Wild garlic (Allium vineale) is an odiferous, perennial weed found in various turfgrass areas throughout Tennessee. Wild garlic infestations are most prevalent during fall, winter and early spring. While regular mowing will not control wild garlic, it can reduce plant vigor and hamper bulb production. Although similar in appearance to wild onion (Allium canadense), wild garlic is far more prevalent in Tennessee than wild onion.
Wild Garlic Life Cycle in Tennessee:
Wild garlic is a cool-season perennial that emerges from bulbs in the fall and grows throughout the winter. It will flower and produce aerial bulblets that can survive for several years after they are incorporated into the soil profile. After these bulblets are formed in the spring, the plant will senesce and remain dormant throughout the warm summer months.
Wild Garlic Identification
Wild garlic often grows in clumps of several individual plants (Figure 1). Leaves are slender, hollow, cylindrical and have a waxy appearance. Wild garlic produces underground bulbs (Figure 2) and flowers that produce bulblets rather than seed. The foliage of wild garlic produces a distinct odor when crushed. Wild garlic is similar in appearance to wild onion, but the leaves of wild onion are flat and not hollow. This is the easiest way to distinguish between the two species. Wild garlic is also similar in appearance to Starof-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum); however, the leaves of Star-of-Bethlehem have a distinct white mid-rib and do not produce an odor when crushed.
Wild Garlic Control Options
There are no effective preemergence herbicides that control wild garlic in turfgrass. Postemergence control is difficult and often requires repeat applications of postemergence herbicides. Use products containing 2,4-D alone or in combination with dicamba (Table 1). Some ALS-inhibiting herbicides (Corsair, Monument, etc.) can also be used to control wild garlic.
Herbicide applications should be made in the fall after re-growth of wild garlic has occurred following the first hard frost. However, early-spring applications can also be effective. Optimum control can be achieved by repeating either fall/winter or early spring applications annually. After any herbicide application, if sufficient re-growth of wild garlic occurs, a second application will aid in long-term control. Mowing should be delayed for 10 to 14 days after a postemergence herbicide application to control wild garlic.
Numerous herbicide options are available for control of wild garlic in established warm- and cool-season turf. Mowing can help weaken plants, but mowing alone will not control wild garlic. Always read the product label before applying an herbicide and follow use directions carefully. For more information on turfgrass weed control, visit the University of Tennessee’s turfgrass weed science website, https://tennesseeturfgrassweeds.org.