Wild garlic (Allium vineale) is a winter, perennial weed that looks like a clump of blue-green grass. Native to Europe and east Asia, this weed is commonly found throughout the Southeast. It was brought to North America in soil used as ballast weight in sailboats. The dirt would be removed, and cargo would take its place on return journeys to Europe.
Wild garlic has hollow, round leaves, while the very similar wild onion has flat leaves. Wild garlic can remain a persistent weed in your lawn because it can reproduce through multiple methods. The plant emerges in the cooler weather of autumn from a bulb. In the spring, as the plant matures, it produces several offset bulblets in the soil next to the mother plant that emerges the following autumn. Wild garlic develops small aerial bulbils, young miniature plants that can spread if allowed to flower. The bulbils produce flowers that can each produce two seeds.
Wild garlic grows in various soils and is tolerant of part shade. The plant is very drought tolerant and can survive waterlogged soils as well. Its weakness is its poor ability to withstand competition. The best defense against wild garlic is maintaining a thick, healthy lawn well suited to your landscape’s microclimate. For more information on selecting the right turfgrass for your yard, please see HGIC 1214, Selecting A Lawn Grass.
Control of wild garlic will take multiple seasons, as new bulblets are produced and can remain dormant for a couple of years after development. Small clumps can be dug up with a garden trowel. Hand-pulling is ineffective mainly because most stems break, and the small bulblets remain in the soil. Regular mowing can reduce the production of aerial bulbils, seeds, and bulblets in the soil.
Chemical control can be effective but requires fall and spring applications. Wild garlic has a waxy coating on the leaves, making post-emergent herbicide treatments difficult. To increase herbicide absorption, mow garlic before an application and then refrain from mowing for two weeks following the application. Unfortunately, there is no pre-emergent control option available. For more information on wild garlic and herbicide recommendations, please refer to HGIC 2311, Wild Garlic & Wild Onion.