Chives are perennial plants that grow quickly and are great for the declining pollinator population. They are part of the allium family which includes shallots, onions, scallions, leeks, and garlic.
Most cultures use chives as an herb which can be used as an ingredient to bring more flavor and nutrients to the dish. Chives being part of the onion family and have a strong onion scent and flavor similar to garlic and onions.
Chives are incredibly easy to grow indoors or outdoors and are quite hardy. They are also fairly resistant to blight, moulds, and other plant diseases that can be a bane to other herbs. Chives can be grown next to any other herb on the windowsill without any problems whatsoever.
The large purple flowers that bloom from the top of chives are beautiful and used in flower shops around the world and pollinators love them.
In many places the flowers are used in salads and as a garnish just as the stem of the plant is used. The flower has just a hint of an onion flavor that will freshen dishes like soups and sauces, or it can be used as a garnish on potatoes, salads and other dishes.
Growing Chives from Seed
Chives are best planted as early in the spring as possible. They grow best in cooler climates, and it is recommended that they be planted indoors 6 – 8 weeks before they can be transplanted outside. The seedlings need to be transplanted after the last frost once the weather has warmed
The seeds will take a few weeks to germinate and require complete darkness and damp soil to do so.
You should prepare the soil the seedlings will be transplanted into first. Chives like loamy or sandy soil with good drainage and a pH of 6-7. Chives are susceptible to bulb, stem, and root diseases, so it is best to ensure the soil drains very well and that there is no standing water near the plants.
Transplanting Chive Seedlings
Once you can be sure that the cold weather is behind you, you can transplant the seedlings into your garden. You can plant the seedling clusters about 10-12 inches apart.
You can bring them a bit closer if you don’t have much room, but you’ll need space between each plant for airflow and plenty of nutrients in the soil for every plant to thrive.
By early summer, you will see the flowers begin to bloom. At this time, you can cut the flowers for use in the kitchen or you can keep them on so that pollinators can do their job until you are ready to harvest your chives.
Once the flowers begin to fade you can deadhead your chive plants so that the flowers don’t drop seeds and spread all over your garden.
It’s that easy. All you need to do is give a chive plant full sun, a good amount of water, loamy to sandy soil, and some room to grow.
Dividing & Transplanting Chives
Like many perennials a quick way to quickly increase the amount of chive plants you have in the garden is to divide established plants.
Chives are clump forming plants and they can pack in quite tightly together. You will find after a certain number of seasons the plant may flower less or crowd itself out. In this case, dividing the chives into 3 or 4 new plants will make each division much healthier and more abundant.
Dividing chives is incredibly easy as they grow as bulbs under the soil. To divide them it is simply a case of doing the following:
- The best time to divide chives is in the autumn, dig up the whole chive plant and brush away the loose soil.
- Separate the bulbs and stems, using your fingers this should be fairly easy. You can divide the plant into several pieces, aim for around 7 – 10 shoots per division.
- Re-plant each division into its new home. Water in well but do not fertilise as any new growth in late autumn may be damaged by the first winter frosts.
Tips For Growing Chives
A tip for getting larger chives is to cut the plant down to about 3 inches from the ground when you deadhead the flower. Chives are what’s called a “cut and come-again” type of plant, meaning you can cut the plant down and it will grow back stronger each time.
The first year your chive clusters aren’t going to be as robust as the following years. If you harvest the plants as soon as they grow to their full height, you encourage the plant to focus its resources directly into growing, instead of blooming and seeding, which will give you a stronger plant. You should be able to harvest your chives at least a few times each year.
Varieties of Chives
You’ll find a few varieties of chives that are commonly grown and easy to grow from seed:
The first is the common chive (Allium schoenoprasum) that you are most likely to see at the produce section of your grocery store. The stems are round and hollow in common chives and the flowers are pink – purple.
The second is the Siberian chive (Allium Nutan), which grow much larger and have a robust flavor. The flowers are larger, great for pollinators and all parts are edible.
Garlic chive (Allium Tuberosum), which has white flowers and flat leaves rather than round, hollow stems. They flower much later into the year so paired with common chives make the harvesting season much longer.
Regardless of what type of chive you choose, you will have plenty to harvest for the entire year, and likely will have some leftovers to give to family and friends.