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Description and Varieties of Garlic



There are over 600 subvarieties of garlic, a member of the Lily family and a close relative to shallots, onions, leeks and chives. But garlic falls into one of two main categories: hardneck and softneck.

Grow Great Garlic

Latin Name: Allium sativum

Common name: Garlic

Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon) produces fewer cloves than softneck, and is better suited to northern, cooler climates. Each plant produces a garlic scape, a central shoot with a flower atop it.

Hardneck garlic is usually grown by small farmers, and many claim that it has more robust flavor than softneck varieties.

Although the precise taxonomy of garlic is somewhat muddy, hardneck varieties break down into five main types: Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe and Rocambole, and three varieties of weakly bolting hardnecks that often produce softnecks: Creole, Asiatic and Turban.

Softneck garlic (Allium sativum sativum) is grown in warmer climates. Most garlic in the supermarket is the softneck variety. Softneck garlic does not produce garlic scapes, and it produces more cloves than hardneck garlic.

Softneck garlic can be broken down into two varietal groups: Artichoke and Silverskin.

Environmental Preferences:

Light: sunny, will tolerate partial shade
Soil: well-drained loam with moderate organic matter
Fertility: medium rich
pH: 5.5 - 7.0
Temperature: cool (45-60 degrees F) during early development, medium hot (60-75 degrees F) when forming bulbs
Moisture: moist but not waterlogged


Hardy perennial, grown as annual.


All zones.

Days to Harvest:

Garlic requires up to nine months for fall plantings and six months for spring plantings, until harvest.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Inchelium Red Garlic: This award-winning softneck was discovered on the Coville Indian Reservation in Inchelium, WA. Large bulbs with thick, protective outer wrappers.
  • German Extra-Hardy Garlic: A hardneck variety of the porcelain type that produces large bulbs with four to five large cloves in each one. Strong, robust flavor. Vigorous and extremely easy to grow. Stores well!
  • Chesnook Red Garlic: This is a great heirloom purple-stripe hardneck type. Great flavor, large bulbs with 9-10 cloves each. Easy to peel; stores for up to 6 months. Does well through cold winters but plant it early.
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