What types of garlic should I grow in Iowa?
Garlic is distinguished from its other close family members like onions, chives, shallots, and leeks, by its flat leaves and clove-like bulbs which contain several small scales or cloves enclosed in a white or purplish parchment-like sheath.
Garlic cultivars are classified as either hardneck or softneck. Hardneck cultivars (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) produce cloves that surround the base of a hard flower stalk. They grow well in Iowa, but do not store as well as softneck cultivars. Hardneck cultivars are divided into three common types, Rocambole (6-11 cloves; twisted scapes), Purple Stripe (8-12 cloves), and Porcelain (4 large symmetric cloves). Suitable cultivars for Iowa gardens include, ‘Asian Tempest’, ‘German Red’, ‘Merrifield Rocambole’, ‘Music’, and ‘Spanish Roja Rocambole’.
Softneck cultivars (Allium sativum var. sativum) look more like the garlic bulbs we see in the grocery stores. While many perform better in warmer climates, there are some softneck cultivars that are suitable for Iowa’s colder temperatures. They usually do not grow a flower stalk. Softneck cultivars are generally more productive and easier to store than hardneck cultivars. Softneck cultivars suitable for Iowa gardens include, ‘Inchellium Red’, ‘New York White’, and ‘Susanville’.