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.
The 6–10″ long, thin, hollow leaves of Onion chives are cut for use in salads or as a culinary herb to add a subtle onion flavor to dishes. This plant also produces beautiful purple flowers, which makes it a common choice as a garden border or hedge. Although some sources classify them separately, many botanists believe that Giant Siberian chives are simply a larger version of Onion chives and, due to their size, make a particularly good border for gardens.
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 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: Feeling apprehensive about the future? Then chives may be a welcome addition to your garden! It has been said that Roman Gypsies used chives in their fortune telling and that hanging them in homes could ward off evil spirits.
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.
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.
Use your fresh Onion chives in this tasty recipe for Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic and Chives.