How to Grow Garlic Indoors
In ancient Greece, brides carried bouquets of herbs and garlic, not flowers. Yummy and romantic.
Sprouts in 2-8 weeks. Harvest from Week 6 on.
Equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day].
Beginner-friendly & low maintenance.
Best Garlic varieties to grow inside
Outdoor gardeners tend to grow garlic for a full head of cloves that they’ll dry before using. When you grow indoors you can get the same garlic flavor in much less time by growing it for its green tops (it’s also unlikely that your homegrown cloves would taste much different from the grocery store – but the green tops are a gourmet treat!).
The easiest place to get garlic to plant is at your local farmers’ market (often time grocery stores and industrial ag will treat the garlic with an ani-sprouting chemical to inhibit its growth). Just pick the fattest firmest head you can find and split it into individual cloves that you will plant with the pointy end up.
Best Setup for Garlic Plants
Ceramic Self Watering Planter (preferred) or pot that is at least 8″ / 1 gal.
Standard Potting Mix
At the start: Herb Blend. This should be high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5).
Ongoing: Vegetable Blend. This should be high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 4-10-6).
A strong grow light that can give the equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day].
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Preparing your Planter & Watering Schedule for Garlic
Garlic plants do well in moist soil conditions. If the soil dries out completely the roots will die back and it will be tough for the plant to recover. On the other hand, if the roots are exposed to standing water for too long, they can rot.
A Ceramic Self Watering Planter filled with a standard potting mix self-regulates to keep the soil at consistent moisture for your plant to thrive (and no watering guesswork for you).
To set one up:
- Fill up the planter with dry soil from the bag, gently tamping down the top.
- Dump the soil into a large mixing bowl and add water until the soil is moist, but not sopping wet (about ½ Cup)
- Mix in 1 tablespoon of the Herb Blend Plant Food.
If you are using a regular pot instead, it should be a little bit bigger (at least 8″ / 1 gal and will need drainage holes to prevent it from being over watered. Let the top of the soil dry out between watering.
Starting your Garlic: Seed vs Propagate vs Nursery Plant
Garlic is easy to start from a bulb. If you are feeling impatient – they’re also easy to propagate by dividing an established clump or buying a pot of them.
How to Plant Garlic Bulbs
Plant 3 site in an 8″ / 1 gal container. In larger containers, space sites 4″ apart. For each site plant 1 clove 2 inches deep. Keep the soil warm ( 32-50°F, ideally 40°F). Sprouts typically appear in 3 weeks but can be as quick as 4 days or as long as 8 weeks depending on your conditions.
Propagating established bunches: How to divide Garlic
Garlic replicates underground – so if you’ve already got an established plant you love (or a friend does!) you can easily “clone” it by dividing the bunch. First, give it a good watering to loosen up the roots. Then pull the entire cluster out and gently tease the roots apart. That’s it!
How to Transplant Garlic
Live starter plants give you a big jump start on your first harvest. When you’re in a garden center – pick the bushiest plant available (tall and lanky ones will be weak growers) and give it a good inspection for pests. Leaves should be dark green without holes, spots, or curled edges. A best practice is to actually “quarantine” your plant for about a week after bringing it home to make sure it’s free and clear of ride-on pests.
Ensuring its pest and disease-free it’s time to transplant your seedling into its final home.
- Remove some soil from its final planter – leaving enough space for the bottom of the seedling to be just higher than the soil surface.
- Hold on to the base of the stem with one hand, and turn the pot over while gently pulling the seedling. Giving the pot a few squeezes can help dislodge it.
- Place in its final container and fill around it with soil so that it’s tight, but not compacted.
Where to grow your Garlic plants
Like all edible plants, Garlic plants need lots of light to grow and develop good flavor. Sunlight is excellent for plant growth (and free!) and you might be lucky enough to have a spot that’s got the 5+ hours of direct sun they need. Even with a bright window, it’s unlikely that you’ll have enough natural light in the winter so we recommend a grow light for anyone who wants a constant supply of flavorful produce. For an introduction to grow lights, head over to our post on grow lights for indoor gardeners. We’ve also got a buying guide for screw in types, but to keep things simple in this guide, we’ll just provide directions for the 24W Screw in Bulb by Sansi, which we think is a good middle-of-the-road option.
How bright should your grow light be?
Garlic plants need the equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sunlight [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day] to grow their best. In order to provide an equivalent amount with a grow light, it needs to be pretty bright! The 24W Sansi bulb should be placed 6 inches away from the top of the plant. This will give your PPFD (the standard measure of brightness) of 500 μmol/m²/s.
How many hours per day do your Garlic plants need under a grow light?
Garlic has varieties that are known as “short-day” and “long-day”. In either case, our goal is to stop them from going to flower (so they keep producing leaves). Check your variety – if it’s “short-day” then light it for at least 12 hours per day. If it’s “long-day” then light it for less than 12 hours per day.
Garlic Likes it Cool
Garlic is known as “cool weather” vegetables, and will start to slow down (or totally stop) once temperatures rise over 70If they survive the hot weather period then they’ll start producing again once temperatures cool down.
Week 2-8: Check for Sprouts
You could see seedlings in as little as 4 days (though 3 weeks is more typical). If it’s been 8 weeks and you still don’t have any sprouts, it’s likely that your setup is too cold.
Month 3: Check Your Seedlings
There’s no need to thin Garlic, but you should check on your seedlings’ progress to make sure you’ve got enough light. They should be about 2 inches tall by the end of Month 3. If they aren’t you likely need a bit more light.
Week 6: How to Harvest Garlic
There are two harvestable parts of a garlic plant – the cloves and the scapes. They both have the same flavors, but growing decent-sized cloves can take up to 9 months. We recommend just growing them for the scapes (green upper part) and just cut off what you need – they’ll grow back.
Year 10+: End of Life
If you don’t dig up the bulbs, garlic bulbs will replicate underground. In its second year, the first bulbs will flower – they’re edible and should be harvested right after they open.
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The right supplies can take the guesswork out of caring for your plants – and turn care from a daily to weekly routine. Through our grow tests, we’ve found these products to produce the best indoor Garlic (and also have simple maintenance). Plants are adaptable and can grow in many different conditions, so they are by no means necessary if you already have other supplies.
Best Containers for Garlic: Ceramic Self Watering Planters
Plants thrive on consistent moisture but can suffer if they’re waterlogged. A semi-porous ceramic self regulates ideal conditions. Our favorite is the COSWIP planter. Runner up is XS Self Watering Planter by Wet Pot.
Best Soil for Garlic: Standard Potting Mix
Garlic likes a rich and moist root zone – so you are best off with a standard potting mix – we like this Organic Mix by Espoma.
Best Nutrients for Garlic: Balanced Blend followed by Vegetable Blend
Garlic likes to start with nutrients that are high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5). For this Herb Blend, we recommend: Joyful Dirt All Purpose
Once they are growing, it’s better to use plant food that is high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 4-10-6). For this Vegetable Blend, we recommend: Joyful Dirt Tomato & Herb
Best Light for Garlic: DIY or Soltech
There is a very small chance that you have the bright windows needed to grow these without a grow light. If you are looking for a higher-end option – we love the Aspect Light by Soltech. For a more affordable option, a DIY setup using a 24W Screw-in Bulb by Sansi with a Clamp Light and Mechanical Timer works well too. Check out our complete guide on a DIY setup for less than $40 or our buying guide for screw in bulbs.