Growing Culinary Elephant Garlic

Elephant garlics are also known as great-headed garlic or levant garlic, though they’re technically a type of leek and not a garlic. Unlike other leeks, they have a mild garlic flavor instead of an onion flavor. If you want garlic flavor without overpowering a dish, elephant garlic is a good one to try. Despite what some people think, elephant garlic really is a great culinary allium.

Some elephant garlics grow a single large bulb, like an onion, though usually smaller; and some grow several cloves, similar to garlic.

I’ve read that most elephant garlics produce a single large bulb, and they do not flower. Presumably these elephant garlics produce leek pearls, by which the plant is propagated.

We have only experienced elephant garlic that produces several cloves around large flower stalk.

Elephant Garlic with unopened flowers.

This particular elephant garlic has come up reliably, every year, producing new plants from cloves or pearls left in the soil. I have harvested cloves from it year round, and I’ve used the leaves many times when making vegetable broth, to add a very light, garlicky flavor without accidentally overpowering everything else.

Like other leeks, elephant garlic is cold hardy (they survived one winter, in the ground & mulched, where the temperature got down to 0℉). It grows best in a rich, light soil, though it did just fine in the clay soil we grew it in. It wasn’t heavy clay, and had some organic matter in it, but it wasn’t as rich or loamy as would be ideal.

If you do choose to grow elephant garlic, I would recommend finding cloves from a multi-centric, flowering elephant garlic. The bees absolutely love the flowers, and so do we. (Be aware, though, that any seeds produced by these flowers are likely to be sterile.)

With a elephant garlic that produces cloves instead of a bulb, you’re almost guaranteed to miss a clove or two in the soil, turning your elephant garlic into a reliable harvest nearly year-round.

How to propagate your elephant garlic.

Check out the growing guides for others in the allium family:

Scallions & Bunching onions
Onion/Common Chives
Chinese/Garlic Chives

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3 Responses to Growing Culinary Elephant Garlic

  1. Sharon Warner June 7, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    Thanks for helping me to identify a plant in my flowerbed here in ABQ, NM.

  2. Josh April 16, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    Please help I planted my elephant garlic when it said to plant it and all I have coming up is the green leaves and no purple flowers what have I done wrong

    • Anni May 31, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

      It may take until fall for it to send up flowers. Or even possibly they won’t send up flowers until next year. It all depends on the quality/maturity of the bulbs you were sent.


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