Wild garlic - The Tulbaghia Violacea

Better known as wild garlic (or wilde knoffel in Afrikaans) or the pink agapanthus, Tulbaghia violacea is a fast-growing bulb from the Alliaceae family. Tulbaghia violacea's purple colour makes for a stunning addition to the garden that offers a number of health and wellness benefits too.

Did you know? Tulbaghia has been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antithrombotic properties.

The Tulbaghia violacea is a rather small plant, reaching a height of about 50 to 60 centimetres. The tubular flowers have a gorgeous mauve colour and are clustered in groups of about 20 at the top of a tall stalk.

The leaves are long and narrow, and slightly fleshy. When these are bruised or torn, the smell of garlic is immediately evident. The triangular capsules found on the plant are its fruit. These are also grouped together, forming a distinctive head. When they are ripe, they split open and release their seeds for natural propagation.

Flowering time

The Tulbaghia violacea erupts into gorgeous purple blooms through the hottest time of the year, from January to April.

Use in the garden

The Tulbaghia violacea has been known for its medicinal benefits for generations, being used especially by African folk in the treatment of a number of maladies. The flowers and leaves can be eaten with meat and potatoes, in much the same way as spinach. They can also be used in salads, adding a peppery, garlic-like flavour.

The plant has been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antithrombotic properties. The leaves have also been used for oesophageal cancer and sinus headaches. When planted around the house, Tulbaghia violacea keeps snakes, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas away. In the garden, they attract bees, butterflies and moths.

Natural distribution

Tulbaghia violacea is a hardy plant that does well in dry areas as well as more fertile spots. As such, it can be found throughout southern Africa, extending from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. It is also naturally found in Zimbabwe.

Growing Tulbaghia violacea in your garden

This plant is a great choice for gardeners as it tolerates full sun, hot conditions and most soil types. Of course, it does even better with regular watering, but this is not essential. It makes for pretty groundcover, edging to a bed, or the flanking of a pathway.

Although it is fine in full sun, it can also flourish in semi-shade conditions, making it versatile and adaptable. Soil with a good drainage system and plenty of compost is ideal, and gardeners can prolong the lifespan and encourage a healthy, flourishing plant by undertaking these simple steps.


The Tulbaghia violacea can be propagated by seed, which should be sown in the spring (September to November) for best results. They should first be planted in deep trays, then replanted into the garden in their second year. They can also be grown by dividing the clumps.

Once these clumps have been planted after splitting from the main plant, they should be left for as long as possible without moving or otherwise disturbing them. Gardeners can expect the first flowers to appear two or three years after planting.

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