Grow Chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a versatile and easy-to-grow herb that belongs to the onion family. Known for their mild onion flavor and vibrant green leaves, chives are a popular choice for both culinary and ornamental purposes.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, this comprehensive guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to successfully grow chives in your garden or indoor space. From selecting the right variety and preparing the soil to caring for the plants and harvesting the flavorful leaves, we’ll cover every aspect of chive cultivation.

Selecting Chive Varieties:

Chives come in different varieties, each with its unique characteristics. Understanding the differences can help you choose the right type for your needs.

Common Chives (Allium schoenoprasum):

Common chives are the most widely grown variety and are known for their slender green leaves and mild onion flavor. They are a popular choice for culinary use and can be easily propagated through division or seeds.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum):

Garlic chives have flat, grass-like leaves and a more pronounced garlic flavor. They are commonly used in Asian cuisine and can be grown from seeds or divisions.

Curly Chives (Allium senescens ‘Curly Mauve’):

Curly chives, also known as ornamental chives, have curly foliage and pink to purple flowers. While they are edible, they are primarily grown for their decorative value in gardens and containers.

Choosing a Growing Location:

The success of chive cultivation depends on providing the right growing conditions, including sunlight exposure and suitable soil.

Sunlight Requirements:

Chives thrive in full sun, but they can tolerate partial shade. Aim for at least six hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth.

Soil Conditions:

Chives prefer well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Sandy loam or loamy soil types are ideal. Ensure that the soil is rich in organic matter to promote healthy growth.

Container Gardening:

If you don’t have access to a garden, chives can be successfully grown in containers. Choose a pot with good drainage and use a well-draining potting mix. Place the container in a location that receives adequate sunlight.

Preparing the Soil:

Proper soil preparation is essential for healthy chive plants. This section covers important steps to ensure optimal soil conditions.

Soil pH and Drainage:

Test the soil pH using a soil testing kit. If the pH is too acidic, add agricultural lime to raise it. If it is too alkaline, add elemental sulfur or organic matter such as compost to lower it. Ensure the soil has good drainage to prevent waterlogging, as chives are susceptible to root rot in poorly drained soil.

Soil Enrichment:

Prior to planting, enrich the soil with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. Incorporate the organic matter into the soil to improve its fertility and moisture-retaining capacity.

Planting Chive Seeds:

Growing chives from seeds is a cost-effective and rewarding method.


Chives can be directly sown outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. In cooler regions, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date.

Seedling Preparation:

Soak chive seeds in water for 24 hours before planting to improve germination. Optionally, stratify the seeds in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks to enhance germination rates. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots once they have developed a few sets of true leaves.

Sowing Chive Seeds:

In the garden, sow chive seeds in well-prepared soil, sowing them thinly and covering them with a thin layer of soil. Space the seeds about 1 inch apart and maintain a row spacing of 12-18 inches. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination occurs.

Caring for Chive Plants:

To ensure the healthy growth of your chive plants, proper care is essential. This section covers watering, fertilizing, mulching, and pest control.


Chives require regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist. Water the plants deeply whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.


Chives are light feeders and do not require excessive fertilization. In early spring, apply a balanced organic fertilizer or compost to provide essential nutrients. Repeat the application every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.


Mulching around chive plants helps retain moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of organic mulch such as straw or shredded leaves around the plants, leaving space around the stems to prevent rotting.

Controlling Pests and Diseases:

Chives are generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, common pests such as aphids and onion thrips may occasionally infest the plants. Monitor the plants regularly and use organic pest control methods such as insecticidal soap or neem oil if necessary.

Harvesting Chives:

Knowing when and how to harvest chives ensures that you can enjoy the freshest and most flavorful leaves. This section provides guidance on harvesting techniques.


Chives can be harvested as soon as they reach a height of 6-8 inches and have established enough foliage. Avoid harvesting from newly planted seedlings until they are well-established. Regular harvesting promotes new growth and prevents the plants from flowering.

Harvesting Methods:

To harvest chives, use a sharp pair of scissors or garden shears to snip the leaves about 1-2 inches above the soil level. Avoid cutting the leaves too close to the base, as it may damage the plant. Snip only the amount of chives you need, leaving the rest to continue growing.

Pruning and Maintenance:

Regular pruning helps maintain the health and vigor of chive plants. Remove any damaged or yellowing leaves by snipping them close to the base. Divide overcrowded clumps every 2-3 years to rejuvenate the plants.

Storing and Preserving Chives:

Learn how to store and preserve chives to extend their shelf life and enjoy their flavor even when they’re out of season.

Fresh Storage:

After harvesting, rinse the chives in cool water and pat them dry with a towel. Wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel and store them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Fresh chives can be stored for up to one week.

Freezing Chives:

Freezing chives is an excellent way to preserve their flavor. Chop the chives into small pieces and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Label the container and store it in the freezer for up to six months.

Drying Chives:

Air drying is the most common method for drying chives. Tie a bunch of chives together with a string and hang them in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Once completely dry, crumble the leaves and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Utilizing Chives in Cooking:

Chives add a delightful flavor to various dishes. This section explores different culinary uses of chives and provides a selection of delicious recipes.

Culinary Uses:

Chives can be used fresh or cooked in a wide range of dishes. They add a mild onion-like flavor and a vibrant green color. Common culinary uses include salads, soups, sauces, omelets, and garnishes.

Chive Recipes:

  • Chive and Potato Soup
  • Chive and Goat Cheese Quiche
  • Chive Butter for Grilled Steak
  • Chive and Lemon Pasta
  • Chive and Sour Cream Dip

Chives as an Ornamental Plant:

Beyond their culinary value, chives can also be grown for their ornamental appeal. This section explores incorporating chives into garden designs and creating edible flower displays.

Garden Design and Companion Planting:

Chives make an excellent addition to herb gardens, vegetable gardens, or mixed borders. Their slender leaves and purple flowers create a visually appealing display. Consider companion planting with other herbs, flowers, or vegetables that have similar growing requirements.

Edible Flower Display:

Chive flowers are not only beautiful but also edible. Use the purple flowers as a decorative element in salads, soups, or as a garnish. Their mild onion flavor adds a unique touch to dishes.

Overwintering Chives:

In regions with cold winters, it is important to protect chive plants during the dormant period to ensure their survival and regrowth in spring.


Before winter sets in, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the chive plants to provide insulation and protect the roots from freezing temperatures. Straw, shredded leaves, or pine needles are suitable mulching materials.

Container Gardening:

If you are growing chives in containers, move the pots to a sheltered location, such as a garage or basement, where the temperature remains above freezing. Water the plants sparingly during this period.

Division and Transplanting:

In early spring, when new growth appears, it is a good time to divide and transplant chive clumps. Gently lift the clump from the ground or container, separate it into smaller sections, and replant them in well-prepared soil. This practice not only helps rejuvenate the plants but also allows you to propagate chives and expand your garden.

Chive Companion Plants:

Companion planting involves selecting plants that benefit each other when grown in close proximity. Here are some suitable companion plants for chives:


Chives and carrots make excellent companions, as chives help repel pests that can damage carrot crops, such as aphids and carrot flies. The strong scent of chives acts as a natural deterrent.


Growing chives near tomato plants can help deter aphids, whiteflies, and other common tomato pests. Chives also attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, that prey on harmful pests.


Chives can be planted near rose bushes to repel aphids and other insects that are known to attack roses. Additionally, the purple flowers of chives provide an attractive contrast to the vibrant colors of roses.

Chive Variations and Uses:

While common chives are the most widely used variety, there are other variations with unique flavors and uses.

Chinese Chives (Allium ramosum):

Chinese chives, also known as garlic chives, have flat leaves and a stronger garlic flavor compared to common chives. They are commonly used in Asian cuisine, stir-fries, dumplings, and savory pancakes.

Chive Blossoms:

The blossoms of chive plants are not only visually appealing but also have a mild onion flavor. They can be used as a garnish, added to salads, or used to infuse vinegars or oils with their delicate taste and color.

Chive Vinegar:

Infusing vinegar with chive blossoms is a simple and flavorful way to enhance dressings, marinades, or homemade pickles. Add a handful of chive blossoms to a bottle of white vinegar and let it sit for a few weeks. Strain the vinegar to remove the blossoms before use.

Growing chives is a rewarding experience that allows you to enjoy their fresh flavor and vibrant green foliage. By following the step-by-step instructions in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-equipped to successfully cultivate chives in your garden or indoor space. Whether you’re a culinary enthusiast or an avid gardener, the versatility and ease of growing chives make them an excellent addition to any home. Get started on your chive-growing journey and savor the delights they bring to your meals and garden.

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