Chives are the smallest plant in the onion family and come in two main types: Common (or Onion) chives and Garlic (or Chinese) chives. An easy to grow perennial, both types will grow in clumps and thrive in your garden or container. If planting outdoors, be aware that this plant is hardy and may start to spread to other parts of your garden. Don’t worry if you see your chives being a bully: they can be cut back easily or transplanted. Chives are also a useful companion plant, deterring harmful insects from your garden.
Garlic chives possess beautiful white flowers that bloom late in the summer or early fall on stalks that can reach up to 18″ in height. Plants have flat, long, blue-green leaves that have a more subtle flavor than their Onion chive cousin. Nicknamed Chinese chives due to their frequent appearance in Asian-style recipes, we recommend adding this plant to your garden as well as your wok the next time you’re feeling in the mood for a tasty stir-fry!
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 10 seeds every 8″
Space Between Rows: 8″
Germination Soil Temperature: 60–70°F
Days for Germination: 10–15
Sow Indoors: 6 weeks before average last frost.
Sow Outdoors: 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost, or a minimum of 2 months before average first frost.
Vegetative: Chives can be propagated by division. Every 2–3 years, separate large clumps into groups of about 5 bulbs, and replant at 6–10″ apart.
Chives grow best in cool weather. They will survive heat if given sufficient moisture but will produce more flowers and less leaves. These plants can tolerate light frost but will die back in cold winters.
Natural: Prefers full sun or partial shade.
Artificial: Will grow indoors in a sunny window. Provide additional lighting if needed.
Soil: Prefers well-drained, loamy soils but are adaptable and will grow in poorer soils. A pH of 6.5–7.0 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Grows in most soilless media including rockwool, soilless mixes, perlite, vermiculite, and coco coir.
Hydroponics: Thrives in hydroponic systems. Use growing media with good water holding capacity.
Aeroponics: Thrives in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires moderate to high levels of water. Soil should be kept moist but take care not to overwater. Plants will need more water in hot or dry weather.
Nutrients: Requires low to moderate levels of nutrients. Sidedress with compost or well-balanced fertilizer once per year.
Pruning: Divide every 2–3 years. If you don’t want your chives to reseed, pick off flowers before they mature.
Mulching: Use mulch such as hay or lawn clippings to keep weeds under control, moderate soil temperature, and conserve moisture.
Pest(s): Generally pest free in home gardens, but watch for:
Disease(s): Generally not susceptible to disease, but can sometimes suffer from:
Deficiency(s): Sulfur is required for production of essential oils for full flavor and aroma. A nitrogen deficiency will cause slow growth, although too much nitrogen will cause weak, overly lush growth. A calcium deficiency will cause reduced leaf quality.
Rotation: Because it’s a perennial, chives will grow in the same garden area for many years.
Companions: Will grow well with carrots, beets, celery, grapes, roses, tomatoes, cress, mint, parsley, cabbage, eggplant, strawberries, rhubarb, kohlrabi, mustard, and squash. Avoid beans, peas, asparagus, and spinach.
Harvest: Cut chive leaves to within 1–2″ of their base when they are 6–10″ long. Harvest flowers when they are in full bloom. Cut the whole clump back to 2″ from the ground once or twice per year.
Storage: Chive leaves can be frozen or dried for later use. Store dried leaves in a cool place in an airtight container.
Fun Fact: Even if you’re not a big fan of eating chives, we recommend planting Garlic chive in your garden anyway. Why? Well, this herb’s flowers are not just beautiful: they also smell like violets and act as great pollinator attractors. So you may not chow down on your chives, but your local butterflies and bees will, and that’s a good thing!
Preserve: Can be added to pickle recipes for flavoring. You can also make chive vinegar by adding fresh, washed, and chopped chives to vinegar and leaving the mixture to sit, stirring every few days. Strain out the leaves before use.
Prepare: Use fresh, chopped chives as a garnish and flavoring for your favorite dishes. Commonly used in soups, salads, potato dishes, and sandwiches. Use as a substitute for scallions. Keep in mind when cooking with garlic chives that the longer they are over heat, the less pronounced their flavor will be.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and phytochemicals including quercetin.
Medicinal: Leaves are a mild antiseptic, promote digestion, and simulate appetite. Phytochemicals found in the plant may provide anti-cancer properties.
What better way to utilize your Chinese chives than in some homemade Chinese food? Try this savory Tofu and Garlic Chives dish as a thank you to yourself for planting this tasty herb!
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