Tips to grow garlic indoors faster – in water or soil (with videos)

There are many different ways to grow garlic indoors. Here in this article I will describe my two favourite methods for growing garlic indoors and explain when to use each method.

But before we get into the actual methods and techniques, let’s discuss some of the differences between the two methods.

Choosing hardneck or softneck garlic

When you grow garlic indoors you should opt for softneck garlic when possible.

You can grow garlic indoors using both hardneck and softneck garlic. But whereas hardneck garlic needs weeks of cold weather to get started, the softneck garlic variety is better suited for the warmer indoor climate.

Understanding stratification and hardneck garlic

When we plant garlic outdoors in the fall, the bulbs sit in the ground over winter. And this cold period is what the hardneck garlic variety needs to get started.

This exposure to cold weather is called stratification, which basically means simulating the conditions a seed or bulb would need to trigger growth in nature.

Softneck garlic, on the other hand, will tolerate the cold but does not need the cold to start growing.

Are you growing garlic for greens or bulbs

We grow most of our garlic in raised garden beds or containers in our outdoor garden. We plant the garlic cloves outdoors between September and December for harvest of garlic bulbs the following year.

Read our tutorial about how to grow garlic outdoors in the article "Growing garlic in containers (and 3 common mistakes)".

But we also like to grow garlic indoors. And when we do grow garlic indoors, we grow to harvest the delicious garlic greens that grow above ground.

And if you ask me why, the main two advantages are that growing garlic indoors gives us a faster harvest and helps keep pests and disease at bay.

Growing garlic indoors in water for garlic greens

Watch this video on YouTube.

Growing garlic greens in water
Garlic bulb sprouting garlic greens

We grow garlic indoors in water for a continuous supply of green garlic shoots to harvest.

The green shoots are delicious to eat fresh or can be dried and used in spice mixes. The greens have a garlicy flavour profile but are nowhere near as strong as fresh garlic.

The sprouting cloves can of course also be separated from the garlic bulbs and then planted in soil.

But as garlic cloves will sprout in most well draining soils I have never understood the advantage of this extra step.

If you want to plant in soil, why not just plant in soil from day 1?

For us, growing garlic indoors in water is all about harvesting garlic greens within weeks of planting the garlic bulbs.

Plant garlic cloves in soil for garlic greens

Watch this video on YouTube.

Planting garlic in soil indoors is faster than growing garlic outdoors, but it is by no means a fast process.

We mainly grow for garlic greens indoors. To grow full garlic bulbs indoors, the garlic cloves need to be exposed to a cold shock or stratification. This can be however also be achieved by placing your garlic in the fridge for 4-6 weeks before planting.

Also, besides the fact that it is fun to grow garlic indoors, the garlic plant is from my experience one of the best companion plants for herbs and vegetables.

I have made it a habit to plant 1-3 garlic cloves in smaller pots to place among my other pots, containers and home made DIY grow bags with herbs, peppers and tomatoes.

To make it even more attractive, you could be harvesting a garlic bulb after about 8 – 10 months.

Grocery store garlic vs seed garlic

Should you use organic garlic bulbs from your grocery store or buy seed garlic from a specialist vendor or garden center?

It is safer to use seed garlic from a reputable vendor as it should eliminate the risk of introducing diseases and pathogens into your garden. Also, seed garlic is typically left alone to grow bigger resulting in stronger garlic plants.

To give full disclosure we use both. All garlic cloves planted outdoors in containers are seed garlic bought from a local vendor. I do not like to risk introducing disease or pathogens into our garden. Even if the risk may be slim.

But garlic cloves and bulbs that we plant in water or in pots can be from either source. Here I am less worried about soil based bacteria and pathogens as it is a closed growing environment.

3 steps to growing garlic greens faster

New white roots forming on garlic bulb
New white roots forming from bottom of garlic bulb

Growing garlic indoors can be as easy as 1,2 and 3 when you are looking to harvest the green garlic leaves.

All you need is a garlic bulb, water and a glass container.

  1. fill container with fresh water
  2. peel off and remove outer shell and place garlic bulb on top of container just above water level
  3. re-fill water to maintain original level of water

Follow these 3 steps and then place the container in a place with 6-8 hours of sun like a sunny window ledge. If there is not enough natural light, consider using grow lights or other forms of artificial light.

After 2-5 days you should start to see new white roots forming. It is important to never let the roots go dry. And after just about a week you should see green sprouts forming.

After just a few weeks, you will be able to harvest your garlic greens. But keep in mind that the garlic clove will not re-grow green sprouts after you harvest.

So if you want an endless supply of garlic greens, you will need to need to plant more garlic as you harvest.

5 steps to growing garlic greens indoors in pots

Divide bulb into separate garlic cloves before planting in soil
Divide into individual garlic cloves

Growing garlic indoors in pots is not a complicated process.

At least not when you are growing garlic greens using softneck garlic varieties.

And there are several good reasons to grow garlic greens indoors.

But for us it is mainly about growing garlic to harvest green sprouts and to grow garlic as companion plants.

Growing pots of garlic in amongst your other pots with herbs and vegetables can be a great help in keeping pests like flies and aphids at bay.

Follow the 5 steps below or watch our instructional video for a proven method to growing garlic greens indoors.

  1. Use a pot with drainage holes, about 15 cm / 6 inches deep and as wide as you need
  2. Fill pot with a pre-moistened potting soil or potting mix that drains well
  3. Plant individual cloves 4-6 inches apart, pointy side up and about 3 cm / 1 inch deep
  4. Water generously and allow excess water to drain off via drainage holes
  5. Mulch the bed with straw or hay and keep soil moist but not wet

Place pot in a location with 6-8 hours of sun and keep soil or potting mix moist but not wet. In just a couple of weeks you should see green sprouts forming.

Garlic needs sunlight to grow and develop. You should use artificial light (grow lights) if there is not enough natural light.

Growing indoors does not remove the need for adding nutrition and fertilizers. Fertilize regularly at least every 4 weeks and be prepared to increase as needed. We prefer using organic fertilizers like compost but you can also use liquid fertilizers.

When to harvest your garlic

Garlic greens are ready to harvest after just a few weeks. And it is truly up to you when you harvest garlic greens but do remember that the individual cloves will not grow more green shoots after you harvest.

And the green shoots can grow quite large why it can be wise not to harvest too early.

Full garlic bulbs will be ready to harvest after 6-10 months. As a rule, planted garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn brown, wilt and fall over.

All in all, growing your own garlic has many advantages and benefits. If nothing else, start small by planting a clove or two in a pot and then take it from there.

Chances are that you too will become a “garlic-head”.

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.