Society Garlic, The Details: Can it Grow in My Water/Container Garden?

Society Garlic!

100% yes, and it will THRIVE.

Characteristics and History.

This Jack of All Trades Plant is noted by the University of Florida as native to the rocky grasslands of South Africa, but not actually being in the same genus as garlic and onions. Possibly being named Society Garlic, because it has all the flavor and smell of garlic, without making your breadth smell hellacious:)

Society Garlic ( Tulbaghia Violacea ) is a regal looking plant, plump with emerald grassy leaves and tall stalks of 12-24 inches that spike out of mounds to produce showy clusters of lavender star-shaped flowers. Perfect to add depth and height to the edges of a small container water garden or to the edges of a larger backyard pond.

This perennial plant will thrive in FULL SUN, not requiring much attention, and will continue to flower spring through fall, giving your water garden (or landscape) color, texture, while offering plenty to pollinators and to your dinner table, as it is an edible. It even thrives in part shade, though admittedly, flowering much less.

The plant, as its name suggests, smells of garlic when brushed up against, so do take this into account when planting.

In The Water Garden.

Currently, I have a 25 gallon container water garden with 5 common goldfish. My container pond is usually populated by aquatic water lettuce that I forage in public areas near my 9B community. You can check it out here. . .

But, it’s just the start of spring and we’ve had a long winter with a very recent winter storm that has knocked out a large amount of vegetation in this area. My pond is barren, and my fish are sad for the loss of the plant playground.

Luckily, the local garden nurseries are ramping up inventory and Society Garlic is one of the first plants to fill the shelves, as it is a favorite around Houston gardens and landscapes. Prized for its beauty, ability to tolerate high heat, drought conditions AND tropical bog like conditions, as well as deter snakes, moles, all while offering culinary delight to those who love the flavor and smell of garlic.

Planting Society Garlic In Your Water Garden.

This plant can be planted into your Container Water Garden very economically with items that you already have on hand at your house ,no special soil needed. In fact, I REMOVED the soil from the garden center pot.


  • Society Garlic (I used two 4 inch pots for my container water garden that I purchased for $3.99 a piece)
  • Nursery pot that the plant was purchased in
  • 1 small package of fish tank gravel or small pebbles, rinsed and cleaned
  • Medium sized Binder Clips


  1. Once you get your new plant home from the nursery, remove the pot and rinse the soil off with a gentle spray of water. If you purchased a healthy plant, as it is a vigorous grower, it is likely a tightly coiled bunch of tuberous white roots. Once the outer soil has been rinsed, try gently prying open the inner parts of the root bundle to release some of the soil that has been lodged in between. It’s not imperative to remove ALL of the soil, just the majority of it. This helps to prevent your pond/container water from getting murky/cloudy from the potting soil.
  2. After the majority of the soil has been removed, place it back into the nursery container, insuring that all the roots fit into the pot. As a personal preference, I enjoy pots for my container pond that have holes at the bottom large enough for the roots to find their way out into the openness of the “pond” once they begin to grow. My fish love swimming, hiding, and playing through the web of roots in their water habitat.
  3. Using gravel or small pebbles that have been rinsed and cleaned free of dirt and/or chemicals, place on the top of your pot to completely cover the remaining exposed roots.
  4. Your Society Garlic is now ready for “planting”. Using the binder clips, attach to the side of your container pond. The crown of the plant, the part where the plant stem and roots meet, can be as much as 1 inch below the surface of the water.
I chose to clip my plants with the crown above water level, but if you have a shelf on your container or larger clips you may want to go 1 inch below the waters surface.

Fertilizing My Aquatic Garden.

In my container pond, I rely on sunshine and the natural mini biosphere that I have created with the fish and plants to feed my plants. I understand that there are numerous products (including aquatic soil and tablets that dissolve) that can aid in feeding your plants, but after owning my container garden for over 2 years now, they seem to be happy to fend for themselves. This allows me to enjoy the beauty that it adds to my back patio experience with very minimal effort and cost!

Society Garlic Maintenance.

When the leaves turn yellow or brown, as is the natural course of a plants life, clip off the yellow leaves to the base. If you find that your plants are happily growing and bursting from the seems, you can divide the plants to make more!

Simply remove the plant from its pot, split the roots in half, making 2 seperate clumps of plants. Cut off half the foliage to help reduce the shock, and replant in new containers. Place back into water using above directions, and watch how how plants spring back to life and continue growing. You can also use this technique, and alternatively plant them into your landscape using soil. Water them thoroughly, and watch as the enjoy their new home.

The flower buds.

Winter Care.

Society Garlic is perennial that lives in zones 7-11. It can tolerate moderate frosts and light freezes. You may choose to remove it from your water garden in winter and relocate to a warm indoor area until freezing temperatures are no longer.

In my 9B Houston Garden, this past winter we had a week long freeze with high temperatures in the low twenties and upper teens, very unusual for this area. However, once the temperatures lifted, I cut down all the foliage and the plants came back to life within a few weeks.

When the flowers begin to fade.

Want the live action video Society Garlic going into my water garden? Here you go!

And for a look at what my little garden looked like 10 years ago, check out this blog post, with tips from my Momma on how to grow a garden.

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