Why is Garlic Called the Stinking Rose?


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Garlic, with a history spanning over 5000 years, is one of the most ancient plants ever cultivated. This highly nutritious and aromatic bulb has always been a fundamental ingredient across various cuisines and holds a significant place in many traditional medicinal practices and cultural ceremonies. It’s also employed as a means for pest control. Ever wonder why this crucial herb is often referred to as the stinking rose? Continue reading to discover the reason.

About Garlic

Also known as Allium Sativum, garlic is an easy-to-grow plant that is slow to mature. Although it’s a slow crop in the garden, the stinking rose is a natural pest repellent with effective fungicide properties. It also blooms beautifully, providing your garden with both aesthetic and functional needs.

In most climates, garlic is planted in the fall and is left to grow until the following summer. However, if you plant the hard neck garlic variety in the springtime, you can harvest garlic scapes. After planting, this crop is relatively low maintenance, needing occasional weeding and watering. There are hundreds of garlic varieties grown around the world. But these varieties are mainly split into two categories: Hard neck and soft neck garlic.

Soft Neck Garlic Varieties

Soft neck garlic is the most common garlic variety found in supermarkets. Soft neck garlic bulbs are sheathed in layers of papery parchment that run to their neck, making them easy to braid or hang on a string. The soft neck garlic variety bears larger cloves in the outer ring and smaller ones in the inner circle, all encased in white or off-white parchment.

Artichokes are the most common soft-neck garlic varieties. Another type of soft neck is the Silverskin which includes silver rose and Nootka Rose. This garlic variety has a bright white or silver paper covering, and the bulb is composed of many small cloves.

The soft neck garlic variety has a mild flavor and features large cloves which are relatively easy to peel. This garlic variety is also easy to store and has a long shelf life. This variety is widely grown in Texas, Louisiana, California, Spain, Italy, France, and Mexico.

Hard Neck Garlic Variety

On the other hand, hard neck garlic varieties feature a more complex flavor and pungent garlic smell. A differentiating factor about hard neck garlic varieties is their woody stem and stiff neck. This garlic variety is commonly grown in Central Asia and Russia. It has fewer cloves that is more balanced in size.

Above the ground in the spring, hard neck garlic varieties send up small bulbils, commonly known as scapes, usually in the spring. Scapes are delicious to eat and taste, just like garlic. That said, hard neck garlic varieties have a shorter shelf life that could be as short as 3 to 4 months or as long as a year, depending on the variety.

Why is Garlic Nicknamed the Stinking Rose?

Garlic is also affectionately known as “the stinking rose” for several reasons. For starters, garlic has been nicknamed the stinking rose for nearly a century now, thanks to Henri Leclerc. Henri Leclerc was a French writer and physician who in 1918 translated garlic’s ancient Greek name Scorodon to Skaion Rodon, and then La Rose Puante, which in English means stinking rose.

  • It belongs to the Lily family: Garlic belongs to the lily family, a species of flowering plants. So it is essentially a flower, just like the rose flower. The only difference is that, unlike roses, garlic has a pungent smell. Also, the buds of a garlic plant look similar to rose buds. These reasons combined give garlic its nickname – the stinking rose. Chives, leeks, and onions are also members of the lily family.
  • Its shape: The word garlic originates from the Anglo-Saxon words “gar” and “lic,” which means spear plant. This name is about the shape of its leaves.
  • Its pungent smell: Its sharp odor is another reason garlic is called the stinking rose.
  • They are great companion plants for roses: Most pests and insects find garlic offensive and will look elsewhere for food more to their liking. Garlic also helps prevent an array of fungal diseases that hurt most flowers. Companion planting garlic with roses will help deter snails, caterpillars, aphids, Japanese bend many other sucking and chewing insects. Garlic also helps prevent blackspots in roses. Also, did you know that planting garlic close to roses makes the flowers more fragrant. The Herb Society of America confirmed this fun fact.

How to Plant Garlic?


Garlic needs a cold, dormant period when growing to produce full heads. To develop properly, garlic plants must be exposed to a minimum of two months of low temperatures. Usually, between 32 to 50 degrees F. This is why garlic planted in the fall produces a bountiful late spring harvest.

Ideally, you should plant garlic in the fall for at least three weeks until a hard freeze. This will give your seeds enough time to establish a well-developed root system before the ground freezes. This can be anywhere from early September to mid-October.


Choose large, clean, unblemished cloves for planting. The bigger the clove, the larger the resulting garlic bulbs. Plant individual cloves with the pointy end facing up. Plant each clove in a 2 to 4 inches deep and 3″ apart hole. Plant the cloves with the papery husk attached. Pack soil over the planted cloves, making sure to cover them completely.

Gently mulch the garden patch with straws of grass or leaves and then water generously. Make sure to plant in an area that receives full sun to achieve big bulbs. Also, make sure to grow in fertile, well-drained soil with lots of compost, preferably in a raised bed.

When to Harvest Garlic?

Your fresh garlic should be ready to harvest in late summer to early fall. Ideally, it would be best if you started harvesting when 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves turned brown. When harvesting, use a spade or a pitchfork to loosen the soil around the bulb. Pull out the bulbs and carefully shake or brush off most of the dirt, not disturbing the paper wrappers.

After harvesting, cure your garlic bulbs for about 5 to 7 days in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight before storing.

Garlic: The Stinking Rose Benefits

Garlic is said to be one of the world’s most valuable and versatile foods. From warding off vampires to bringing good luck and good health, garlic has many benefits. They include:

Culinary Benefits

Myths and superstitions aside, whether raw or roasted, garlic adds tremendous flavors to a dish and can quickly turn a bland meal into an extraordinary dish.

Health Benefits

Besides adding flavor to dishes, garlic has traditionally been used to cure various ailments. It promotes good health and well-being of the heart and your immune system. Garlic is packed with vitamin C, B-6, copper, and iron. It is also a good source of calcium, potassium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and heart-healthy selenium. All these nutrients contribute to health benefits such as:

  • Strong anti-inflammatory effects which are beneficial to the body
  • Decreases the risk of heart diseases by lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevention of certain types of cancer
  • Reduces your risk of developing bacterial or viral infections
  • It improves iron metabolism in the body, increasing proper blood and nutrient circulation.

A Natural Pesticide

Garlic’s pungent odor can also be used to repel pests. Garlic can help prevent aphids, spider mites, ants, cabbage worms, bean beetles, and even whiteflies from infesting your vegetable patch when used as a foliage spray.


Where Can You Get Garlic for Planting?

You can quickly get a hold of garlic cloves for planting at the grocery store, at farmers’ markets, or order online from a reputable producer.

How Long Does Garlic Take to Grow?

Garlic takes around seven to eight months to fully mature and is ready for harvest.