Growing Garlic From Bulbils

We currently grow about 16000 garlic bulbs. Roughly 1/3 were initially started from bulbil on our farm. We propagate by bulbil in part to keep costs down but also to avoid importing disease from other farms when we buy in new garlic varieties.

Garlic bulbils are the small bulbs that develop in the garlic scape if you leave the scape on the plant. These are not seeds, they are genetically identical to the mother plant.

Let’s take a year by year look at one garlic variety that we bought in 2006 and have since bulked up to be one of our main cultivars using bulbils.

( You can also read about planting garlic bulbils in more detail in this GTS post.)

IMG_7950wtmk

2006

  • Bought Siberian Marbled Purple Stripe garlic from another grower.
  • October: Planted bulbs in trial garden to avoid introducing unknown disease into main crop.

2007

  • June: Left garlic scapes on plants
  • Early August: Harvested bulbs then ate them. Kept scapes with bulbils.
  • October: Planted bulbils.

2008

  • Early July: Harvested 16 garlic rounds. Garlic rounds are bulbs that only contain 1 round clove.
  • October: Planted 16 garlic rounds.

2009

  • Mid July: Harvested 16 small bulbs with 2-4 cloves each.
  • Most  bulbs are 1.5″ to 1.75″ in diameter. The largest is 2″ wide.
  • October: Plant all garlic cloves.

2010

  • Mid July: Harvested 47 bulbs with 3-5 cloves each.
  • Most  bulbs are 1.75″ to 2″ in diameter. The largest is 2.25″ wide.
  • October: Planted all garlic cloves.

2011

  • Early August: Harvested 178 bulbs with 4-6 cloves each.
  • Most  bulbs are 2″ to 2.25″ in diameter. 1 bulb is 2.75″ wide.
  • We ate/sold half the bulbs (the smallest bulbs) and kept the largest bulbs for seed.
  • October: Planted garlic cloves from the largest bulbs.

2012

  • Early August: Harvested 520 bulbs.
  • 3/4 of bulbs are from 2″ to 2.75″ in diameter. 39 bulbs are 2.75″ wide.
  • We ate/sold half the bulbs (the smallest bulbs) and kept the largest bulbs for seed.

2013

  • Early August: Harvested about 1200 bulbs.
  • Over 95% of the bulbs are from 2″ to 2.75″ in diameter. Many 2.75″ wide.
  • We plan on keeping the largest bulbs for seed and planting about 2000 cloves in the fall.

In Conclusion

I  planted Siberian bulbils in 2007. It took 3 years (2010) to get a fair number of bulbs of moderate size. By year 4 (2011),  we started selling bulbs. By year 5 (2012), we achieved bulb sizes comparable to our Rocambole and Porcelain garlic. And in year 6 (2013), this garlic is now one of our main varieties!

Growing garlic from bulbil let’s you bulk up your garlic stock and it also gives you some time to evaluate that garlic!

Marbled Purple Stripewtmk

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12 responses to “Growing Garlic From Bulbils

  1. Love the timeline. Shows the progression (and patience required) nicely!

  2. Excellent! Many thanks for that!

    Will Bonsall

  3. That is a fascinating progression from bulbils to cloves. We have gotten what you call “rounds” before and I had no idea to plant them and get cloves. This year about half of our garlic died in early summer. We sent some plants to the university lab and they couldn’t find any disease. Do yoy have any ideas why a perfectly normal stand of garlic would die? I am not sure to plant our cloves or not this fall.
    Thanks,
    Jean in Mt

    • Hi Jean,

      Was your season colder/wetter than usual?
      Is this garlic you’ve been growing for a bit? Is any of it new?

      My guess for why your plants died early would be disease. In recent years, there has been a lot of nematode damage in garlic.

      If you have any bulbils, they would be a good way to regenerate your garlic in clean soil.

      Dan

      • Hi Dan, the plants started turning red in mid June, that was the only rainy time we had. Thecrest of the season was warm, but they had already made up their mind and withered away. Thanks for the ideas. Unfortunately I didn’t save any bulbules.
        Thanks again for sharing!
        Jean in Mt

  4. Thanks for the experiment and results!

  5. woo hoo, found some scapes tossed away behind an onion basket. Now I have bulbils. Have you ever tried planting bulbils in the Spring? I saw that suggested somewhere. It seems like the bulbils might dry out by then though. What do you think Dan?

  6. Hey I love eating garlic but I am new to garlic growing! My partners parents grow some 2000 bulbs. We ate many bulbils this spring but the rest we tossed in the woods. Have you ever used bulbils for planting when they have been left out in the elements for 3 months? We’re about to plant garlic for next year and we’re not sure if we should bother trying to use the bulbils. BTW some of the garlic – we think – got nematode damage…

    • Hi Sarah,

      If the bulbils are still firm they should be fine for planting. If you have had nematode damage, starting a new garlic plot from bulbils would be one way to get rid of the pest.

      Dan

  7. This is very cool. I just found a random cluster of bulbils on my seed starting table. I’m getting ready to start some seeds indoors here in Oregon, and found the bulbils still attached to a partial scape and completely dry. I picked up the cluster and all the dry little bulbils fell apart. I searched for info online and found your site . . . thank you for the info. I intend to plant them as soon as possible (early Spring or right now?) and hope for the best. Thanks again and best wishes to you in all your endeavors.

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