Tulbaghia violacea, Wild Garlic is a very popular groundcover with landscapers and gardeners because of its showy mauve-pink flowers, interesting leaf texture and general hardiness. Mass planted, this species creates a striking display while in flower. It also has culinary and medicinal properties.

When planted in mass, Tulbaghia violacea creates a striking display while in flower.
Family:                                 ALLIACEAE                (Onion Family)

Name Derivation:

  • Tulbachia – After Ryk Tulbagh (died 1771), Dutch governor of the Cape of Good Hope, who corresponded with and sent plants from the Cape to Carl Linnaeus.
  • violacea – violet, referring to the colour of the flowers .

Common Names:

  • Wild garlic (Eng), wilde knoffel (Afr) and isihaqa (Zul).
Form:                                   A bulbous plant with upright leaves.

Size:                                      30 cm x 25 cm.


  • Lilac or mauve, tubular flowers, up to 2 cm long.
  • Borne in multi-flowered umbels on stalks up to 50 cm tall.

Colour:                             Lilac or mauve.

Fragrant:                            Bruised plant parts smell strongly of garlic.

Each lilac or mauve, tubular flower, up to 2cm long, is borne on a multi-flowered umbel.
Each Talbughia violacea umbel  may have up to 20 flowers. Remove the inflorescence when finished flowering to encourage more flowers.
Flowering Months:         Sep – Apr.


  • Evergreen.
  • The leaves strap-like, (30 by 1 cm), tapering to the apex.
  • Leaves are upright from a whitish base.
  • They are a grey-green colour.

Thorns:                           No thorns.

Fruit:                               A small capsule that splits open to disperse the seeds.

Tulbaghia violacea is a popular groundcover for large open areas on pavements, in complex and office parks and shopping centre parking lots. It is easy to see why.
In the Garden:

  • A popular groundcover for large open areas on pavements, in complex and office parks and shopping centre parking lots.
  • May be used to good effect in rockeries and as flowerbed borders.
  • A good companion plant for roses and other small shrubs prone to aphid attack.
  • A very good water-wise choice.

Planting spacing:    6 per square metre.

 Soil Needs:

  • Will grow even in poor soil, but best in good garden soil.



  • A low maintenance garden plant.
  • Will tolerate a fair amount of neglect.
  • Clumps expand quite quickly when regularly watered and fed.
  • Deadhead the flowers after flowering to encourage further flowering.
  • Overcrowded clumps can be lifted and divided, but they like being undisturbed.
Cold Hardiness:                Very hardy.

Water Requirements:

  • Very drought hardy, but like regular water in summer.
  • Water-wise groundcover.

Light Requirements:     Full sun to light shade.

 Roots:                               Not invasive.

Birds:                                 No particular attraction for birds.

Tulbagia violacea, Wild Garlic, growing on the island in Cedar Avenue next to the Fourways Mall.
Tulbaghia violacea, Wild Garlic, used to great effect on a housing garden complex pavement.
Insects and Butterflies:

  • Pollinated mainly by butterflies and bees.


  • Bulbs and leaves are used in traditional medicine to treat fever and colds.
  • Also used to treat tuberculosis and asthma.
  • Extracts of Tulbaghia violacea have shown ability to lower high blood pressure.
  • It has antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities.
Poisonous:                         Not Poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • The leaves are prepared and eaten as spinach.
  • Can be used as normal garlic is.
  • Some people plant them around their homes believing the smell keeps snakes away.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the EC and southern KZN.
  • Reports of occurrences elsewhere are probably garden escapees.

Natural Habitat: Moist sandy coastal soil, near rivers, in grasslands and on rocky slopes.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.