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Growing garlic—what’s the difference between softneck garlic and hardneck garlic varieties?

Aug 04, 2011 -
  Growing garlic—what’s the difference between softneck garlic and hardneck garlic varieties?
Clove arrangement varies in different groups of garlic.

Growing garlic in your own garden lets you play with flavors you cannot find at stores. We carry more organic seed garlic than any other garden company, at the best prices, so plunge in and get garlicky.

How to grow garlic

The nuts and bolts of growing and harvesting garlic are right here for you, in our How to Grow Garlic video and our downloadable Garlic Growing Guide.

The question is, which varieties of garlic seed do you want to plant? Softneck or hardneck or both?

Garlic has a neck?

By the time you see garlic in the store it has been trimmed, but there is still a papery tuft that stands above the bulb. That’s the covering of the “neck” of the garlic.

Garlic also comes with different colored skins around the cloves. The cloves themselves are always a creamy white.

softneck seed garlic

Softneck garlic

This is the garlic you’ll find in most grocery stores. The bulb has a mild flavor. A great virtue of the softneck garlic (Allium sativum ssp. sativum) is that it stores very well. Since the necks are (literally) soft, you can cut them nice and long for braiding. A braid of garlic makes a winning kitchen gift for friends and family!

Which to choose? California Early White has no hot bite in its flavor, grows rapidly and is ready to harvest early. If making garlic braids is your top priority, plant California Late White. You’ll get a stronger flavor with this garlic, and it does better in warm climates than the Early variety.

hardneck seed garlic

Hardneck garlic

Hardnecks (Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with complex flavors. These are the garlics that some compare to wines with subtle differences that reflect the regional soil and weather patterns. One simple benefit to the cook is the way some of their skins slip off smoothly. Hardnecks do not store as long as softnecks—cure them, eat them within 6-10 months, and get to know their distinctive flavors. Spanish Roja’s flavor in particular is rich and classic—it does have a shorter shelf life, of 3-4 months, so go ahead and enjoy this best seller early.

Our Fall Planting Catalog 2013 and our Seed Garlic page have information about each of the hardneck varieties we carry.

elephant seed garlic

What about elephant garlic?

This big guy is technically in the leek family, but you’d never know by the look or the taste. Kids love harvesting this giant of the garlic patch, and it keeps well too, with a mild flavor.



Storing garlic

Garlic keeps best at 32-40 degrees with a relative humidity of 60-70. If you need help keeping tabs on the temperature and humidity in your storage area, try our Humiguide Thermometer or Digital Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer.


garlic combo pack

Our garlic combo pack

Still can’t decide? That’s why we created our Garlic Combo Pack, to let you try a little of this and a little of that—at a bargain price! It’s a gastronomical delight featuring organic California Early White softnecks, organic Russian Red and organic Purple Italian hardnecks, a conventional Elephant garlic, and even some organic French Red Shallots for delicate flavors.

growing great garlic book ron engeland

Our favorite garlic book

It’s hard to keep Growing Great Garlic on the shelves here. Ron Engeland’s popular book is the ultimate guide for the organic garlic grower; in addition to practical advice, you’ll learn more about garlic in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

For more information on garlic watch our videos on Growing Garlic and Garden Planning & Crop Rotation. Get the scoop on Music, the most popular of our hardneck garlics. Learn how to grow garlic and its allium cousins with our article on What to Plant in Your Winter Garden.

Welcome to the world of seed garlic!

Plant some garlic this year, keep track of what you like, and experiment with new varieties in the years ahead. Once you start growing garlic at home you’ll be spoiled by having your own cured garlic to cook with, in such a range of flavors.

Categories: Seed Garlic, Hardneck Seed Garlic, Softneck Seed Garlic, Elephant Seed Garlic, Organic Seed Garlic, Organic Seed Shallots, Container Gardening, Organic Gardening 101, Urban Gardening & farming

Bridget Lloyd Says:
Apr 15th, 2012 at 10:51 am


I have never planted garlic before.  I don’t know variety will grow well in zone 11.  Can you help?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Sep 9th, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Bridget, The softneck garlics are more tolerant of warm winters, and within that group California Late would be your best bet.

Sep 22nd, 2012 at 3:05 pm


Dylan M. Says:
Oct 25th, 2012 at 11:18 pm


I am located near Los Angeles in zone 9. I have grown garlic last year and it was pretty successful. I think the garlic was what you typically see in grocery stores. I want to try something more unique and different. What would you suggest? And is it really not recommended to try and grow a hardneck variety in a warmer climate?

Thank you

Charlotte, Peaceful Valley Says:
Nov 4th, 2012 at 7:39 am

Robert, We hope you have a good crop this year! As with all vegetables, it’s important to rotate your planting site for garlic, to avoid soil-borne diseases. You’re wise to enrich the soil too; garlic likes soil full of compost. In fact, a recent video on our Facebook page showed Doug Oster from Pittsburgh, PA planting garlic in about 8 inches of compost above his garden soil. We’re going to try that. We will keep the garlic info coming!

Susan Evans Says:
Nov 13th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

thanks!  I never knew there were so many varieties, and the planting video was very informative

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Nov 28th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Susan, Glad we were able to introduce you to the world of garlic! Let us know how your crop turns out.

Elizabeth Says:
Jan 2nd, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I want to grow the hardneck garlic to harvest the curly scapes.  Can I still plant them now?  I’m in zone 8, Portland Oregon

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 2nd, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Elizabeth, Yes, as long as you can work the soil you can plant garlic now. Should not be a problem in Portland, OR. If you do have soggy soil, I recommend Russian Red as a variety. Our garlic planting video has helpful tips, including soaking the cloves overnight in Liquid Kelp before planting. Enjoy your scapes and heads of garlic!

Matt La Posta Says:
Jan 12th, 2013 at 10:37 pm

We planted so much garlIc this year, I think it’s going to be a good year for all the hardneck varieties we are trying out from Peaceful Valley. Anyone that has not yet planted garlic in their garden needs to put some in ASAP!!!! Garlic is by far my favorite plant to grow for many reasons—a strong plant that doesn’t need to be pampered, is good for you, insects and pests usually leave it alone, stores well without refrigeration and best of all it’s the ultimate user friendly plant for seed saving!!! Plant a variety once and you never have to buy it again!! I decided to plant over 100 varieties this year just so I don’t have to think about trying to get my hands on every variety I can find ( I thought I would sleep better knowing I have so many different garlics… And I do!! ) . Thanks for getting me hooked on growing garlic Peaceful Valley! I’ll be growing garlic the entire rest of my life. Garlic makes you feel good! Garlic for life! Garlic us Life!!!!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 13th, 2013 at 1:22 am

Matt, Thanks for the garlicky shout-out! 100 varieties? Wow.

Amanda from Chicago Says:
Jan 14th, 2013 at 11:31 am

What varieties can you grow in Illinois?  Should I start now, in 20 degree weather?  Thank you for your help!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 18th, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Amanda, Any of the hardnecks would do well in Illinois. You can plant as long as you can work the soil—so I assume your ground is frozen at your current temps. Come on back in the fall and get some to plant just after your first frost. We always have the best choices and lowest prices for organic garlic seed.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 28th, 2013 at 12:32 am

Dylan M., The “grocery store garlic” is probably California White soft neck. Softneck garlic is the best to grow in your area. You can also grow hardneck, for more flavors, but your crops will not be as big. I would try any of them except Bogatyr which really enjoys cold weather.

Kathy from Mico, Texas Says:
Jul 3rd, 2013 at 11:01 am

When is a good time to plant garlic? And what kind? I am in zone 8 1/2 just outsider San Antonio on the border of the Texas hill country. Our temps here re ugly 5-10 degrees cooler than San Antonio.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 9th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Kathy, You should grow softneck garlic; it does better in the warm temperatures than hardneck. You can grow hardneck garlic too, but your crops will be smaller. Plant after the first frost in the fall, or if you don’t get a frost then plant in late October.

Alaska zone 4b Says:
Jul 30th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

What would be your variety recommendations for Alaska zone 4b;  also container or direct plant?

Spenser from Berkeley, CA Says:
Aug 4th, 2013 at 10:29 am

Thanks Peaceful Valley for the intro o garlic last year!!

Our crow of California Early garlic was a huge success!!!!  In fact we have some newly planted seeds from the first harvest growing quite well still.  Plans are to let it keep going and perhaps all year long we’ve been able to grow garlic.

This year, we’re going to try some hardneck varieties.  We’ve done our research a little better this year.  It was scapes that we’ve been wanting so hardneck is going in the ground as soon as you’ve released this year’s seeds.

Keep up the great work!!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Aug 5th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Go Spenser! The hardneck scapes are beautiful to watch as they curl, and delicious to eat.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Aug 7th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Alaska zone 4b, The rule of thumb on hardneck garlic is that it is happy in USDA zone 3-9 so you have some leeway. That said, these varieties are noted for doing well in cold climates: Killarney Red, German Red, Purple Glazer, Bogatyr, Siberian—and Russian Red will tolerate soggy ground as well as cold.

Mark from Monroe, WA Says:
Sep 13th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Can you give me any advice on growing garlic in containers in zone 7b up here in wet Western Washington, please? The most difficult information to find as a container gardener is container size.

I haven’t had much success with garlic but I’m going to try again with your combo pack and video. I love to cook and I’d love to be able to fill my pantry with different flavors so I can experiment with all the wonderful flavors I keep hearing about.

Great site and great seeds. I ate a huge bowl of your Red Deer Tongue lettuce for lunch today. Yum.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Sep 18th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Mark, Your lunch sounds great! wink

You can use any container size you like for garlic, as long as it is well-drained (potting soil in a planter that has good drainage) and is at least 12” deep. The garlic cloves should be planted 4” - 6” apart. For instance, in a 10 gal Smart Pot which is 16” in diameter you could plant 7 cloves 4” apart It’s up to you to decide whether you want many small containers, or one large one. Just check the diameter of the container and make a map showing how many cloves you can fit in it. All the Smart Pots (excellent drainage) are here

Theresa from Oklahoma Says:
Oct 31st, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I planted the garlic from the combo pack in mid-Oct.  This is my first attempt to grow garlic.  We have had a light frost but not a hard freeze yet.  The garlic is growing already.  It has sprouted about 2-3 inches above the ground now.  Is that to be expected?  I guess I assumed it would not grow until the spring. Any advice is appreciated.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Nov 5th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Theresa, Your garlic should be fine as long as you mulch it well. Tricia talks about mulching in our video about growing garlic Some gardeners actually prefer to get a few inches of growth from their garlic before the freeze. We recommend planting after the first frost, wherever you live, but I don’t think your garlic will suffer at all. Let us know how it goes!

Dawn Says:
Nov 27th, 2013 at 3:41 am

Here we are in the end of November, and I didn’t plant my garlic plants yet, actually waiting for my Peaceful Valley package to come in the mail. I live in zone 6, I’m worried, since we’ve had many frosts, even snow, I’m too late to get the garlic in the my raised beds. This is my first attempt to raising garlic, what would you recommend?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Dec 2nd, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Dawn, It is better to plant after the first frost—and you can plant garlic as long as you can still work the soil. Mulch the garlic once it is planted. All should be well!

Laurie Says:
Jun 28th, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Here in Coastal San Diego garlic seed doesn’t show up in our nurseries until early spring. Never sure if I should plant then or go early. We grow food year round in zone 10.

paul Says:
Jul 18th, 2014 at 8:59 pm

is there a good version for potted garlic? I live in an apartment.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 21st, 2014 at 10:47 am

Really any variety will work in a pot. Keep in mind garlic cannot be planted too close, they don’t like their roots touching each other. So you may want to consider a long pot or a big bowl. The soil should be well drained and keep in mind the nutritional needs. We have a great video and literature on growing garlic. Hope this helps.

Lori Says:
Jul 23rd, 2014 at 12:27 pm

What would you recommend for central New York zone 3 or 4?  I like the soft neck because it keeps longer and can be braided but would hard neck grow better in this zone?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 25th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

In general the hard necks do better in cold zones, however, I did see a review from someone in your zone that had great success with Inchelium Red, a soft neck. Much heavily in the winter to help protect your bulbs from freezing; straw works as a great inexpensive mulch.

Steve Says:
Aug 2nd, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I have good results growing hard neck garlic in zone 4 but they loose a lot of flavor after a few months.  Is there a soft neck that grows well in northern climate that stores longer?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Aug 4th, 2014 at 8:58 am

Yes, hardneck garlic does grow better in cold zones. We have a couple of softnecks that might do good for you, the Lahontan and the Inchelium Red. Both are softnecks, one grown in Idaho and the other in Nevada. Check out the descriptions on our site and see if they sound good. Also mulch the garlic heavily to protect in the cold months.

Dec 1st, 2014 at 4:58 am

I cook with garlic i buy cloves at the supermarket. I blend cloves chopped or puree leave the mix on the counter is there is limit low long this mix can stay at room temp or should this to be discarded, should i put it refrigerator. i would like to grow galic?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Dec 1st, 2014 at 6:05 pm

You can put the mix into the refrigerator. I would try to use it up within a couple of weeks. I would not leave it out on the counter after processing it in a blender. Garlic is very easy to grow, does not take much space and you can grow varieties that cannot be found in a grocery store. Try it next year, plant in the fall and harvest in the summer of the following year!

Danis Says:
Jan 23rd, 2015 at 1:50 am

What would you recommended for zone 8b (Macon Ga) and what’s best way to plant them!
Thank you!

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 30th, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Typically garlic is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. For your zone, 8b, you can grow any of the varieties. I like the hardneck varieties because of their full spicy garlic flavor and they are really easy to peel. In the fall when you are ready to plant, simply break apart the bulb into individual cloves (leave the skin on). You can soak in some kelp for a couple of hours and plant blunt side down.

We have a great video on planting garlic,

Dick casual Says:
Feb 8th, 2015 at 7:12 pm

What would be the best to grow in zone 4B

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Feb 13th, 2015 at 12:07 pm

In zone 4b, I would grow the hardnecks. Consider Bogatyr, Purple Glazer, Siberian, Russian Red, Chesnok Red or Killarney Red. Look for the garlic to be available for sale in July/August on our website.

Maitreya Says:
May 8th, 2015 at 12:55 pm

I would like to grow garlic as a perennial. I am zone 5. Is there any particular garlic more suited for this?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
May 11th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I don’t know of any variety that is better suited to grow as a perennial. You can plant them and they will make a bulb and naturally die back. But if you don’t dig up the bulb, it will grow back from the bulb it has made. I would suggest growing a hardneck garlic that is suited for cold climates. What comes to mind is Bogatyr, German Red, Siberian, Killarney Red, Chesnok Red.

Leigh Ann Says:
May 29th, 2015 at 7:24 am

I’m new to growing garlic and I’m doing my research now for next winter/spring planting.  I live in the central Florida area growing zone 9b.  I know that softneck garlic is my best bet, but I love to experiment with new items.  Will any of the hardnecks work?  What if I moved them indoors by a window?  Thanks your for help!!

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
May 29th, 2015 at 5:11 pm

They should grow there just fine if you plant in the late fall. I would suggest trying the Music, the Spanish Roja or the Purple Italian. I would not recommend bringing them indoors, plant them in the ground. Watch our video on planting garlic, it is very helpful.

Neko Says:
Jul 25th, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Hi. I am a newbie, and planted garlic in the spring 2 seasons ago and had no crop, but didn’t dig it out coz was too frustrated with it…  What was a surprise to see it sprouting the next spring (this year). I got small heads coz it was overcrowded - growing from heads, not cloves smile So, now I am hooked up! I am drooling seeing all your varieties… However, for me to get successful crop, what varieties will you suggest for zone 7a, TN?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Aug 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Check out our article on 9 Steps for Big Garlic, It ta.lks about selecting the right garlic for your region. Hardneck varieties need exposure to temperatures of 40-50 F for 6-12 weeks to get the biggest heads. If you don’t get that kind of cold in your area, then choose a softneck variety.

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