How to Grow Garlic Indoors in 5 Simple Steps (It’s Easier Than You Might Think!)

updated Feb 1, 2024
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Garlic grown indoors being chopped.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Did you know that growing your own garlic is incredibly easy? In fact, you just need a few cloves and you’re good to go. (Yes, you can grow a new bulb of garlic from a clove you already have — magic!). Okay, you also need a container, some soil, and a tiny bit of know-how, but more on those things later. The point is, you can get started and learn how to grow garlic indoors today.

Here’s everything you’ll need to know when it comes to planting and growing garlic inside (aka the easiest method of all time), in just 5 simple steps.

1. Start with organic and/or locally grown garlic.

There are two different types of garlic — softneck and hardneck. Within these types, there are an array of varieties with different flavor profiles. Softneck grows well in mild climates, whereas hardneck prefers colder temperatures, which means it needs cold weather to form a head or bulb. Softneck may be a better choice for growing indoors, but depending on where you source your garlic, it may be difficult to know what type you have.

Either way, the key is that you purchase garlic that’s organic and/or locally grown, if you can find it at the farmers market, CSA, or grocery store. (You can also order “seed garlic” online from a reputable garden supplier or nursery.) The reason for this? Conventional garlic is chemically treated to prohibit growth and prevent sprouting.

2. Stash your garlic cloves in the fridge.

For optimal success, put the garlic cloves that you want to plant in the fridge for several weeks to replicate the cold as if they were planted outdoors before you start them indoors. (Garlic typically needs cold temperatures to form a scape, or a flower in order to produce a head or bulb.) Alternatively, once you’ve planted your garlic cloves, you can place your pots outside for a few weeks during the day — bringing them inside at night — for several weeks before continuing to grow them indoors.

3. Grab a pot. Any pot.

The only rule here is that your pot needs to have drainage holes. But any upcycled container you have in the kitchen — such as ice cream, yogurt, or milk cartons — will work well. Just poke some holes in the bottom yourself!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

4. Plant your cloves.

Fill your container with potting soil. Place one clove — pointy side up, without removing the papery skin — in a pot about 3 inches down, and cover with a half inch of soil. Then, tamp down the soil. Leave around an inch or two of space between the soil line and the top of the container so there is space to water. 

It’s best to only plant one clove per container to ensure success. But if you’re growing in wide or big receptacles, you can add more — just space the cloves out so that they’re 3 to 4 inches apart to ensure there’s adequate space for a bulb to form. You can add straw on top of the potting soil to help insulate the bulbs if you’re storing them in a cold or drafty spot, but it’s not entirely necessary for indoor growth. (Here are more of our best tips on indoor gardening for beginners.)

Credit: Sarah Crowley

5. Know when to harvest your garlic.

Your new garlic can take seven to nine months until it’s ready to harvest. When the end of the green tops or leaf shoots begin to turn yellow or brown or the leaves begin to fall over, it’s an indicator that harvest time is near. Harvest within a couple of weeks, when the majority of the shoots have changed color. (Note: Don’t leave the garlic in pots for too long, as the skin can start to decay, leading to a shorter storage life.)

If you’re growing garlic for garlic greens (the tops, which have a milder garlic flavor!), you can put more cloves in a pot, closer together. And you can snip the leaves once they’re several inches tall. Make sure you leave at least an inch per shoot, so that each one can continue growing for another harvest. 

FYI: 4 Things Garlic Needs to Thrive

  • Soil: Loose, well-drained, high-quality soil with a 6.5 to 7 pH.
  • Sunlight: Garlic needs a lot of sunlight to grow and form a head. Place containers near a sunny south- or west-facing window with plenty of direct sunlight. Ideally, your containers will receive sun for a minimum of six hours per day. 
  • Water: Garlic needs to be watered frequently because it likes moist soil, but be careful that you don’t over-water the pot. You don’t want the soil to be soggy.
  • Fertilizer: Alliums do well when natural fertilizer is added, such as compost, humus, or other natural plant food. Avoid chemical-based fertilizers, which act like steroids for plants.