The Best Garlic Varieties For Canada 16 Comments
One of the most common questions I get asked by friends and customers is "what are the best garlic varieties for growing in Canada?". I used to always say that choosing a Porcelain variety such as Music was the best choice for garlic growers living in cold climates. The reason for this is that most of the large garlic farms and many of the market gardeners I knew were growing it as their main variety. In my mind, this meant that it must be the only smart choice out there!
Once I started growing Porcelain garlic varieties myself, I also found them to be a great choice in general. They have large vigorous plants that are extremely hardy and produce large bulbs that store well. Music is no exception and is definitely a top pick when it comes to quality and flavour.
However, after a few years of growing this standard choice, I started to wonder if there were any other, more interesting types of garlic that would also grow well in colder climates? I soon realized that there was a whole world of amazing garlic varieties and started to learn about which ones were best suited for growing here in Canada.
In Canada, although the climate and weather vary greatly across much of the country, we do have some things in common. The most important similarity is that most areas have a warm summer with changing day lengths and a winter that is usually very cold.
Fortunately for Canadians, there are several families of garlic that thrive in these Northern conditions. In fact, they do so well in our climate that they grow much better here than in warmer regions such as the southern United States.
The most, cold-hardy garlic varieties are in the hardneck group, of which there are several subgroups or families. Of these families, the Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe and Rocambole garlics tend to perform the best under normal Canadian growing conditions. There are also some hardy Artichoke (Softneck) varieties that have been adapted to cold climates and can do well even under the harsh winter conditions of Western Canada.
Best Varieties For Canada
Since we started growing garlic many years ago, we have planted and tested over 50 different varieties. As time went by, we slowly eliminated the ones that we felt did not perform the best. Every garlic variety had to follow simple criteria in order for us to continue planting it. They had to have vigorous plants, large bulbs with nice appearance, be able to handle wet conditions, not be prone to disease and have great flavour.
The following are the varieties that have met these criteria, including our top picks!
Porcelain (Music) garlic bulbs
Porcelain is popular due to its hardiness and ability to produce large-sized bulbs with a wonderful sweet flavour. Plants have vigorous growth that explodes out of the ground in spring. Large plants with thick wide-spreading leaves. Bulbs produce 4 to 6 very large, plump cloves that are easy to peel.
Music - Very adaptable and tolerant of cold winters. Top choice.
Big Boy - Huge plants that produce huge bulbs. Similar to Music
Rocambole (Spanish Roja) garlic bulbs
Rocambole garlic is one of the most widely known and grown garlic families in Canada. They are considered to be one of the best tasting varieties and are often the first choice of chefs and garlic lovers. They have a deep, complex flavour.
The plants are cold hardy and require exposure to cold temperatures in order to thrive and develop large bulbs, making them well suited for Canada. Bulbs store for 4 to 6 months and have 7 to 10 plump cloves that are easy to peel.
Spanish Roja - Produces large bulbs with amazing flavour. A Top Choice
Purple Stripe (Chesnok Red) Garlic Bulbs
Purple stripes are cold hardy and require exposure to cold temperatures in order to thrive and develop large bulbs. This makes them well suited for growing in Canada. The tall crescent-shaped cloves have tight skins that help bulbs store longer. Bulbs generally produce 8 to 10 medium sized cloves and can store for 4 to 8 months. They have a very good flavour which increases in intensity, complexity and heat as it ages. They are known for their roasting qualities, however, can be used in general cooking as well.
Chesnok Red - Good cooking garlic, with beautiful colouring.
Russian Red - A Standard choice for use in cooking, especially sauces.
Artichoke Garlic Bulbs
Artichoke garlic is named for the way the cloves are arranged inside the bulb, which looks much like the layered structure of an artichoke. They have 10 to 14 cloves of various sizes.
The plants do not produce scapes, which makes them less work than hardneck varieties. They can also be easily braided and are one of the longest storing garlics with a storage ability of between 8 months and a year.
Artichokes can have good flavour, however, they are generally regarded as having a less complex taste than other family groups.
Italian Softneck - Large symmetrical bulbs that form braids easily.
Island Star - Can grow huge bulbs under optimal conditions. Stores well.
Although these are our favourite picks, we do grow a few other garlic varieties that also do very well here in Canada.
For more information on growing garlic see our other Blog Articles or Growing Garlic In Canada page.
About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who have 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.
Christine Riedstra on August 1, 2022 00:30
I would like to start with the Rocamonle. Looking forward once we can order.
Ola on August 10, 2021 14:24
Greetings, thanks for your post on types of garlic. I have been growing garlic for 5years and started with 2 bulbs I was gifted by my Italian colleague and I have done very well. I want to add to my garden and I would like to know if I can grow Rocambole and Porcelain (big boy) in Mississauga (Ontario)?. Thanks again.
Charlotte Gircsis on August 1, 2021 22:23
Sarah, your garlic from your uncle sounds like Elephant Garlic. It is a variety that makes a bulbil at the base of the head among the roots.
Karen on November 5, 2020 18:51
Last year we never had a chance to plant our garlic in the fall. We started cloves in the house end of March ( should have started mid April). But we transplanted into garden boxes in mid May ( Peace Country, northern Alberta 550km north of Edmonton) and we had beautiful garlic this year! Purple stripe and Roja, neighbour gave some heads, perfectly round small and very hard. Maybe 2 cloves, really could tell. We do the same this year!!
John Boy Farms on October 8, 2020 18:58
Southern BC is a great area for growing garlic! Most varieties will do very well. Hardnecks like, Spanish Roja, Chesnok Red and Music are great examples.
Garlic doesn’t like to be sitting in wet conditions for very long. Growing them in raised beds in order to help minimize any excess moisture conditions is a good idea.
Joanne on October 8, 2020 18:55
I live in Richmond BC just a block from the ocean. We are at sea level and below and my back yard is soggy in the winter. What is the best garlic variety for this area. I would like to place an order too. Thanks🌱
Tsan on October 8, 2020 19:09
Hi, can we plant soft neck garlic in Toronto in this time of the year? If yes, how deep should we plant ? Thanks
Sarah on July 25, 2020 10:42
When my great uncle passed away last spring, I transplanted some of his garlic into my garden. It is very different from the other varieties I grow and I’m wondering if maybe you would know what it is. It has broader leaves that “twist” around once, form seed heads (no bulbils just flowers), it has much thicker roots (almost like beans sprouts) and it produces a tiny bulb (bulbil?) underground, attached to the main bulb. I have labeled it after his name for now, while I’m trying to find out what it is.
It doesn’t have a purple hue.
Beatrice Briscoe on July 25, 2020 10:41
I would like to grow garlic.I use a tremendous amount of garlic with all my cooking.I live in the Ottawa Valley and would like you to recommend what type of garlic I should grow .
John Boy Farms on July 7, 2020 14:50
Yes, garlic will absolutely survive the winter in Calgary. The cold winters are especially perfect for hardneck varieties!
Julie W on July 7, 2020 14:50
Hello, will garlic survivor in the cold winter in Calgary?
Thanks for your help
John Boy Farms on May 15, 2020 00:01
All the varieties we have are very good for growing in Vancouver, however, the choices below are three of my favourites and what I would recommend starting with.
Spanish Roja (Rocambole)
Persian Star (Purple Stripe)
Jenny on May 14, 2020 23:47
I stopped buying garlic from the stores because it doesn’t taste good.
I want to plant my own and am wondering if you can recommend one or two varieties. I live right in Vancouver area.
Thanks very much.
Denise Holmlund on January 31, 2020 11:12
Any garlic left to plant small crop?
John Boy Farms on August 4, 2019 19:05
We usually start taking orders at the beginning of August once the garlic has been harvested. Click on the link below to leave us your email and we’ll let you know when our shopping cart opens.
Anton on August 4, 2019 18:02
When does your ordering period start? Please send me pricing & shipping info. I live in Quebec. Thank you!