Attractive and savory, chives are perfect in pots and make a beautiful border around gardens.
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-75 days
Height: 6 to 18 inches
Spacing: 4 to 6 inches apart, 6 to 12 inches between rows
Home gardeners are growing chives for their gentle flavor, bright green leaves and attractive purple flowers. And they look great in the garden, too.
The cool-season, compact plants produce grass-like, hollow leaves that add a mild onion flavor to potatoes, salads, soups and egg dishes. In spring, their showy flowers are popular in salads or as an edible garnish. This standout herb grows well in containers both indoors and out.
A member of the Allium family, chives are closely related to onion, leek, scallion and garlic. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium and folic acid, and have been used medicinally to promote good digestion and lower blood pressure. Plants grow to 1-1/2 feet tall and self-sow readily. They are considered a perennial in zones 3-9.
- A great choice for mild onion flavor, especially for small or short-season gardens
- Easy to grow from seed inside and out
- Plant in full sun with compost-rich soil
- Use fresh or dried
- Occasional aphid infestations
Each spring, work organic compost into your garden plot to prepare soil for planting. Chives grow well in full sun, ample water and rich, sandy soil. The plant will tolerate frost but not prolonged freezing temperatures. They are frequently grown as annuals in climates with winter temperatures below 32˚F.
How to Plant
Chives grow easily from seed planted directly in the ground or from divisions. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep in early spring. Seed germinates best at 70˚F with germination usually occurring in 14 days.
Chive plants are not thinned, but left to grow in bunches. Divide every three years to keep clumps vigorous. A light feeding of organic liquid fertilizer early in the spring will promote plant vigor.
Tip: Practice organic weed control. Chives do not compete well with other plants — weed diligently.
Most culinary herbs are best picked early in the morning just as the dew evaporates. Harvest chives as soon as the spears are a few inches long. Snipping out entire spears to 2 inches above the ground will encourage new growth.
Do not wash the cuttings or aromatic oils will be lost (see our article Harvesting & Preserving Herbs to learn more). Chives are best fresh or frozen but can also be dried. To dry, tie them in small bunches upside down in a dark well ventilated room (watch How to Dry Herbs — video).
Insects and Disease
Chives are susceptible to infestations of aphids. If found, take the following common sense, least-toxic approach to pest control:
- Pinch or prune off heavily infested leaves or other plant parts.
- Commercially available beneficial insects, like ladybugs, are important natural predators of the pest.
- Apply food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for lasting protection. Containing NO toxic poisons, DE works by scoring an insect’s outer layer as it crawls over the fine powder.
- A short-lived natural pesticide, Safer® Soap works fast on heavy infestations.
- Do not over fertilize – aphids like plants with high nitrogen levels and soft new growth.
Seed Saving Instructions
Plants will flower and form seedheads. When these heads begin to dry, clip off and allow to dry further in a well protected area. There are many seeds in each flower.