How to Grow Chives

Chives plantChives 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.

Description. 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 rise 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.

Yield. Grow 3 to 5 clumps of chives for a household of four persons.

Site. 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.

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. Chives will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at 60°F. Sow chive seeds indoors at 70°F for optimal germination. Chives will grow in temperatures from 40° to 85°F. Chives can tolerate frost. Chives are evergreen in warm-winter regions, but die back and go dormant in cold-winter regions. Plant chives in autumn or winter in mild-winter regions.

Planting and spacing. Grow chives from seed or divisions–small bulbs separated from clumps. Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep. Seedlings can grow close together to form clumps. Space clumps or rows 8 to 12 inches apart; they will fill in over time. To plant divisions, use a spade or shovel to divide clumps of plants, trim back leaves to 1 inch above the ground and replant the divisions covering the bulblets with soil.

Water and feeding. 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.

Companion plants. Carrots, celery, grapes, peas, roses, tomatoes, cress, mint. Avoid planting chives with beans or peas.

Care. Divide chive clumps every 2 to 3 years. Protect chives from direct sun in hot climates with shade cloth.

Container growing. 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.

Pests. 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.

Diseases. Chives have no serious disease problems.

Harvest. Chives are ready for cut-and-come-again harvest 75 to 90 days after sowing, 60 days after transplanting. Established plants a year old or more can withstand regular harvest. Snip the tops of leaves after leaves reach 4 inches tall or more. Harvest from the base of leaves to avoid plants with cut tops. Stop harvest 3 weeks before the first frost date to allow plants to flower and the clump to expand.

Storing and preserving. Use chives fresh or dried. Refrigerate chives in a sealed plastic bag for up to 7 days. Chives can be frozen or dried.

Common name. Chives, common chives, European chives

Botanical name. Allium schoenoprasum

Origin. Europe

Common name. Garlic chives, Chinese chives

Botanical name. Allium tuberosum