Growing Bulbils: I Planted Garlic Bulbils & Grew Them For a Season

growing garlic bulbils
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Last Updated on 3 months by Michelle

This article is all about my adventure in planting garlic bulbils, diving into the world of bulbils garlic with its unique advantages and the intriguing process of growing garlic from these tiny, potent starters. I started by accident, but now I’m doing it ON PURPOSE. Read on to find out if YOU should be planting garlic bulbils too!

Why Should You Try Growing Garlic from Bulbils?

The reason you should try growing garlic from bulbils is simple:

growing garlic bulbils

Growing garlic from bulbils happens when the garlic scape is not removed from the garlic plant but instead is allowed to stay and mature. The garlic flower that is sent up flowers and then dries. Inside that flowering head are tiny bulb-shaped seeds called bulbils.

Compared to planting garlic cloves, bulbils offer a unique advantage as they are clones of the garlic bulb, free from viruses or diseases, and can develop new garlic bulbs with identical genetic makeup over time.

In May 2022, I accidentally left one scape on one of my hardneck garlic plants, and in June I found it while processing my harvested garlic.

planting garlic bulbils

I let the bulbils dry completely and then I saved them through the summer, anxiously awaiting what would happen when I planted them out that October.

I planted them out in October 2022, and harvested them in June 2023. They yielded marble sized bulbils, but they really looked like miniature bulbs of garlic. To me, they had stopped being bulbils and had crossed over in to bulb territory.

I just planted them back out again for their second year in the ground, and I’m excited to see how big they get for a second year. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to just plant the bulb without separating the tiny cloves, but I did plant the tiny cloves out individually. Together, you and I will see how they did!

Each season they are in the ground, they get bigger, and most garlic bulbils will produce full-sized bulbs by the 2nd or 3rd year. I’m not super-concerned about the size of the garlic bulb that results from these bulbils because…free.

Who Should Grow Garlic Bulbils?

Anyone who wants to grow free things should grow garlic bulbils.

But in all seriousness, all you need is a little patience to grow garlic bulbils to get that delicious free garlic.

It takes at least 2 additional years to harvest your free bounty, but it’s a real bounty, so your patience will be rewarded. A single flowering garlic head will yield from 40-60 bulbils, and you can expect 1/2 of those to grow the first year.

how to grow garlic from bulbils

How to Grow Garlic From Bulbils: The First Year

The process starts with intentionally leaving scapes on your hardneck garlic plants. The first year I grew them, I accidentally left a single scape to flower. The second year, I purposely left TEN on so that could harvest hundreds of bulbils.

Step 1

Leave the scape on to flower. You can decide how many you want to leave on.

Step 2

Harvest the garlic as normal, being sure to LEAVE THE FLOWER attached to the garlic. The flower will mature fully and will get energy from the bulb to finish forming the bulbils.

Step 3

Let the garlic bulbs cure as normal. They will sit in a cool-ish dry place out of full sun for a couple of weeks until the leaves are crunchy.

when to plant garlic bulbils

Step 4

Collect the individual bulbils from the seed head by rubbing your fingers over the surface when the bulbils are dry. Store them in a dry container away from direct light until you are ready to plant your next season of garlic.

Replanting the Second Year: 1st Year for Bulbils

Step 1

Prepare your soil as you normally would.

Step 2

Plant your bulbils only about 1/4 inch deep. You don’t have to worry about which end goes deeper into the soil.

Make sure they are rather close together. You want the tiny bulbils planted closely together because they will look like blades of grass when they break through the soil, and you don’t want to mistake them for a weed and pull them up. By planting them together, you’re more likely to remember what they are when they all come up together.

Of course, you could label the area, too. That’s helpful. lol.

Step 3

Tend to the bulbils like you do your regular garlic. This little bulbil patch will grow weeds more prolifically than your larger garlic, so be sure to weed routinely.

Step 4

Harvest the bulbils. You’ll get a mixture of larger bulbils and tiny garlic bulbs. Harvest it all and cure as you normally would. Be sure to store them in a cool-ish, dry area with air that can freely circulate. They could collect moisture and mold if you close them up in a container.

Planting Bulbils: 2nd Year for Bulbils

Step 1

If you have what looks like a single large bulbil, just plant that out. If you have what looks like a tiny bulb of garlic with tiny regular cloves, just separate the cloves and plant each clove separately like you normally would. I’m not sure why I got a mixture of larger rounds and small bulbs, but we’ll see what they look like when I harvest them in a couple of months!

Planting Bulbils: 3rd Year for Bulbils

I haven’t done this part yet, since I’m in the middle of my second growing year. I’m very excited for it, though. Technically, this should be the last year and should yield full-sized garlic bulbs.

Other Ways to Grow: Bulbils in Seedling Trays or Fabric Containers

You don’t have to plant bulbils in your garden. Maybe you don’t have space in your garden when you need to plant them out, or maybe you don’t have a garden PERIOD. That’s still OK! Bulbils are the size of a grain of rice, so you can grow a ton of them in a small space. Some great containers for growing bulbils are:

  • old clamshell fruit containers you want to re-use

  • the bottom of a 1080 seedling tray

  • a fabric container you can put on your porch

Final Thoughts

Growing garlic from bulbils is financially rewarding, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is straightforward. Stay tuned to see how my second-year bulbils turn out after I harvest them this October!



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