Chives are a cool-weather perennial herb. Sow seed or set out divisions of existing clumps 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost in spring. Chives can tolerate frost. They are evergreen in warm-winter regions, but die back in cold-winter regions. Chives will easily grow in a container indoors.
Chives are a hardy cool-weather perennial, a relative of the onion. With slender, round, hollow grass-like leaves 6 to 10 inches long. Chives produce soft, globe-like pinkish-purple flowers in spring on stalks to 12 inches tall or more. Leaves arise from small scallion-like bulbs which grow in clumps. Once established, chives will grow for many years. The tips of chive leaves have a mild onion flavor.
Garlic chives are also a hardy cool-weather perennial. Garlic chives have long, flat grass-like leaves with white flowers. The tips of garlic chive leaves have a mild garlic-onion flavor.
Where to Grow Chives
- Plant chives in full sun or partial shade.
- Grow chives in well-drained, sandy-loam, a soil rich in organic matter.
- Prepare planting beds in advance with aged compost.
- Chives prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Chives Planting Time
- Chives are a hardy plant. Sow chives in the garden or set out divisions as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring.
- Seeds will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at 60°F.
- Sow chive seeds indoors at 70°F for optimal germination.
- Chives will grow in air temperatures from 40° to 85°F.
- Chives are evergreen in warm-winter regions, but die back and go dormant in cold-winter regions. Mature plants can tolerate frost.
- Plant chives in autumn or winter in mild-winter regions.
Planting and Spacing Chives
- Grow chives from seed or divisions–small bulbs separated from clumps.
- Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep. Seeds require darkness to germinate.
- Transplant seedlings into the garden from late spring to late summer.
- Seedlings can grow close together to form clumps.
- Space clumps or rows 8 to 12 inches apart; plants will fill in over time.
- To plant divisions, use a spade or shovel to divide existing clumps, trim back leaves to 1 inch above the ground and replant the divisions covering the bulblets with soil.
- Grow 3 to 5 clumps of chives for a household of four persons.
Container Growing Chives
- Chives will grow easily in containers as an annual.
- Plant chives in a container 6 inches deep.
- Plant several containers to rotate harvest.
- Chives can be grown in a sunny window through the winter or over-wintered in an unheated garage or patio.
Companion Plants for Chives
- Grow chives with carrots, celery, grapes, peas, roses, tomatoes, cress, mint. Avoid planting chives with beans or peas.
Watering and Feeding Chives
- Chives require moderate regular water to become established.
- Established plants will survive in dry soil.
- The tips of leaves of plants that dry out will turn brown and papery.
- Plant chives in beds prepared with aged compost.
- Side dress chives with aged compost at midseason.
Caring for Chives
- Divide chive clumps every 2 to 3 years to prevent overcrowding. See Propagation below for directions.
- Protect chives from direct sun in hot climates with shade cloth.
- Chives are generally pest free.
- Onion thrips may attack chives growing in a commercial onion producing region, but thrips are unlikely to bother plants that are regularly watered.
- Chives commonly have no serious disease problems, however, in high humidity if plants are crowded fungal diseases can develop.
- Chives are ready for cut-and-come-again as soon as leaves are 6 inches tall.
- Cut leaves with garden scissors or sharp knife. Cut the outer leaves first. Harvest from the base of leaves to avoid plants with cut tops.
- Established plants a year old or more can withstand regular harvest. Always leave some top growth on the clumps to preserve the strength of the bulbs.
- Stop harvest 3 weeks before the first frost date to allow plants to flower and the clump to expand.
How to Use Chives in the Kitchen
- Use chives fresh or dried to add flavor.
- Snip leaves into salads, soups, and egg dishes.
- Sprinkle chopped chives over fish and other entrees to add flavor.
- Whole flowers can be added to salads.
- Chives will add an oniony flavor to vinegar.
Storing and Preserving Chives
- Refrigerate chives in a sealed plastic bag for up to 7 days.
- Chives can be frozen or dried.
- Division of the whole plant or by seed in spring or autumn. Trim the roots to about 3 inches long and the tops to about 2 inches. Pull or cut the clump into sections of 4 to 6 bulbs each. Replant each section 8 to 12 inches apart.
Botanical name: Allium schoenoprasum, chives; A. tuberosum, garlic chives.