False Garlic – you lie, you lie, you lie.

I don’t know where it comes from, but it shows up in the strangest places.  Unannounced, just after the rain, it pokes its slender leaves up through the soil to bring terror to the fastidious gardener.  I’m talking about false garlic.

False garlic (Nothoscordum borbonicum Kunth)  is found primarily in California, Oregon and the Southeastern states, as well as some warmer parts of Europe. It’s pretty, but don’t be deceived.  This little bugger will infest a garden and is very difficult to eradicate.









Flat leaves have a spine running down the length, making it easy to identify among other grassy weeds.

Let’s break it down:

Like regular garlic, it has a smell.  It also has pretty white flowers that form an umbel and make you think they belong in the garden. WRONG!









Deceptively beautiful flowers of False Garlic

Beneath the soil lies the devious truth – bulbs and bulblets that will keep reproducing unless you remove them entirely.  These bulbs and bulblets are usually located between 6-12 inches below the soil surface.  You must dig out the entire thing, including some soil around it and throw it in the trash.









This is a rather surface-level false garlic. Most bulbs are further down.









Yellow circles highlight the bulblets. They could easily be mistaken for dirt clods
and left behind in the soil

The kicker is this: most compost bins don’t get hot enough to kill the bulbs and seeds, so unless you’ve got a burning-hot compost system, put them in the trash.  I personally wouldn’t even put them in the City Green bin.  It’s not worth it.

False garlic is best managed as soon as it is spotted in the garden.  It may take several passes over several seasons to fully eradicate it, but it’s worth being diligent.

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4 Responses to False Garlic – you lie, you lie, you lie.

  1. Christy Wilhelmi says:

    I looked around to see if it is, and there are some varieties (the kind that don’t smell) that are listed as edible, but I couldn’t find concrete proof that this variety is as well.  I’ll keep looking and let you know.

  2. Christy Wilhelmi says:

    Here’s a blog I did last summer on harvesting garlic:


  3. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Christy, for the heads up on the doppelganger. In regards to the legit garlic, when do you know when it’s ready to be picked?

  4. AmyLu says:

    I loved the title of your article! What a lying little plant! I fight this one in my garden because it sneaked by at first with those pretty white flowers and now it is everywhere! Thanks for the great advice about digging it all the way out. I have just been pulling it up… and probably unknowingly propagating it in the process.

    So… if it looks like garlic and smells like garlic… can we cook with this?!

    Thanks again for a great article.

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