Elephant Garlic: Tremendous Giant Alliums

Garlic is one of the most versatile alliums there is. There are thousands of culinary uses for garlic and many medicinal uses as well. And with so many different strains to choose from, growing regular garlic just seems like a good idea. Grow elephant garlic instead!

Despite its name, elephant garlic is more closely related to leek than regular garlic. Since it is not a "real garlic", it has a much milder taste and slower onion growth. Working with this perennial plant is so rewarding. Give them enough time and space and they will produce multiple harvests in the years to come.

The amazing thing about elephant garlic is that just one clove can produce up to 6 elephant garlic plants. With patience and the right conditions, you can grow these from elephant garlic bulbs bought from the store's vegetable section. Let's discuss the specifics of elephant garlic care.

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Brief instructions for care

Elephant garlic produces huge but mild cloves. Source: jeamac

Common name (s) Elephant, Giant or French Garlic
Scientific name Allium ampeloprasum var. Ampeloprasum
Days to harvest 90 days
Bright Full sun
water 1 inch of water per week
floor Loose, rich, well drained
fertilizer High nitrogen every two weeks
Pests Snails
Diseases Fusarium bulb rot

Everything about elephant garlic

Freshly picked elephant garlicElephant garlic is more closely related to leek than to garlic. Source: woodleywonderworks

This plant is scientifically known as Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum, and commonly called elephant garlic, giant garlic, and French garlic. The firm onion is believed to originate from the eastern Mediterranean. It was popularly grown in England in the 17th century and eventually made its way to the Pacific coast of America when Balkan peoples came to Oregon in the 19th century.

At first glance, everything about elephant garlic looks like normal garlic. What differentiates the two is the elephant bulb of garlic: it is large and surrounded by several separate cloves (no more than 6), while regular garlic consists only of these around a central stem. Elephant garlic also grows up to 9 inches in girth. While farmers grow normal garlic from seeds, this is not the case with elephant garlic. In general, smaller cloves are used to propagate the plant, which does not bloom until its second year or develop into mature elephant garlic plants.

Much like regular garlic, elephant garlic has basically the same botanical structure. As the bulbs grow, the foliage begins to push through the tip of the bulb that is planted in the ground. As soon as the bulb has reached maturity, the flower heads, which are hidden in a thin paper-like covering called bracts, open into large, compound flower balls. These many blooming heads come in shades of pink to purple. The entire plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall.

Elephant garlic is valued for its use in food. Although closely related to its normal cousin, it has a much milder flavor as onions have a similar but stronger profile than leeks. Often times, the whole onion is roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and other spices to add to dishes. Boil it and spread it on bread or deep-fry sliced ​​onions to make elephant-garlic chips.

People even eat the onions raw in salads. The leaves are also edible and make a good last-minute addition to eggs, salads or soups. Anywhere that chives are used, you can use elephant garlic leaves. Overall, elephant garlic is the very relaxed cousin of regular garlic. And caring for elephant garlic is also a little less fussy.

Planting elephant garlic

Elephant garlic can be planted in the fall or planted in early spring. It loves cool weather. Choose an area in your garden with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil where the bulbs have enough room to mature. Since the onion makes up the majority of the root end of the elephant garlic, you can definitely grow plants in containers if that works best for your situation. To plant elephant garlic, separate the bulbs from the cloves. Then place them with the pointed end up in a hole in the floor or container that is about six inches deep. Place each clove about 1 foot apart. Then cover lightly with soil and pour in.


Several carnationsElephant garlic cloves are similar in shape to regular garlic. Source: Twistedstringknits

Once you have planted these large carnations in your garden, there is not much else left to do. So let's talk about the basics to get you started.

Sun and temperature

Elephant garlic prefers full sun with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9 at temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Although leaves can die in these conditions, onions that have been properly mulched will work fine. The same goes for high heat. As long as there is enough mulch, the bulbs will survive. Note, however, that elephant garlic requires at least six weeks of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for onions to develop. However, it does not need protection from heat or cold. However, when the heat is higher, each large clove will bloom faster.

Water and moisture

Water elephant garlic regularly in the morning after planting. Give your cloves at least an inch of water each week. Try not to water too much, as this leads to fungal pathogens that cause rot in onion-bearing plants like elephant garlic. Conditions that are too wet are not preferable. Let the soil around the large onion dry out slightly between waterings.

A constant high humidity of over 50% for a few months also leads to rot. In a cool spring or fall when it rains constantly, don't add extra water to the process. When your plant has flowers and the leaves are yellow, stop watering. That means it's almost time to harvest!


Choose a soil area with loose, fertile soil with a neutral pH. If you're making your own soil mix, simple potting soil fortified with a hefty amount of well-rotted compost will work well. Make sure the planting area has good drainage and a pH of 7.


As mentioned above, the elephant garlic does not flower for the first year. That means it will be produced in the second year at the earliest. So after the first year, replenish soil nutrients by adding a layer of compost around the base of the plant.

Fertilize elephant garlic every two weeks with a nitrogen-rich leaf food (12-0-0 or 15-0-0 NPK) after the foliage has started. If the flower heads fall over, stop high-nitrogen fertilization and apply some powdered phosphorus-rich fertilizer. At this point the plant's energy moves from leaf to bulb production. Use a tuber fertilizer with a 3-15-2 NPK.


Unless you have tons of dead or damaged leaves, there is no need to prune them until you start harvesting elephant garlic. Remove dead or damaged leaves as needed.


If you want to grow elephant garlic from your garden crop, simply plant more large carnations in organic matter. You will have new plants with cloves surrounding a large bulb in about a year.

Harvest and storage

Freshly harvested elephant garlicAfter harvesting, you will need to cure your garlic before storing it. Source: Terrie Schweitzer

Now that we've looked at the care and planting of elephant garlic, let's talk about harvesting Allium ampeloprasum var. Ampeloprasum.


When the bulbs bloom and the foliage dies, elephant garlic is almost ready to be harvested. Wait for the remaining yellow leaves to fall and you will know it's time. Usually elephant garlic is harvested with a small shovel or trowel. A border fork works just as well. Simply insert the tool outside the perimeter of the onion and gently pry it out of the soil. Then remove the excess leaves up to half an inch above the onion.

After the garlic is harvested from your garden, remove any remaining soil on the bulb with a dry cloth. Use them right away or cure each lightbulb. Raw elephant garlic is great toasted and spread on bread. You can also add seasonings to your spread. Each clove has a mild taste, in contrast to the fuller taste of regular garlic. Sort out damaged lightbulbs. At this point, the bulbs can be planted back in the ground or stored for this purpose.

To cure the lightbulb, place it in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Each onion needs at least 3 weeks with low humidity and up to 8 weeks with higher humidity. A small, low-speed electric fan can help keep air circulating and reduce humidity. As soon as the onion is tough on the skin, you know it's time to enjoy this delicious taste.


Once your crop has hardened, store it in a temperate, dry place. If at this point it gets too cold to plant in your garden, you can save carnations for the following spring. Your dry harvest should last at least 10 months in a hanging basket or on a counter. Peeled cloves can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 month. The entire onion can be frozen and stored in the freezer for an additional 6 to 8 months. Frozen paste will last 3 to 5 months. If dehydrated, it can be stored for 6 to 7 weeks. Dehydrated material can be ground into powders and mixed with other spices for use in cooking.


Elephant garlic flowerThe flowers are like a large ball of flowers. Source: Terrie Schweitzer

Elephant garlic prefers well-drained, fertile soil. Most of the problems people encounter with these plants result from improperly planted and managed conditions.

Growing problems

If you have these plants in an area with compacted, firm soil, they do not develop into sufficiently large bulbs. When you've planted carnations too close to other plants or let weeds overtake them, the same will happen. You want to give each of the plants enough space and protect them as much as possible by weeding them. So do these plants does not like wet, cold spring or autumn. If you water too much in a rainy part of spring, they can develop rot. Plants that develop a dark spot on their bulbs suffer from root rot.


Most alliums have no problems with pests. The same is true here.

Snails however, it can eat the leaves of your plants if they get there. Put in a small Tupperware container with a small amount of beer to catch snails. You go to the beer first and perish there instead of eating your plant.

There are also a number of organic controls available for snails. Copper scares them off, so buy a roll of copper tape and wrap it around your plants to keep snails away. There are also iron- and phosphate-heavy organic pesticides that remove snail infestations. After all, organic snail and slug baits work well too!


Fusarium root rot is a fungal disease caused by the pathogen Fusarium oxysporum sp. cepae that starts somewhere at the base of your plant. It then spreads to the leaves and turns yellow as it progresses, eventually creating a dark spot on the bulb. At this point, a white fungus is visible on the plant. You may not notice the problem with your plants until harvest time. Unfortunately, the only way to prevent it from spreading further to the rest of your garden is to remove and dispose of (not compost) the entire plant, and then solarize the rest of the soil. Some mycorrhizal additives can prevent Fusarium fungi from appearing in the soil.

frequently asked Questions

Gigantic carnationsGiant cloves of garlic will be your reward. Source: Jeffreyw

Q: is elephant garlic the same as regular garlic?

Answer: no! It is more closely related to leek and has a much milder taste. It's also a lot bigger.

Q: How long does it take to grow elephant garlic?

A: It takes about 90 days from planting to harvest.

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