What Is The Difference Between Hardneck & Softneck Garlic 1 Comment

Garlic Scape
A garlic scape with an umbel capsule full of bulbils. Hardneck variety.

How to Identify Hardneck vs. Softneck Garlic

For the most part, being able to tell the difference between hardneck and softneck garlic is quite easy. Hardneck garlics generally send up a flowering stock called the scape (similar to when an onion plant bolts). This scape starts at the base of the garlic bulb and goes up through the neck. This stock causes the neck of the bulb to have a "hard neck" and hence the name. With softneck garlic, this scape structure is lacking and therefore the garlic keeps it's "soft neck" at harvest time.

Braiding & Bunching

Due to the softer neck, softneck garlic can be braided after harvest whereas hardneck garlic can be put into bunches or trimmed. Softneck garlic tends to also store much longer than hardneck garlic. This is because bulbs skins on softnecks are much tighter around the neck which prevents moisture on the inside of the bulbs from leaving and prevents diseases on the outside from getting in.


In general, hardneck varieties tend to be more suited to cold climates, whereas softneck tends to thrive in warmer environments (although with a bit of care, both can be grown successfully in most places). Hardnecks have also been around for much longer than softnecks as they more closely resemble the wild garlics that humans first harvested thousands of years ago.  

Within the softneck and hardneck groupings, there are specific garlic families. These families all have different characteristics, however, all share the same habit of either forming a scape structure or not. To complicate things a little bit, some families within the two garlic groupings will only form a scape under certain environmental conditions (such as cold winters). Most garlic growers call these weakly bolting, although they are technically considered to be hardnecks.


Purple Stripe
Marbled Purple Stripe
Glazed Purple Stripe
→ Asiatic (weakly bolting)
→ Turban (weakly bolting) 


→ Silverskin


Growing Big Garlic

About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who has been farming the same land for over 140 years. As an agronomist and experienced farmer, he helps other growers learn how to grow garlic successfully. He has written many articles and is the author of The Master Guide to Growing Big Garlic.