How to grow garlic in water – 6 steps for a speedy crop

This simple water method is perfect for growing tasty garlic greens in as little as a few weeks

Garlic cloves growing sprouts in water in a jar
(Image credit: Getty/Photography by Adri)

Growing garlic in water is a simple way to grow quick and delicious garlic greens that you can get a harvest from within a few weeks. It is also a fun task to do with the family, which needs only a few basic household items.

Garlic can be grown in water, though it's worth understanding you will not get full bulbs in this manner. You can grow garlic greens this way and then the sprouted bulbs can be planted outside and grown on to develop into full size.

Learn how to grow garlic using this simple method and you can benefit from a fast harvest of garlic sprouts growing on your windowsill.

A garlic bulb with three separated cloves

Softneck garlic is better suited to growing in water

(Image credit: Getty/Joseph Clark)
author pic drew swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew is a former professional kitchen gardener and ran a productive walled garden growing a range of vegetables for restaurants. Garlic was a common crop annually in the vegetable gardens and he has planted, grown and harvested many varieties.

How to grow garlic in water in 6 easy steps

Any garlic bulb can theoretically be used to sprout, however it is recommended to use garlic bulbs specifically sold for growing. This is because bulbs bought in stores to be used for cooking may be treated to prevent them sprouting and could potentially carry diseases that could affect other plants or the soil if those sprouted bulbs are planted out in the yard to grow on.

Garlic bulbs are readily available from Amazon, Burpee and Nature Hills, and sprouting them in water is easy using this simple method. 

  1. Separate the garlic cloves from the bulb and select the healthiest cloves to sprout in water.
  2. Place the selected cloves pointed end up in a transparent container, such as a jar, bowl, or a clear cup. Alternatively, you can submerge the entire bulb in the water rather than separating the cloves and submerging them individually. 
  3. Pour lukewarm water into the container until the bottom of the clove or bulb is covered – usually 1⁄2-1 inch.
  4. Place the container in a sunny spot, such as a windowsill, to give it plenty of sunlight. 
  5. Change the water when it turns cloudy – removing the cloves before changing the water.
  6. The green garlic shoots should appear quickly and will be ready to harvest within a few weeks of starting growing garlic in water.

A garlic bulb sprouting in water

Alternatively, submerge the entire bottom of the bulb in water

(Image credit: Getty/Elena Loginova/500px)

Harvesting garlic greens grown in water

Harvest the sprouts (garlic greens) when they are between 3-7 inches by snipping the shoots with a pair of scissors as you need them. Use them as and when required as garlic shoots do not retain their delicate flavor in a fridge. If you harvest garlic greens too soon, they will have a bitter taste. The garlic clove itself can also be eaten after the sprouts have been snipped off.

Garlic greens have many culinary uses. They are often added raw to salads or dressings, and when cooked are commonly braised, grilled or added to pasta or soup. It is a versatile ingredient that can replace onions, leeks, or scallions in recipes. Garlic greens are different to garlic scapes, which are the curly flower stalks that form later in the growing season on hardneck types of garlic.

Can I grow garlic bulbs in water?

Sprouting garlic cloves in water allows you to grow delicious greens, though the clove will never develop into a full bulb using this method. If you do want to know how to grow garlic bulbs in water, then Bryan Tan from Gardeners Grail has a solution. He claims that this technique of sprouting cloves in water can be a good method to start the plant growing ahead of planting it outside to grow on into bulbs.

He says: ‘Garlic should not be grown in water for long periods of time. It is best to only use this as a way to start the roots. Transfer the garlic into soil once the roots have emerged.’

This method of sprouting could potentially be useful if your ground is very heavy, or frozen, or unworkable when it would usually be the time to plant garlic. Sprouting the garlic can prevent the clove from sitting in very wet soil and potentially rotting. A sprouted clove can either be planted directly outside into the soil, or potted up to grow indoors to plant out at a later date.

Garlic is a hugely popular vegetable garden idea and cloves can be planted outside throughout winter and spring, depending on the type. Sprouted cloves should be planted in a warm and sunny spot, taking care not to damage the roots. The clove should be planted so the tip just pokes out of the ground. Keep the area moist, but not waterlogged, and weed-free

A garlic clove sprouting in the garden bed

Garlic has a long growing season when planted in the soil

(Image credit: Getty/Ekaterina savyolova)

Is hardneck or softneck garlic best to grow in water? 

Hardneck and softneck garlic are the two types available to grow and each offer different traits in terms of hardiness, flavor, and storage lifespan. Hardneck varieties are hardier and normally planted in winter as they require a period of cold. Softneck garlic is not as hardy, matures quicker, and is suited to warmer climates. 

Softneck varieties are the best for growing garlic greens indoors. They are more suited to growing indoors and can easily be sprouted. To speed up the sprouting process, cloves can be wrapped in damp paper towels and left in a warm location for two days before being submerged in water.

Will I get more than one harvest when growing garlic in water? 

The truth is garlic grown in water only has a short lifespan. It will sprout quickly and grow shoots in a few weeks but it is only a one-time thing. Garlic grown in water is highly unlikely to produce a second flush of shoots after the first harvest. 

If you want a continuous supply of fresh garlic leaves then it is recommended to plant successional batches in water with a few weeks between. This way you can have a regular supply of garlic greens sprouting and ready for harvest over a longer period of time.

A sprouting garlic bulb

Cloves can be sprouted using damp kitchen towel prior to growing in water

(Image credit: Getty/AHPhotoswpg)

How to grow garlic in a water bottle

Garlic can also be grown in a clear plastic bottle, however it is a little different as the whole bulb can be sprouted rather than just a clove. 

Cut the top off a regular 500ml plastic bottle and fill the base with water. Take a whole garlic clove and sit it on the top of the cut end with the base of the clove sitting in the water. It should quickly start to root and then grow sprouts. 

Change the water regularly to prevent rotting, a sign of it needing changing is the water turning a murky color. After a few weeks the sprouts can be harvested or the clove separated to be planted out in the yard. Growing garlic in pots is also an option if you do not have a yard to plant the crop out in.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.