What Kind of Garlic Varieties Should You Plant?

different garlic varieties to grow

Interested in growing garlic? You’re in luck – garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow in the home garden. You can plant a large amount in a small space, it doesn’t have many pests or diseases, and it loves cold weather.

And if you live in a very cold climate like mine in Wisconsin, you’ll be pleased to hear that it survives harsh winters like a champ. Something I can barely do myself!

(I share more great reasons to plant it here.)

As a bonus, if you plant the right garlic varieties it can store for many months in your home, allowing you to use it as the base for delicious meals all year round. Cooking with your own homegrown garlic will make dinner prep even more satisfying.

Each year when I post photos of myself using my stored garlic in January, March, and sometimes into June (almost a year after harvest!), I get lots of questions about how I get my garlic to last that long.

If you’re interested in using your own garlic year-round (it’s definitely possible, we do it at our house) then it’s important to understand all of the different garlic varieties so you can choose the best one for your situation.

Let’s dive right in!

garlic varieties growing in the garden

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Understanding Garlic Varieties

There are two main types of garlic and which one you choose to plant will depend upon what you’re looking for in a garlic harvest.

Softneck garlic is the most common variety found in grocery stores. Softnecks often have many smaller cloves and they sometimes form multiple layers of bulbs around the stem.

Softnecks tend to store for longer periods of time than hardnecks and they grow well in most climates. If you live in a warmer climate, this would be the garlic type to choose for your garden.

If you’ve seen those pretty pictures of braided garlic on Pinterest and you want to try it for yourself, then softneck garlic is for you because they have a flexible stalk that’s great for braiding.

There are two main types of softneck garlic: silverskin and artichoke.

Hardneck garlic generally has fewer and larger cloves than softneck. Hardnecks produce a scape, or stalk, in late spring that grows from the center of the plant.

Most gardeners remove the scapes and you can make a delicious garlic scape pesto from them. (My garlic scape pesto recipe.)

Because the outer paper on the bulb is thinner, they won’t store as long as softneck garlic. They are best grown in cold climates.

There are three main types: rocambole, porcelain, and purple stripe.

Elephant garlic is a completely different kind of garlic and grows huge bulbs.

 what garlic varieties to grow

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing Garlic Varieties

Do you live in a cold or warm climate?
If you live in a cold climate you can grow either softneck or hardneck. If you live in a warm climate choose softneck. Warm weather gardeners will also need to pre-chill their garlic, read about it here and here.

Do you like large cloves or small cloves for cooking?
Personally, I don’t like to deal with peeling and chopping lots of tiny cloves, so I grow only hardneck varieties in my garden. The bigger the clove the better IMHO!

Do you want to store your garlic over the winter?
I’ve successfully stored garlic for an entire year in my basement. You’ll want to look for garlic varieties that say they’re good for storage.

As we discussed above, softneck tend to store better than hardneck, but the cloves are usually pretty small. I grow mostly hardneck varieties because of the clove size and they store fine for me.

If you live in a cold climate like mine, I recommend growing a porcelain variety. That’s the majority of what I grow and store at my house.

choosing garlic varieties

Dried garlic ready for winter storage.

How much garlic do you use?
You can fit a lot of garlic in small space. I grow 220 bulbs a year and it usually fits into less than three raised beds. Think about how often you use garlic in your cooking.

At our house, we cook from scratch most nights of the week and our dishes usually start with garlic and onions being thrown into a cast iron pan.

We use a lot of garlic in our cooking. In fact, when a recipe calls for one clove of garlic we laugh at that and throw in one bulb instead.

220 might seem like a lot, but we give a bunch away to family and friends, and we save some of our harvest for planting that fall. Once you start growing garlic you can save a portion of the bulbs for planting instead of having to buy new seed every year.

If you think you use one garlic bulb a week, then you might want to grow around 65 bulbs. That will give you enough for one per week and plenty for planting in the fall.

How many different garlic varieties do you want to grow?
Do you want to keep it simple and just grow one variety, or do you want to experiment and try a few different ones? I usually grow around four varieties each season in my garden.

If you’re new to growing garlic, you could try one hardneck and one softneck variety and compare them.

what garlic varieties to grow.

Where to Buy Your Garlic Seed

Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. That means if you’re growing garlic for the first time you should plan to have seed by October so you’re ready for planting. 

Seed garlic is simply bulbs you buy for planting.

You’ll need to buy seed garlic if you’re planting garlic for the first time this year. Important: Don’t plant the garlic you buy from the grocery store. It’s possible that it’s been sprayed by an anti-sprouting agent and it’s likely a softneck type grown in either California or China.

Instead, shop at your local farmers market for seed garlic or order some online.  Some of the varieties I’ve had luck growing in my Wisconsin garden are:

Inchelium Red: Softneck Artichoke variety with many small cloves.

Music: Hardneck Porcelain variety with big cloves, long storage life, widely grown.

Romanian Red: Hardneck Porcelain variety with purplish coloring on the skins, big cloves, great for storage.

Spanish Roja: Hardneck Rocambole variety, large bulbs, strong flavor, doesn’t store quite as long as Porcelain varieties so use these first.

Some of my favorite places to buy seed garlic online are:

Seed Savers Exchange

High Mowing Seeds

Hudson Valley Seed Library

Boundary Garlic Farm – for Canadian gardeners

You can check out more of my favorite varieties on Etsy here and in my Amazon storefront.

how to choose a garlic variety

A garlic scape ready to be turned into yummy pesto!

Additional Resources for Growing Garlic

If I haven’t quite convinced you to grow garlic this season check out this article: 10 Fantastic Reasons to Grow Your Own Garlic.

If I was successful and you’re super excited to plant garlic this season here’s how to plant garlic

My favorite garlic scape pesto recipe. I freeze garlic scape pesto in jars and we eat it all winter long on egg dishes, pasta, pizza, tacos and more.

And once you’ve grown a successful crop you’ll need to learn how to harvest and dry it for long term storage so it lasts as long as possible. Everything you need to know about drying garlic.

Garlic is one of the champions of the garden in my opinion! Pick one or two garlic varieties that looking interesting, place your order, and planting garlic on your fall to-do list this season.

If you’ve never grown it before, I suspect that you’ll fall in love with growing garlic as much as I have!





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