approach the size of cloves, to hundreds of bulbils that are the size of a grain of rice.

Weekly Bolting and Artichoke types sometimes form 1-5 bulbils in the body of their stalk or ‘false stem’. These may also be planted.

Expand and Invigorate your Crop

Planting bulbils is an excellent way to increase and invigorate your garlic crop.

  • Trials have shown that successive replanting of bulbils can produce a strain superior to the bulbs produce by the cloves of the mother plant;
  • It is inexpensive as some bulbils capsules (e.g. porcelains) can have hundreds of minute bulbils that will each in time grow into its own plant and bulb;
  • Bulbils are clean; because they are an aerial part of the plant, they are not exposed to soil-borne diseases; and
  • Growing them out from bulbil to bulb will result in a supply of seed garlic that is especially acclimatized to your own growing conditions.

Planting, Caring, Harvesting & Curing

Garlic bulbils can be planted in the fall or spring with good results. Select and prepare a site with fine-textured fertile soil that is well-drained and free of perennial weeds. Gently separate the bulbils from their capsules. Smaller bulbils, such as those produce by Porcelain and Purple Stripe varieties, may be sown like lettuce in a thin rows or a large band and later thinned. Varieties such as Rocamboles or Asiatics produce larger lentil or pea sized bulbils and should be spaced about 4 inches apart. Apply mulch if desired.

Bulbs often emerge later than the main crop in the spring. Foliar feed, weed, thin and water as needed. Harvest your bulbils after their first growing season when the plant begins to dry and fade. Smaller varieties can be harvested with some ease using a screen as sometime the top growth will disappear all together as they mature in the summer sun.

Small bulbils will grow into thin grass-like plants and produce little teardrop-shaped bulblets in their first year. If you are growing out many bulbils, you may want to select only the largest of these for replanting. These varieties take about 3-4 years to form good-sized bulbs.

Many varieties will produce a single undifferentiated “round” clove that can be the size of a grape or bigger than a golf ball – when replanted, large rounds can produce premium bulbs the following year.

The largest bulbils will grow a more recognizable garlic plant and form small bulbs in the first year. In the second year, they will produce good-sized bulbs.

Cure your year-old and second-year old bulbils as you would all of your garlic and replant in a new location in the fall with larger spacing to accommodate the bigger plants.