Softneck vs Hardneck Garlic: Choosing the Right Variety

Discover the differences between hardneck and softneck garlic varieties for your garden and kitchen in this simple guide. Find out which you should grow!


5/10/20243 min read

boy in black and white long sleeve shirt standing beside gray metal watering can during daytime
boy in black and white long sleeve shirt standing beside gray metal watering can during daytime

In the world of garlic cultivation, the choice between softneck and hardneck varieties can significantly impact your gardening experience and culinary endeavors. Understanding the differences between these two types of garlic is essential for selecting the variety that best suits your needs and preferences. In this article, we'll explore the distinct characteristics of softneck and hardneck garlic, their unique qualities, and considerations for growing and using each type effectively. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a novice garlic enthusiast, discovering the nuances between softneck and hardneck garlic varieties will elevate your gardening and culinary adventures.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic, known scientifically as Allium sativum var. sativum, is a common variety characterized by its soft, flexible stem and lack of a hard central stalk or "neck." This type of garlic typically produces multiple layers of cloves arranged in a circular fashion, surrounded by a papery outer covering. Softneck garlic varieties are often favored for their long storage life, mild flavor profile, and adaptability to a wide range of climates. They thrive in milder climates and are well-suited for braiding due to their flexible stems. Softneck garlic is popular in commercial production and home gardens alike for its culinary versatility and dependable performance.

Reasons to Grow Softneck Garlic

  • Long storage life: Softneck garlic varieties are renowned for their excellent storing capabilities, making them ideal for preserving garlic harvests throughout the year.

  • Versatility: Softneck garlic adapts well to various growing conditions and climates, making it a reliable choice for gardeners in diverse regions.

  • Mild flavor: Softneck garlic tends to have a milder flavor compared to hardneck varieties, appealing to those who prefer a subtler garlic taste in their culinary creations.

  • Braiding potential: The flexible stems of softneck garlic make them perfect candidates for braiding, adding an aesthetically pleasing touch to storage and culinary displays.

  • Reliable performance: Softneck garlic varieties are known for their consistent yields and ease of cultivation, making them suitable for both novice and experienced gardeners alike.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, is a distinct variety characterized by its stiff, central stalk or "neck" and fewer, larger cloves arranged in a single layer. This type of garlic typically produces scapes, curly flowering stalks that emerge from the central stalk and can be harvested for culinary use. Hardneck garlic varieties are prized for their robust flavor profiles, often described as more complex and intense than softneck varieties. They thrive in colder climates and are favored by garlic enthusiasts for their unique characteristics and culinary versatility.

Why Choose Hardneck Garlic?

  • Intense flavor: Hardneck garlic varieties offer a bold and complex flavor profile, adding depth and richness to a wide range of dishes.

  • Scapes: The production of scapes provides an additional harvestable crop with a milder garlic flavor, perfect for incorporating into recipes like pesto or stir-fries.

  • Cold hardiness: Hardneck garlic varieties are well-suited for colder climates, making them a preferred choice for gardeners in regions with harsh winters.

  • Large cloves: Hardneck garlic typically produces fewer, but larger cloves, which can be easier to peel and handle compared to the smaller cloves of softneck varieties.

  • Culinary versatility: Whether roasted, sautéed, or used raw, hardneck garlic adds a distinctive and flavorful element to a variety of dishes, from savory entrees to salad dressings and sauces.

Hardneck Garlic vs Softneck Garlic

Hardneck and softneck garlic varieties each offer unique qualities for gardeners and cooks alike. Softneck garlic boasts long storage life, adaptability to diverse climates, and a mild flavor ideal for braiding. In contrast, hardneck garlic delivers intense flavor, scapes for additional culinary use, and resilience to colder temperatures. While softneck garlic is favored for its versatility and ease of storage, hardneck garlic stands out for its bold taste and suitability for colder climates. Whether braiding softneck garlic or savoring the robust flavor of hardneck garlic, both varieties enrich culinary creations and gardening experiences in their own distinctive ways.

You can find both hardneck and softneck varieties to grow in many different gardening and seed stores across the US. You can also find them on Amazon – we recommend choosing organic cloves for either a Californian softneck or Siberian hardneck.


How to store hardneck garlic vs softneck garlic?

Softneck garlic is typically braided and stored in a cool, dry place, while hardneck garlic can be hung or stored in mesh bags.

Which garlic is easier to grow, hardneck or softneck?

Softneck garlic is generally easier to grow due to its adaptability to various climates and longer storage life.

Which garlic is best to grow in Zone 6?

Both hardneck and softneck garlic can thrive in Zone 6, but hardneck varieties may be better suited to colder temperatures.

Which garlic tastes better, softneck or hardneck?

Taste preferences vary, but many enthusiasts appreciate the intense and complex flavor of hardneck garlic.