You can learn how to grow chives in a few minutes. Chives are a hardy cool-weather perennial, a relative of the onion. With slender, round, hollow grass-like leaves 6 to 10 inches long. Chives produce soft, globe-like pinkish-purple flowers in spring on stalks to 12 inches tall or more. Leaves rise from small scallion-like bulbs which grow in clumps. Once established, chives will grow for many years. The tips of chive leaves have a mild onion flavor. Chives will easily grow in a container indoors. Garlic chives—with a subtle garlic flavor—grow just like chives; unlike chives, they have flat not round leaves and white not pink flowers.


Get to Know Chives

  • Botanical name and family: Allium schoenoprasum (chives); tuberosum, (garlic chives); both are members of the onion family–Amaryllidaceae.
  • Europe
  • Type of plant: Chives are a herbaceous perennial.
  • Growing season: Chives will grow in air temperatures from 40° to 85°F—spring through summer; plant chives in autumn or winter in mild-winter regions.
  • Growing zones: Chives grow best in Zones 3 to 11. Chives are evergreen in mild-winter regions, but die back and go dormant in cold-winter regions.
  • Hardiness: Garlic chives are a hardy cool-weather perennial. Mature plants can tolerate cold to -35°
  • Plant form and size: Chives from 1 to 2-foot clumps of thin, grass-like leaves (if left unclipped).
  • Flowers: Chives have large globe-shaped purple-pink flowers. Garlic chives have white flowers. Flowers first appear as small bulblike buds among the round green leaves; the buds open into spherical clusters of flowers that resemble the heads of clover blossoms.
  • Bloom time: Chives bloom mid-spring to early summer.
  • Leaves: The leaves of chives are deep green, round, and hollow; the leaves of garlic chives are flat and grasslike.

How to Plant Chives

  • Best location: Plant chives in full sun or partial shade.
  • Soil preparation: Grow chives in well-drained, sandy-loam, a soil rich in organic matter. Prepare planting beds in advance with aged compost. Chives prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Avoid planting in wet soil that can encourage stem and bulb diseases.
  • Seed starting indoors: Sow seeds indoors from late winter until early summer; sow seeds in flats under fluorescent lights or in a bright window. Seeds need darkness to germinate. Cover seed trays or pots with a piece of newspaper or cardboard to aid germination. Seeds should germinate in about 14 days at 70°F.
  • Transplanting to the garden: Transplant seedlings into the garden from late spring to late summer.
  • Outdoor planting time: Chives are a hardy plant. Sow chives in the garden or set out divisions as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring. The seed will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at 60°F.
  • Planting depth: Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep. Seeds require darkness to germinate; cover the seed with light planting mix.
  • Spacing: Space clumps or rows of chives 8 to 12 inches apart; plants will fill in over time. To plant divisions, use a spade or shovel to divide existing clumps, trim back leaves to 1 inch above the ground and replant the divisions covering the bulblets with soil.
  • How much to plant: Grow 4 clumps of chives for cooking and kitchen use; grow 6 clumps for preserving.
  • Companion planting: Chives are said to improve the flavor of carrots, celery, tomatoes, cress, mint, and grapes. Chives are said to inhibit the growth of beans and peas. Chives deter Japanese beetles and are said to deter black spot on roses, scab on apples, and mildew on cucumbers

How to Grow Chives

  • Watering: Chives require moderate regular water to become established; established plants will survive in dry soil. The tips of leaves of plants that dry out will turn brown and papery.
  • Feeding: Side dress chives with aged compost at midseason.
  • Mulching: Mulch around chives with aged compost or commercial organic planting mix.
  • Care: Divide chive clumps every 2 to 3 years to prevent overcrowding. See Propagation below for directions. Protect chives from direct sun in hot climates with shade cloth. Deadhead plants regularly to avoid plants going to seed.
  • Container growing: Chives will grow easily in containers as an annual. Plant chives in a container 6 inches or deeper. Plant several containers to rotate harvest.
  • Winter growing: Clumps can be dug up and potted before the first frost and grown indoors in a sunny window over the winter, but first put the clumps in a paper bag and put them in the refrigerator for four weeks to simulate winter dormancy; a dormant period is required to send out new leaves.

Troubleshooting Chives

  • Pests: Chives are generally pest-free. Onion thrips may attack chives growing in a commercial onion producing region, but thrips are unlikely to bother plants that are regularly watered.
  • Diseases: Chives commonly have no serious disease problems, however, in high humidity if plants are crowded fungal diseases can develop.

How to Harvest Chives

  • When to harvest: Harvest fresh green leaves continuously early spring to fall, but don’t start harvest until plants are at least 6 inches tall about 5 weeks after planting. Established plants a year old or more can withstand regular harvest.
  • How to harvest: Cut leaves with garden scissors or sharp knife. Cut the outer leaves first. Harvest from the base of leaves to avoid plants with cut tops. Leave about 2 inches of leaf blade above the soil in order for the leaves to regrow. Always leave some top growth on the clumps to preserve the strength of the bulbs. Stop harvest 3 weeks before the first frost date to allow plants to flower and the clump to expand. Garlic chives can be pulled roots and all.

Chives in the Kitchen

  • Chives have a mild green onion flavor and aroma. Use chives in any recipe that calls for raw green onions. The flavor of chives is more delicate than onions.
  • Use chives fresh or dried to add flavor. Snip leaves into salads, soups, and egg dishes; put chives on scrambled eggs or on grilled cheese sandwichs. Add cut chives to vegetables and pasta salads. Sprinkle chopped chives over fish and other entrees to add flavor. Use chives to garnish onion and potato soups. Chives will add an oniony flavor to vinegar, herb butter, and cream cheese spreads.
  • Whole flowers can be added to salads and omelets. They are onions flavored. Steep flowers in white vinegar; they will impart their rose color and light onions flavor to the vinegar.
  • Add chives at the very last moment when cooking soups, stews, and sautés otherwise the flavor will be lost.
  • Culinary companions include basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • Garlic chives have a subtle garlic flavor; use them as a salt substitute in soups and stews and with chicken, pork, and lamb dishes. The leaves of garlic chives are flat and the flowers are white.

Preserving and Storing Chives

  • Refrigeration: Refrigerate chives in a sealed plastic bag for up to 7 days. Wrap the base of a bunch in a wet paper towel placed in a plastic bag and lightly twist the top then store in the refrigerator drawer. Wash leaves before storing.
  • Freezing: Chopped leaves can be frozen. Snip fresh leaves into pieces and freeze them in freezer containers or plastic bags.
  • Drying; Leaves can be dried on a screen set in a warm spot out of the sun with plenty of air circulation.
  • Storing: Store dried leaves in an airtight container.

Propagating Chives

  • Grow chives from seed or divisions; divisions are small bulbs separated from root clumps.
  • Seed: Chives are easy to grow from seed; seeds require no special treatment; sow directly in the garden in early spring or start indoors and transplant out in spring or early summer
  • Division: To divide chive clumps, trim the tops to about 2 inches long and the roots to about 3 inches long. Pull or cut the clump into sections of 4 to 6 bulbs each. Replant divisions 8 to 12 inches apart. Divide older clumps in early spring every 3 years.

Chives Varieties to Grow

  • Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) are also called Chinese chives or gow choy. Garlic chives clumps are slightly larger than chives with flat leaves and white flowers. It has a mild garlic flavor.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Basil

How to Grow Rosemary

How to Grow Sage

How to Grow Oregano

How to Grow Mint

More tips at How to Start a Herb Garden and Growing Herbs for Cooking.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are one of my favorite herbs to grow, second only to lavender. And they are the very first plant I recommend to my friends who are new to gardening.

If you have yet to include this beloved herb in your garden, you are missing out on one of the most rewarding plants to grow, ever. I’m not exaggerating.

Functional and beautiful, I really can’t say enough about chives. They are, without question, one of the most versatile plants out there, a great fit for so many scenarios:

  • Do you need an easy to grow, hardy perennial?
  • Do you want to grow an herb garden, but aren’t sure where to start?
  • Are you interested in companion planting?
  • Do you want to grow edibles that require little effort?
  • Do you like the look of formal English gardens?
  • Are you hoping to attract more butterflies to your garden?
  • Do you have a shaded yard and less than ideal soil?

Well, keep reading…

This Flavorful Herb Is the Answer!

Chives fill all of these requirements, and more! I genuinely can’t come up with a single drawback of including them in your garden.

They’re beautiful, edible, and low maintenance. They’re also hardy perennials, and one of the first plants to break ground in late winter.

Their bright green leaves are a sure sign spring is near. Not to mention, pollinators love their showy white, lavender, pink, or purple flowers. And who doesn’t love attracting butterflies to their garden?

Not only do their flowers attract beneficial pollinators, according to Debbie Kirkpatrick, Kemper Horticulture Assistant at the Missouri Botanical Garden, these potent plants also have a reputation for repelling Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies.

Compact and less than 24 inches tall when mature, chives are well suited to create a formal edge. However, they are equally striking when clumped throughout a cottage style garden.

They work well in containers, and are also perfect for your kitchen windowsill. A relative of onions, they have a mild onion flavor and are great for use on omelets, salads, pizza, baked potatoes, and so much more – keep reading for some of our favorite recipe suggestions!

Something else that I love about this herb: the leaves aren’t the only part that’s edible.

Feel free to munch on the flowers as well. You can add them to any salad as a stunning, tasty garnish. And if you don’t plan to eat them, these flowers also make attractive additions to cut flower arrangements.

Best of all for those who are bothered by these common garden pests, perhaps put off by the oniony flavor, deer tend to leave A. schoenoprasum alone.

Are you convinced yet? Make room for chives in your garden this year, and you won’t regret it.

Here’s what’s ahead in this growing guide:

Keep reading to find out how to grow, care for, and harvest them at home.

Gardener, Meet Chives

Chives are a member of the onion (orAlliaceae) family and are native to Asia and Europe, where they have been used medicinally for centuries.

There is debate as to whether they are also native to North America, or merely naturalized here. Regardless, they have made themselves quite at home here.

These small, bulb-forming plants grow in clumps, which can easily be divided every two to four years.

Reaching heights between 12 and 24 inches, individual plants are low growing and compact, usually no more than 12 inches wide. Their narrow, hollow leaves are bright in color and they produce striking purple, feathery, round flowers in May or June.

Chives are hardy to zones 3 through 10, but can be overwintered indoors in colder areas. And they make an excellent companion to plantings of a variety of vegetables and herbs, from parsley and rhubarb to squash and nightshades (like eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers).

To overwinter, divide an already existing plant and pot it up in a small container (there’s more info on dividing plants below). You can let it grow on a south-facing windowsill through the winter, and plant it out again in the spring.

Another option for overwintering is to plant them in a container initially. When temperatures start dropping, move the container indoors.

Chives prefer full sun and rich, well-draining soil. However, they are tough and, in my experience, can tolerate as little as 4 hours of sunlight, as well as less than ideal soil.

Keep in mind that root rot is possible if soil is especially poor draining.

Now that you’re better acquainted, it’s time to start growing!

Getting Started

First things first – get your hands on some chives.

They are easy to divide, so start by asking around. A fellow gardener may have some in their garden, ready to be shared.

A young chive plant. Photo by Gretchen Heber. 3.5Kshares

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Photo by Gretchen Heber © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Hirt’s Seeds and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Gretchen Heber and Allison Sidhu.

About Amber Shidler

Amber Shidler lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and holds a dual bachelor’s degree in botany and geography. For four years she worked as a horticulturist, but is now a stay-at-home mom. With experience in landscape design, installation, and maintenance she has set her sights on turning her tenth-of-an-acre lot into a productive oasis. Amber is passionate about all things gardening, especially growing and enjoying organic food.

Culinary Herbs in the Garden

Parsley plants add interest to your cooking

By Cindy Haynes
Iowa State University Extension

Lately I’ve been impressed with how frequently fresh and dried herbs are used in recipes and on television cooking shows. In the past, herbs often played a “bit part” in a meal, now some herbs are an essential ingredient in recipes like salsa, pesto and others.

Fortunately herbs are relatively easy to grow, and even easier to harvest and preserve for future use in cooking.

Growing and Harvesting Herbs
With “culinary herbs” comprised of so many plant species, you might think it would be hard to give general statements about growing requirements for herbs. Not so – most, if not all, culinary herbs thrive in sunny sites with well-drained, infertile soils. If you’ve ever visited an herb garden you’ve probably noticed that they are all in sunny locations and, without fail, have well-drained soil. The fastest way to kill an herb is to place it in a shady, wet spot in the landscape (especially this year). Herbs rarely need fertilizer. In fact, fertilize them too much and they don’t taste as good.

Herbs are either perennials or annuals in the garden. Knowing which are annuals and which are perennials is essential when planning and planting an herb garden. Perennial herbs like sage, thyme, lavender, chives and mint do not need to be replanted each year. But annuals like basil and cilantro will not survive an Iowa winter – so they must be replanted each spring. To make matters more confusing, dill, fennel, and a few other annual herbs reseed each year. Once planted, they often return year after year. Just don’t expect them to be in the same place in the garden every year!

The best time to harvest herbs is in the morning when the sprigs are fresh. Harvesting herbs is simple. Most herbs have the best flavor and fragrance before flowering. Harvest about one-third to one-half of the plant just as the flower buds appear. Annual herbs can be cut back more severely since they do not overwinter and they will regrow quickly. After harvest, be sure to wash the leaves and stems thoroughly and let them dry slightly on clean towels before use or preservation.

Preserving Herbs
Most herbs can be dried and stored for long periods in air-tight jars in the kitchen. There are several ways to dry herbs. The most popular and easiest method is air-drying. After harvesting and cleaning the herbs, simply hang small bunches in a warm, dark, well-ventilated location for a couple of weeks until the leaves are crispy. Once dry, the leaves can be separated from the stems, then crushed and placed into air-tight jars. Keep the jars in a dark location in the kitchen for easy access when cooking.

Herbs also can be dried on cheesecloth or screens in well-ventilated locations. My grandmother would often dry herbs on a cheesecloth covered window screen outdoors. Drying herbs outdoors may take longer, is often dependent on weather and can invite some pests to the area – but it always worked well for Della.

The oven or microwave is a faster way to dry herbs. In the oven, place herb leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Set the oven to 180 F and place the cookie sheet in the oven for several hours. Open the oven frequently and stir the herbs to make sure they are drying evenly without burning.

While drying herbs in the microwave is fast, it does require a bit of practice. A small amount of herb leaves are placed in a single layer on paper towels and heated in several short intervals (usually a minute or less). Through the process of trial and error you’ll learn about how long it will take to dry different herbs without blackening the leaves. You’ll also notice that some herbs dried in the microwave will retain more of their “natural color.” As long as they are dried completely, they will keep for long periods in air-tight containers.

A few herbs, including basil, actually can be preserved better by freezing than drying. Frozen basil leaves also will keep the bright green foliage color that air-drying usually takes away. After basil leaves are harvested and cleaned, simply blend them with a little water (and/or oil, if wanted) in a blender or food processor. The resulting bright green goop can then be placed in small containers or even ice cube trays in the freezer and frozen until needed.

Herb vinegars, oils, butters and even herb mustards can be made with fresh and dried herbs. While these mixtures generally don’t last as long as dried or frozen herbs; they can be a tasty addition to almost any meal.

For most herb enthusiasts, only a few of their favorite herb plants are needed to provide all the fresh and dried material throughout the year. So, pick a few of your favorite herbs and give them a try in the garden. You might be impressed as well.

Following are some herbs often grown in Iowa, including whether they are annuals or perennials, and methods of preservation:

Basil — Annual; fresh, dried or frozen. Many cultivars offer different leaf sizes, flavors, and colors.
Chives — Perennial; fresh, dried or frozen. Some species will reseed.
Cilantro — Annual, fresh or dried. Cilantro seed (called coriander) can be harvested as well.
Dill — Annual, fresh or dried. Reseeds; seed also can be harvested.
Fennel — Annual, fresh or dried. Reseeds; seed also can be harvested.
Marjoram — Annual; fresh, dried or frozen.
Mint — Perennial, fresh or dried. Aggressive spreader in the garden.
Oregano — Perennial, fresh or dried.
Parsley — Biennial, treated like an annual, fresh or dried.
Rosemary — Perennial, fresh or dried. Tender perennial, bring indoors over the winter
Sage — Perennial, fresh or dried. Several variegated cultivars available.
Thyme — Perennial; fresh, dried or frozen. Flowers also can be used.

For more information on specific herbs consult Growing and Drying Herbs (PM 1239) available at your local county Iowa State University Extension office or online at

Cynthia Haynes, Horticulture, (515) 294-4006, [email protected]

Two high resolution photos are available for use with this week’s column:
Parsley Plants: parsley.jpg
Two varieties of basil plants: basils2.jpg

Chives are an easy to grow, hardy perennial herb that will reward you with attractive edible green foliage and colorful blossoms each year. Chives are a versatile and delicious way to flavor many dishes. Here are tips for growing chives.

Chives are an herbaceous perennial species in the lily family (Liliaceae) and are related to onion, leeks and garlic. Chives grow in an upright clump of hollow leaves that reach about a foot high. In summer, the plants send up pretty blossoms. All parts of the chive plant are edible.

Chives sprout from bulbs beneath the soil. Over time, the bulb splits and forms new bulbs, eventually creating a larger clump of chives. The plant’s foliage dies back each fall, and the bulbs beneath the soil go dormant. Once warmer weather arrives in spring, the bulbs begin sending up new green spiky foliage.

You can grow chives in a clump, or place several plants in a row to make an attractive edging to your garden. Chives even make an pretty container plant for your porch or patio.

Types of Chives

Two popular subspecies of chives are common chives and garlic chives. Their growing conditions are similar.

Common chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Common chives have a mild onion flavor. The plant features thin, hollow, dark green foliage that grows in a dense clump up to 12 inches high. Flower clusters bloom on stems that rise above the foliage in late spring through early summer.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum): Additionally called Chinese chives, geisha garlic chives, Chinese leeks, and gow choy have a slight onion-garlic flavor. The foliage is thin, flat leaves that grows in a clump up to 15 inches high. Blossoms are white star-shaped florets that bloom in late summer and early fall.

Why Grow Chives?

Here are some benefits of including chives in your gardens:

Chives are attractive: Chives are a striking addition to flower, herb, and vegetable gardens with their spiky dark green foliage and bright lavender blossoms.

Chives are edible: All parts of the chive plant are edible. The chive’s green foliage has a mild onion flavor making them a great addition to salads, scrambled eggs, and as a garnish. The purple blossoms are a colorful edible decoration that adds a light onion flavor. Even the small bulbs can be used in any recipe that calls for green onions or scallions.

Chives attract pollinators: The flowers bloom mid spring to early summer, right around the same time the summer crops are just beginning to flourish. The fragrance and color of chives attract many bees, butterflies, wasps, hornets, and other pollinators to your garden.

Chives repel pests: Since chives are related to onions, their pungent fragrance is a natural pest repellant. Chives discourage carrot flies, aphids, beetles, and cabbageworms. Plant a few clumps of chives as companion plants with carrots, tomatoes, and any crop in the cabbage family. Also plant a few clumps around your cucumber and squash crops to repel cucumber beetles. Additionally, consider chives as companion to your roses to help deter black spot. Plant around fruit trees to repel borers and apple scab.

Chives are perennials: Chives grow as perennials in US plant hardiness zones 3-9. Plant chives once and they will come back every year.

Chives self sows easily: Leave the blossoms on the plant and they will shake out their seeds. You’ll find the spiky foliage growing come summer. Simply dig them up and replant elsewhere.

Chives are easy to propagate: Chive bulbs can be divided from the mother plant and replanted easily.

Chives are the first to appear in the spring garden: Chives are one of the first green to appear in the garden…a welcomed sight after a long winter.

Chives are drought tolerant: Established chive plants can handle low moisture conditions.

How to Grow Chives

Chives are versatile and make a great addition to your herb and vegetable garden. They can also be incorporated in your flower garden as the attractive foliage and blossoms blend in well with other ornamentals.

When to Sow Chives

Chives are easy to grow from seed. Like most perennials, chives will take a year to produce a clump large enough for harvesting. If you don’t mind the wait, you can start seeds early under lights and then transplant into the garden in spring.

Sow seeds 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost date (look yours up here by zip code) or sow outside as soon as the ground can be worked. It will take 10-20 days for the seeds to germinate. Chives grow in clumps, so there is no need for thinning. Harden-off your seedlings to allow them to adjust to being outside, and transplant into the garden after all danger of frost has passed.

  • 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors
  • How to Harden Off Seedlings

Select and Prepare Your Growing Area

Choose a permanent spot to grow your chives. Chives grow well in full sun, but will also grow in partial shade although they may not bloom as strongly. Since they are perennial, chives come back every year, and the clump will spread slightly each time. Allow plenty of space for an easy crop year after year.

Chives are tolerant of a wide variety of soils but will grow best in rich, well-drained soil. Mix a generous amount of compost and a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer into the soil before planting. If the weather has been dry, water the bed thoroughly the day before you transplant.

Transplant Your Chives to the Garden

Whether you grow your own chive transplants, buy seedlings from a nursery, or plant a clump given to you by a friend, be sure to harden off your seedlings before transplanting.

Select an overcast day to transplant your chive seedlings. Water your plants well to help the roots stay together and prevent damage when transplanted.

Dig holes large enough to contain the entire root system comfortably and to set the crown about 1/2-inches below the soil surface. Water the hole thoroughly, and then let the water drain. Space plants about 8 to 12-inches apart.

If you grew your chive seedlings in soil blocks, place the block into the hole and gently firm the soil around the seedling, If your seedlings are in containers, carefully remove the root ball from the container, place it into the hole, and lightly firm the soil. Water well to remove air pockets. Mulch to conserve moisture and keep the weeds down. Water frequently when the chive plants are young, and then reduce waterings.

  • Benefits of Using Soil Blocks to Grow Seedlings
  • 5 Ways Organic Mulch Helps Your Garden

Harvesting and Using Chives

Allow new plants to become established for the first year by harvesting sparingly. When you are ready to harvest the foliage, select leaves from the outside of the clump and cut 2 inches from the soil. Chop and add fresh chives to scrambled eggs, salads, soups, and stir-fry. Use as a pizza-topping, sprinkle on a baked potato, or scatter on a bagel with cream cheese.

Chive blossoms are also edible and have a light onion flavor. Snip off the blossoms when they open fully. Use the blossoms as an edible garnish, add the flowers to scrambled eggs, or sprinkle them in a green salad. Infuse the chive blossoms in vinegar for a subtle onion flavor and a pretty purple blush of color.

Caring for Your Chive Plants

Chives don’t need a lot of care, are not bothered by many pests, and are not fussy about the quality of soil they are growing in. They continue to thrive even in drought situations. Water if the conditions are very dry and the tips of the foliage begin turning brown.

After the blossoms have faded, trim the chive plants the chive plants down to about 6-inches. Soon your plants will push out a fresh flush of spiky foliage that will provide you with plenty of harvests well into fall. As winter approaches, the chive plants will go dormant and wait for the spring soil to thaw so they can emerge once again.

Add a layer of finished compost around the plant each spring and mulch to keep down weeds.

Divide Chives and Grow More Plants

Chive bulbs multiply over time. To keep plants healthy and from becoming overcrowded, divide plants every 3 years. You can divide established chive plants in early spring or fall.

Simply dig up the clump of bulbs, separate them into individual small clusters of bulbs, and replant. If you are dividing in fall, consider potting up a clump to grow indoors for winter.

  • How to Divide and Pot Up Chives

Recipes Using Chives

  • Chive Blossom Vinegar Infusion
  • Chive Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
  • Creamy New England Fish Chowder
  • Cheddar Bacon Potato Skins
  • Zucchini Garlic Bites

Do you grow chives? What tips do you have to share?

You May Also Like

  • How to Grow Chives Indoors
  • 7 Herbs to Start from Seed
  • 5 Herbs That Thrive Inside

Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden.

Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.

Quick Guide to Growing Chives

  • Plant chives in early spring 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. They’re a wonderful option to use as a perennial garden border among flowers or in a culinary container garden.
  • Space chives 8 to 12 inches apart in an area that receives full sun and has nutrient-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Give your native soil a nutrient boost by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter. Consider a premium bagged potting mix for growing in containers.
  • Check soil weekly and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.
  • Encourage better blooms and leaf production by regularly feeding with a water-soluble plant food.
  • Harvest leaves once they are large enough to eat. The flowers are also edible.

Soil, Planting, and Care

When growing chives, it’s best to plant them in full sun, but plants also grow in partial shade, especially in the South and Southwest. Set out plants in early spring in soil improved with plenty of compost or several inches of aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil to improve both soil nutrition and drainage. In pots, use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains compost but is lighter and fluffier than in-ground soil. Space plants 8 to 12 inches apart.

To produce the best growth for frequent harvesting, in addition to planting in rich, nutritious soil, you’ll want to feed your chives every week or two with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition (follow label directions) or fish emulsion. Although the flowers are nice, the plants produce more leaves if you pinch off the flower buds. After a few freezes make the leaves ugly, cut the plants back to the ground. They will come back in spring. After 3 or 4 years, each plant will have grown into clumps of smaller plants; divide them in early spring if desired.

Green Patch: Dividing and Growing Chives

My chives have grown into a very tight clump. How do I divide them? Should I do it now or wait until spring?

Most herbs do best when divided in spring, but not chives. When treated to the rejuvenating effects of division in late summer or early fall, chive plants show their pleasure by popping out a fast flush of new leaves that taste extra-sweet, thanks to cool fall weather. Chives divided in late summer often multiply themselves by bunching a bit before winter comes, too. In addition, chives divided in late summer never fail to bloom beautifully in spring.

Before you begin, make plans for where you will plant your divisions. A clump of chives often consists of dozens of plants, which you can plant in your garden, in containers or both. Examine your clump to get a rough guess of how many plants you have, and divide this number by three. As you divide the clump, you will be separating it into smaller clumps of three to four plants. These can be planted four inches apart in the garden, where informal masses often look better than rows. Or, you can plant four mini-clumps in an 8-inch-wide pot.

Chives need fertile, well-drained soil in a spot that gets at least six hours of sun daily. You will want your divisions to grow a little bit before winter comes, so be sure to work a light application of a balanced fertilizer into the site as you prepare it. Chives grown in containers benefit from being left outside through several weeks of freezing weather, so it’s best to use plastic containers, which are less likely to crack in winter the way clay pots often do. Add a light sprinkling of fertilizer to plain potting soil, or use a product that’s fortified with a slow-release plant food.


Dividing chives is easy, provided the soil is lightly moist. A few hours before you begin the project, water the clump to make sure the plants are nicely plumped up. Then use scissors to snip the tops back until about 4 inches of green growth remain. Loosen the soil around the clump with a digging fork, and lift it from beneath. To remove crowded chives from a container, tap the container several times on its side until the clump jiggles free.

Hold the clump about 18 inches from the ground and drop it on its side to make it shatter. Using your fingers, grasp groups of three to four plants, just below the soil line, and gently tease them away from the mother clump. Don’t worry if some of the roots break off and fall away. Chive plants that have only a few roots attached will waste no time growing new ones.

Replant the divisions immediately — about 1/2 inch deeper than they were growing before — add water, and you’re done. Happily installed in their new home, your chives will likely produce a fast spurt of new growth. This is an excellent sign that the plants are anchored by reliable roots, which they will need to make it through winter. Well-rooted chives are hardy to Zone 3.

When dividing my plants, I always tuck a few into containers. These I leave outdoors through several hard freezes, or until the tops die back into a mass of shriveled tan strings. Then I move them to a cold yet protected place such as an unheated garage, or perhaps snuggled up against the south side of my house. As long as the pots do not dry out completely, the resting chives are just fine. In February, when I’m ripe for a winter boost from something fresh and green, I clear away the dead foliage and bring a pot inside. Within a week, tender green shoots appear, and I have my first taste of spring.

Chives invited indoors in late winter often do not bloom as heavily as those that stick to their natural growth schedule outside, but they still bloom. Chive blossoms are both beautiful and edible, so you can use them as cut flowers or add them to salads or herb vinegars. However, as soon as the blooms become ragged, snip them off to keep the plants from wasting energy-producing seeds. Your deadheaded plants will stay focused on growing into more robust bunches, which you can dig and divide again this time next summer.

Barbara Pleasant lives in the mountains of western North Carolina where she enjoys gardening, garden writing and cooking.

Growing chives: Smart Gardening tips for success

My earliest memories of chives are as a child. Returning year after year, they were a welcome sign in early spring. After learning that the leaves were edible, I would pick off and taste the mild onion flavor of the hollow leaves. Once established, chives can be a garden mainstay providing green foliage, flowers for pollinators, and continual harvest.

Make use of these Michigan State University Extension Smart Gardening practices to find the most success with chives.

Don’t fight the site: Find the right location to plant chives

Chives are a perennial, meaning they come back each year, so plan a designated space for them within your garden. Chives are cold hardy to Zone 3, so you will have success in northern Michigan gardens. Each year they will enlarge in size, growing to a mature height of 10-14 inches. If they get too large, you can divide them by digging out and replanting a portion of them elsewhere.

Spring is the best time to divide. Choose a site that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Chives prefer a well-drained soil rich in organic matter that has a pH of 6-7, but they are adaptable to a wide range of soil types. Providing them with soil rich in organic matter will allow them to really thrive.

Have your soil tested every three years to best understand your soil needs. See MSU Soil Test website for more information.

How many plants will you need?

If you would like to harvest fresh chives to use, one or two plants will suffice. Chives are usually available as transplants at local garden centers or greenhouses. This is the fastest way to get them established. Even as transplants, you do not want to harvest too many leaves during the first year of establishment, as this will decrease the strength of the plant and its ability to overwinter.

You can also try to establish chives by planting seeds, but this will take longer. In their first year from seeds, chives will only grow a few inches tall, making it difficult to harvest any leaves.

Chives do best in clumps, so direct seed a circular area with many seeds and, if starting with seedlings, transplant them into a group together. Chives are also great for pollinators, which have declined in many areas. Plant multiple chive plants to create a pollinator border within your vegetable or flower gardens. The bright purple flower heads provide a contrast to the green foliage and can also be used within flower arrangements.

Smart care

Chives, like many plants in the onion family, have few problems. If you establish healthy plants, they will be even more resistant to insect and pest problems. Choose the best site with well-drained soil and enough sunlight.

Chives can benefit other plants, too. According to Pennsylvania State University Extension, they can help prevent apple scab when planted at the base of apple trees and black spot on roses. Try planting chives by carrots as a companion, as they may help your carrots grow larger.

Sometimes chive clumps get too large and the center may die out. If so, divide the plant and select a healthy portion of the clump to replant. If you don’t want chives to spread via seeds and show up in different areas within your garden, cut off the flower heads before they go to seed.

Harvesting chives

Once your chives have been growing for at least one growing season, harvest leaves by cutting them off at the base. As long as you leave a portion of green so the plant continues to make its own food, you can continually harvest the green leaves.

Flower heads are also edible and you can use them to add a bit of flavor and decoration in salads or other dishes. Cutting off the flower heads before they go to seed will prolong the production and future harvesting of green leaves.

Chives can also be used freshly chopped up in sour cream, on potatoes, in dips and in salads. Check out Michigan Fresh from MSU Extension for proper preservation techniques and recipes.

This is a series focused on Smart Gardening practices for successfully growing vegetables and herbs in home gardens. Stay tuned for the next vegetable in this series by signing up for the Gardening in Michigan newsletter.

For more information on a wide variety of Smart Gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website or contact MSU’s Lawn and Garden Hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

Like oysters and princes, herbs are nearly always at their best when they’re fresh. But we’ve all been there: you buy a bunch of parsley from the supermarket for those two tablespoons of garnish that you need, a week goes by, and you suddenly find yourself with a whole lot of fresh parsley that’s on its way out. What do you do? The best option is to just find a recipe that uses it, of course. You might also consider blanching and freezing it in ice cube trays.

Or you might want to dry it. Drying herbs will greatly extend their shelf life by removing any moisture that bacteria could use to survive. The downside is that it also robs fresh herbs of flavor, aroma, color, and texture. But there are ways to mitigate this loss. Your best option? The microwave. Yes, really. It’s a trick I picked up from Daniel in his holiday story about spiced nuts.

Compared to other drying methods—like hanging or using a low oven—the microwave produces the most potent dried herbs with the freshest flavor and the brightest color.

What Herbs Can I Dry?

When it comes to picking which herbs to dry you’ve also got some decisions to make. In general, thick-leafed, hearty herbs that grow in hot, dry climates like rosemary, thyme, savory, marjoram, and oregano fare well with drying. This is because their aromatic compounds are naturally less volatile than their more delicate, fair-weathered counterparts. They have to be. If they weren’t, they’d lose too many volatiles through evaporation under hot and sunny conditions.

Dried hearty herbs can be used very much like their fresh counterparts for flavoring roasts or sautés, for sprinkling into soups or on your pizza, or for stewing and braising.

Delicate and moist herbs like parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro, chervil, basil, and chives lose a great deal more of their flavor when dried. It simply flies off the herbs along with the water while you’re dehydrating them. But that’s not to say that these herbs are completely useless in dried form, especially if you use the microwave to dry them.

Delicate herbs should be used for dishes that use moist cooking methods like soups, stews, and braises. They can take on a papery texture if used where fresh herbs would be used such as for salads or for garnishing. I wouldn’t recommend it.

So what makes a microwave so much better at drying than any other method? A few factors.

Microwaves Preserve Flavor and Color

What’s different about the microwave than other methods of drying? The main thing is that microwaves specifically target water as they’re heating. Microwaves work by emitting waves of long electromagnetic radiation that cause polar molecules within your food to rapidly flip back and forth. By far the most abundant polar molecule in anything we eat is water. So really, a microwave doesn’t heat up all your food, it just heats up the water. The hot water in turn transfers energy to the rest of your food. An oven, on the other hand, heats everything evenly.

What this means is that a microwave can very efficiently case water to evaporate from your herbs—especially because they are so thin—while leaving flavorful compounds and colorful pigments mostly intact. Herbs that would end up brown or gray and flavorless by the time they’re done drying in the oven or through hanging will retain their bright green color and much of their aroma after the minute or so it takes to dry them in the microwave.

Just look at this rosemary. The batch on the left was dried in the microwave while the batch on the right is fresh.

See how much color is preserved? You can’t taste it, but there’s as much flavor as there is color in there. And because microwaved herbs are so brittle and dry (air- or oven-dried herbs tend to be more tough than brittle), they can be reduced to fine, flavorful powders that incorporate beautifully into spice blends and rubs. Try these Olive-Rosemary Spiced Cashews, for instance.

Microwaves Are FAST

Microwaves are by far the most efficient method of heat transfer in your kitchen. You can take a batch of fresh herbs from the fridge to the dry pantry in just a couple of minutes—a fraction of the time it takes for your oven to even pre-heat!

Convinced yet? Here’s how to do it.

How to Dry Herbs in the Microwave

Step 1: Spread the Herbs

Pick the leaves off the herbs and spread them on a microwave-safe plate lined with 2 layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.*

*Do not microwave recycled paper towels—they can contain tiny fragments of metal that can arc and cause fires.

Step 2: Cover and Microwave

Cover the herbs with a second paper towel or clean dish towel, then microwave them on high power. Most hearty herbs will take around 1 minute initially, followed by a few 20 second bursts until completely dry. Delicate herbs will take 40 seconds followed by a few 20 second bursts until completely dry. All of my timing was done with a half ounce of fresh picked herbs (about as much as can fit on a dinner plate in a single layer) in an 800-watt microwave operating at full power.

Herbs should crumble when you bend them when they’re finished. If the herbs are still pliant, continue cooking them until completely dried.

Step 3: Store or Grind

Once the herbs are dry, you can store them whole or grind them into a powder for spice rubs or spice mixes.

I use either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder to reduce the herbs to powder. If you want it extra-fine, you can tap it through a fine mesh strainer. Whether left whole, crumbled, or in powder form, dried herbs should be stored in a tightly sealing airtight container in a cool pantry away from light. Stored this way they’ll last for several months while maintaining flavor and color.

I’ve tried the technique to great success with every commonly available herb in even the fancy supermarkets and while I’ll still stick to fresh herbs on a day to day basis, it’s a relief to know that I have a good alternative whenever I find myself in a glut.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.

Growing Chives Indoors

Botanical Name: Allium schoenoprasum

Growing chives indoors allows you to have a ready supply of this culinary herb year-round.

Chive herb is a hardy perennial. Its slender, hallow leaves grow in clumps that can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall.

Chives flower in late spring, with round pink to purple blooms appearing atop the leaves.

Garlic Chive Flowers

Of the common chives (A. schoenoprasum), there are a few named varieties. ‘Grolau’ is especially suitable for growing indoors.

Garlic chives (A. tuberosum), also known as Chinese chives, have flat leaves with a zesty, garlicy flavor and aroma. It blooms in summer with white, star-shaped flowers. Garlic chive plants are robust in both flavor and growing habit. They spread and drop seeds aggressively, but that’s only a concern if you are growing chives plant in the garden.

Did you know…Among the first to discover the virtues of this herb are the Chinese, who have been growing chives since 3000 B.C.

Harvest Chives Tip

Once the plants bloom, the leaves will start to shrivel and turn yellow. Unless you plan to use the flowers, harvest the leaves steadily to prevent flowering.

How to harvest chives: You can harvest leaves anytime you want when plants reach 6 in (15 cm) tall. Cut leaves off, leaving at least 2 inches of growth above the soil. The leaves as well as the flowers can be used for cooking.

Cooking with chives: Chives are best used fresh. Harvest leaves as needed and chop them with a sharp knife to prevent a stringy texture. They lend a mild onion flavor to meals. Sprinkle chopped chives on potatoes, soups, cheese spreads, stir-fries and other savory dishes. Add whole leaves or flowers to soups and salads for colorful garnishes.

Drying chives takes away most of their flavor, but is an easy way to preserve them. Here’s how to dry chives: Cut off leaves, chop, and allow them to dry naturally in a dry, dark place. It should only take a couple days or so…they’re “done” when they’re crispy.

Tips for Growing Chives

Origin: China

Height: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm)

Light: Give your chive plant at least 6 hours of direct sun per day to help it grow lush and full. Turn plant for even growth because it will tend to grow toward the light source. If you can’t put your herbs in a sunny window, growing chives under indoor plant lights works beautifully. Keep the light 6 in (15 cm) above the plant and leave it on for 14 hours a day. This is the equivalent of 6 hours of sun.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist. Leaf tips will turn yellow if plant is too dry.

Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity).

Soil: Any good-quality potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed spring through fall with herb fertilizer.

Propagation: Seeds or division. Sow seeds indoors in late winter, covering seeds lightly with potting mix. Keep it moist. Divide established clumps every 2-3 years and pot in fresh potting mix.

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How to Grow Chives will show you the tips and techniques on how to grow this tasty herb that will add amazing value to any kitchen.

“In my ‘Big Dinners’ cookbook, I recreated my mother’s recipe for crab dip. The creamy dressing for this dip, made with mayonnaise, tomato paste, a touch of honey, sliced chives, lemon juice and zest, horseradish, and Tabasco, is reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing.” – Tom Douglas

Chives are one of the most versatile herbs there is that makes most dishes better. It has a delicate onion flavor, which adds wonderful flavor that will be loved.

French cooks would never be without fresh herbs in their kitchens, and chives are one of their favorites. They are part of the Fines Herbes mix of herbs that the French often use in cooking.

Both the flowers and the leaves of the chive plant are edible. You don’t want to use the stem of the flower because it’s tough.

Here’s the recipe for Fines Herbes:

Equal parts chopped chives, parsley, chervil, and tarragon.

Creating a Cozy Life Group:

Since you love to garden, I’m guessing you like all things cozy living. I created a Facebook group called Creating a Cozy Life with over 15,000 like-minded souls.

It’s a group where we share recipes, pictures of things that leave you in awe, and ideas on how to make your life just a little bit more snug. Join here to be part of the virtual cozy cabin.

Here’s How to Grow Chives:

1) Chives are a hardy perennial.

That means chives will come back year after year. It’s classified as an herb, and both the leaves and flowers provide flavor to spice up your dishes.

You should plant chives in spring or fall for best results. Peak seasons for production is during spring and summer.

They are best served raw, but if you do cook them, make sure its brief, otherwise they will lose their flavor.

Chives are an essential part of every good French women’s cooking arsenal.

2) Growing chives from seed indoors.

You can start the seeds indoors between 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Growing chives from seed is a slow process.

Seeds that are more than three-years-old have a low rate of growth, so make sure your seeds are fresh. It’s best to sow seeds that are a year old or less.

Before transplanting chives in the garden, make sure there is good growth. Use the Hardening method before planting your new plants outdoors. Let the plants go outside for 1-2 hours a day so they can get used to the temperature and weather.

To find out more about Hardening your plants, check out this article from GrowVeg:

3) Growing chives from seed outdoors.

The soil temperature should be between 60-70 degrees. You want to have a soil PH of 6.0 to 7.0. Wait until the soil is workable in the spring.

You should make sure the soil drains well. Chives don’t like to to be in standing water.

Add compost to the soil before planting the seeds.

The seeds can take up to 14 days to germinate. Because chives are a slow-growing herb, make sure you keep the area weed-free, so the starts don’t get choked out.

4) Chive flowers.

Once the chive flowers have bloomed, make sure you remove them. If you don’t, the seeds will spread more chives throughout your garden.

Removing the flowers will also help stimulate leaf growth.

Chive flowers are edible, and you can use your chive flowers to beautify your salads, and you can also separate the flowers and use them as a garnish.

5) How to divide chive plants.

Every 2 to 3 years in the spring or fall, divide your chives by hand. If you divide your chives regularly, they will be more productive.

For best results on the years that you divide the plants, let them grow for a few weeks before you harvest.

6) Chives height and spread.

Plants grow 12 to 24 inches tall. Regular chives grow to about 12″ tall, garlic chives can grow up to 24″ tall. They spread to a foot across.

7) Chive companion planting.

Roses love chives because they help prevent black spot. You can also put chives under apple trees to ward off apple scab.

Avoid growing chives near carrots and tomatoes.

How to Grow Chives in Pots Indoors:

You want to start with a well-draining potting mix and in a pot that is at least 6 inches wide.

If you use a large pot, make sure the chives are at least six inches apart.

Chives like to be in a sunny location. Make sure they receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.

Water plants after planting.

Transplanting Chives:

Water the chives you want to transplant a few hours before moving them to make digging them up and dividing them easier.

Trim the chives to about 4″ tall.

In the new space that you’ll be transplanting your chives to, add compost to the hole you’ve dug.

Dig up the chives and divide the roots with your hands.

Place each plant in its new hole and water. You’ll want to water your chive plants regularly because their roots are near the surface and can dry out easily.

Harvesting Chives:

I harvest my herbs in the morning after the dew has dried on the leaves.

Cutting your chives will ensure a continuous harvest. Pulling them out will not.

You want to cut chives at least 2 inches above the ground with something sharp like scissors. Start from the outside and work your way to the inside.

Leave some leaves on each plant for best results.

How to Dry Chives:

How to Air Dry Chives:

You will want to clean your chives after cutting them. Remove debris and blemished leaves.

Pat chives dry with a towel.

Tie a string around the bundle of chives and hang upside down in a dry, cool location.

I usually tie a brown paper bag around the bundle before hanging the herb to make sure nothing falls on the floor, and it prevents dust from getting on them.

You will want to cut small holes in the bags to allow air to flow through them.

Crumble the chives once they are dry, and store in an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place like your food cabinet.

How to Dry Chives in a Dehydrator:

You will want to clean your chives after cutting them. Remove debris and blemished leaves.

Pat chives dry with a towel. Cut the chives into pieces and spread out on the tray of the dehydrator. Here’s the dehydrator that I love from Amazon.

Chives lose a lot of their flavor when you dry them – the best way to preserve chives is to freeze them.

Other Ways to Preserve Chives:

Cut up the chives and place on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. Then place in a freezer bag or bowl for future use.

Here are Reasons Why You Should Grow Chives:

1) Growing chives help you save money.

Before I started growing my own chives, there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t buy fresh herbs from the grocery store.

Buying fresh herbs can add up after awhile. Growing chives is the gift that continues to give, year after year for a small initial investment.

2) Chives are natural pest control.

Chives have insecticidal and antifungal properties that naturally ward off disease and pests.

3) Making your dishes beautiful is much easier with a garnish of chives.

Add beauty to any dish with the simple addition of chives. Whether you use their beautiful flowers or the vibrant green leaves, it turns up the “wow” factor to homecoming.

4) Chives attract beneficial insects.

Butterflies and bees are both attracted to chives. They help pollinate our gardens.

5) Chives make a great gift idea.

Giving a pot of chives as a hostess gift or birthday gift is a thoughtful present everyone will love. You can print up instructions on how to care for the plant and even include a recipe or two.

You can also make your own seed packets and give away chive seeds all year long.

6) Add beauty to your garden with chives.

Chives are not only edible, but they are also beautiful too! I like to disperse the plants throughout my garden for their beauty and pest control properties.

7) Chives are a great addition to your garden for pest and disease control.

Chives repel aphids, Japanese beetles, and carrot flies. I love to disperse them throughout my garden.

8) Chives provide a nutritional punch.

Vitamin A, C, and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are just a few of the vitamins and minerals that chives have.

9) Chives are easy to grow.

Even a beginning gardener can successfully grow chives.

10) Chive plants make a good ground cover.

Because chive plants “bunch” together, they make the perfect plant to add to a landscape where you need color.

11) Chives make tummies happy.

Chives help with digestion and help prevent bad breath. What’s not to love?

Chives vs Scallions:

Are chives and scallions the same thing? No, they aren’t. Chives are an herb, and scallions are part of the onion family.

Onion Chives vs Garlic Chives:

They are part of the same family, but onion chives have the flavor of onion, and garlic chives have garlic flavor.

Garlic chives have a stronger flavor than onion chives, which has a much more subtle flavor.

Garlic chives have a flat leaf and onion chives have round leaves with a hole down the center.

Here are some herbal cookbooks that might interest you on Amazon:

Herbs for Flavor, Health, and Natural Beauty – beauty and healing secrets in this cookbook with herb-inspired dishes.

Wild Mocktails and healthy Cocktails: Homegrown and foraged low-sugar recipes from the Midnight Apothecary

I found this gorgeous cookbook on creating your own herbal cocktails on Amazon.

How to Use Fresh Chives in your recipes:

1) Chives in salads.

Chives are a perfect addition to your salads. You can use the purple flowers to turn your salad into a work-of-art, or chop up the chives as a delicious topping.

2) Use chives as garnish.

Chives are a fun way to food even more beautiful than it already is. Chives are so versatile to use, whether it’s just a sprinkle of chives for a garnish, or as a bed that food can lay on, or I’ve even seen it used as “grass” in a small vase.

You can also use chives to “bundle” small food together by tying the leaves.

3) Top potatoes with chives.

As far as I’m concerned, a baked potato isn’t a baked potato unless it has butter, cheese, sour cream and topped with fresh chives. I’m sure you think so too!

I fluctuate topping my mashed potatoes with either chives and parsley. Adding a touch of green to a sea of white comfort food.

4) Add chives to the top of your soup.

Homemade soup is something that everyone craves. Make yours a little bit more special by topping each bowl with fresh chives to make your soup into something even more special.

5) Potato salad and macaroni salad taste better with chives.

Mixing fresh chives in your potato and macaroni salads make one of your favorite side dishes taste even better.

6) Chives pair well with eggs.

Eggs and chives compliment each other. Whether you add chives to eggs benedict, omelets, scrambled eggs or quiche, you’ve turned a staple meal into something more.

7) Chives mixed with soft cheese.

Once I tasted chive cream cheese on my bagel, there was no going back to plain cream cheese. You can also mix it with other soft cheese to make your own delicious topping for crostini or bagels.

8) Pasta topped with chives.

Who doesn’t love pasta? I know I do. Adding fresh chives to your pasta dishes add some beautiful color to your plates.

9) Part of your baked goods.

Adding chives to bread, rolls and savory scones are just some of the ideas to use. I have a bakery near where I live that is run by a French pastry chef.

I have to pace myself for visits because I’m in love with their cheddar, bacon, and chive scones. They are seriously to-die-for.

10) Chive salad dressing.

Making your own salad dressing with fresh chives is the perfect way to dress your salad and add flavor at the same time.

11) Chives go well with fish.

Fish and chives pair well together too. Whether you add chives as an accent or use it as a starring ingredient with your favorite fish, its sure to help make your recipe into a winner.

12) Stir fry shines with the addition of chives.

Who doesn’t love good stir fry? Chives and sesame seeds are two of my favorite things to top them with.

Now that you know how easy to grow chives are, it’s time to think about adding them to your garden.

For inspiration, here’s an Enchanting Herb Farm in Michigan to stroll through on the website Only in Your State.

We’ve reached the end of How to Grow Chives. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Let me know in the comments below if you have your own herb garden and what your favorite plants are.

Related Herb Posts:

11 Reasons to Start an Herb Garden

Related Garden Posts:

How to Add Hygge to your Garden

She Shed Garden Tour

Gardening for Beginners – Tips and Tricks from Seasoned Gardeners

How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden Naturally

Take a Tour of a Rustic Garden Potting Shed

How to Grow a Salsa Garden

Growing Chives Is Easy Even If You Are A Beginner

Home › Basic Herb Garden › Growing Chives

Growing Chives – an easy to grow culinary herb that you can enjoy all year round.
Learn a few easy tricks and start growing and harvesting Chives all year round!

This herb is known by many and is a must-have! Chives are probably one of the easiest herbs to grow and they are very popular for their versatility in the kitchen.

Cooking With Chives

The spicy onion like flavour is great to enhance soups, soft cheeses, omelettes, pancakes or potato dishes. It is best added after cooking.

The pretty pink Chive flowers are also edible. Sprinkle them into salads, soups or use them as decorations.

How To Grow Chives

This perennial herb can be grown in the garden or in pots or window boxes. Choose a spot in sun or part shade that is not too dry for planting Chives.

You can grow chives from seed or buy it in pots at your local garden centre. You also often see pots of chives offered in supermarkets.

Quick Guide

Position: sun to part shade

Watering: keep moist but not wet

Feeding: every 10 days

Propagation: from seed or division

Cooking: add after cooking

Preserving: freeze

Growing Chives In Containers

Keep them on the window sill for a while and plant them out when they go tired. You can also pot them into a bigger container if you have no outdoor space.

Give the plant some time to recover before you start harvesting again. If you like to use a lot of chives it is best to have several Chive plants so as to have some you are using and others that are re-growing in parallel.

Growing Chives from seed is a very cheap way to produce a lot of plants and it grows easily and reasonably quickly too.

Sowing And Harvesting

Sow the seeds close together so as you end up with a dense Chives plant.

How to harvest Chives:

Await harvesting until the plant is strong. If you harvest too soon the plant will die. Cut off only half of the length and wait until they re-grow before taking from them again.

Another way to propagate Chives is to split existing clumps. Do that either in the spring or autumn. Lift up the clump or take it out of its container. Separate it into clumps of 12-15 bulbs and replant them.

Chives likes a bit richer soil than most other herbs so add some compost. Feed the plants regularly with some organic plant food particularly if you grow them in a pot.

How To Grow Chives In The Winter

More Herb Pages

Herbs In Pots

Organic Herbs

Herbs From Seed

Growing Basil

Growing Parsley

This is a great herb to grow inside on the window sill. It will keep you supplied with fresh Chives all winter.

Lift some Chives up from the garden in the autumn. Let the bulbs dry off for minimum 4 weeks. Replant them into a pot and bring them inside.

They will start growing again after a short time. Put it back into the garden once the plant goes tired.

Harvesting And Preserving Chives

If you have surplus Chives you can easily freeze them. Wash and chop the Chives, fill them into sealable containers and put in your freezer.

You can now take as much as you need out of the containers when you are cooking. Allow a few minutes for defrosting for salad dressings.

Try Growing Garlic Chives For More Variety And Flavour!

If you like a bit of variation try the Garlic Chives herb. This is a cross of chives and garlic and they have a mild garlic flavour.

You use and grow them the same as Chives. They add a nice bit of garlic flavour to your salad bowl and are great in cottage or cream cheese.

Gardening With Little Miss Greenfingers
Growing Culinary Herbs – Healthy & Delicious

Are you interested in growing culinary herbs? Check out our Little Miss Greenfingers Book on Growing Culinary Herbs In Containers! You will find loads of useful and easy to follow information that will make growing herbs a success for you. This book is available in the Amazon Kindle Store. Download now and start growing herbs like a pro!

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Home › Basic Herb Garden › Growing Chives

Growing Chives, Indoors or Out

Growing chives (Allium Schoenoprasum) in pots is common for kitchen gardeners, but they grow just as well in the ground.

Chives Growing in a Window Box
©Steve MasleyClick IMAGE to Enlarge

Chives are perennial alliums that produce for many years. Growing chives right outside your kitchen gives you ready access to a mild onion taste any time you need it.

Snip leaves and chop finely to add to soups, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, and pasta dishes. Chop and add to softened butter to put on baked potatoes or toast.

In the garden, chives make an attractive addition to borders and rock gardens. If allowed to flower (not advised for plants you plan to cook with), 1″ (2.5cm) pink flowers will crown many of the stems. Honey bees, bumble bees, and native pollinators love chive flowers.

Chive flowers are edible, and make a beautiful garnish, but letting chives flower reduces leaf quality and production.

How to Grow Chives | Growing Chives in Containers
Harvesting Chives

Varieties of Chives

There are two primary types of chives. Common Chives (Allium Schoenoprasum) are the chives cooks and gardeners are most familiar with, but Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum), a flat-leafed variety with a mild garlic taste that’s popular in Asian cuisines, are also readily available in local nurseries, both as seeds and plants.

Common chives are thinner and finer than garlic chives, and have pink flowers. Garlic chives have flat leaves and white flowers. They grow larger and need a bit more space in the garden. Both are excellent in containers.

Chive Cold Tolerance

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Chives are frost hardy, but they grow very slowly in cold temperatures. In areas with severe winters, cut the plants back to 2″ (5cm) above the ground in the fall and mulch with 3″ (7cm) of straw or coarse wood chips.

Planting Chives

When growing chives, it’s best to sow seeds directly. Broadcast seeds, or sow in rows 8-10″ (20-25cm) apart. Press the seeds into the soil so they make good contact, then cover with ½” (1cm) of soil or fine mulch, and water. Keep the seed bed evenly moist until germination, which should take 7-18 days, depending on temperature and seed age.

Chive seeds, like most allium seeds, lose viability rapidly, so plant seeds the same year you buy them. Germination rates decline very rapidly even in seeds that are stored well.

Soil Needs: Chives thrive in any fast-draining garden loam. Amend soil for growing chives with 2″ (5cm) of good garden compost or composted manure, and improve drainage in clay soils by adding coarse sand, perlite, or fine gravel or lava rock. See Improving Clay Soil for more information.

Add alfalfa meal, soy meal, worm castings, or composted chicken manure at the time of planting for a more luxurious crop. Finely crushed eggshells, oyster shell flour, or hardwood ashes (1-2lbs per 100 square feet) should be added to help neutralize acidic soils.

Plant Spacing: Thin chives to 4-6 shoots per clump, and space clumps about 8″ (20cm) apart.

Varieties | Planting | Care and Feeding | Pests
Containers | Harvesting

Care and Feeding of Chives

Watering: Regular watering produces larger, more succulent leaves. If you’re growing chives as a landscape plant or to attract beneficial insects, water less frequently to induce flowering.

Fertilizing: If you build organic fertilizer into the soil at planting time, subsequent feeding isn’t necessary until late in the season. However, if you cut the chives frequently, give them a shot of fish emulsion, compost extract, or compost tea to encourage re-growth.

Plant Care: For culinary use, keep flowers from forming by clipping flowering stalks down to the ground. Flowering makes the plant leaves coarser and less flavorful, as nutrients are pulled from the leaves to support flowering and seed production.

Divide 2-3-year old chive clumps to keep them productive. Transplant the divisions elsewhere, or give them to friends.

Pests and Diseases

Chives have few pests or diseases. Aphids may be seen at the bases of flowers, or on plants that are dying back before going dormant in winter, but they’re rarely a problem.

Wait for natural controls to check the population, or spray with a mild soap spray (2-3 drops of dish soap in 1 quart of lukewarm water).

Varieties | Planting | Care and Feeding | Pests
Containers | Harvesting

Growing Chives in Containers

Growing chives in containers and window boxes is really the best way to grow them. They can be grown right outside your kitchen, then, when it starts getting cold in the fall, bring the entire pot indoors, and set in a sunny window to keep a supply of chives growing through the winter.

Potting Mix for Growing Chives

1 part rehydrated coir or peat moss

1 part vermiculite, perlite, or small lava rock

2 parts good garden compost

For a 12″ (30 cm) pot, add 1/2 cup alfalfa meal or soy meal, or 2 cups of worm castings, and mix thoroughly.

If you’re planning to bring the plants indoors through the winter, choose a 6-8″ (15-20 cm) pot, but be aware that smaller pot sizes dry out quickly in summer heat, so they’ll need more frequent watering. Keep them in partial shade during the summer to reduce evaporation.

Use an organic potting mix from a local garden center, or make your own, following this recipe. Amend with 1/2 cup alfalfa or soy meal per 12″ (30 cm) pot, or 2 cups of worm castings.

Varieties | Planting | Care and Feeding | Pests
Containers | Harvesting

Harvesting Chives

Harvest Chives by snipping the leaves off 2″ (5 cm) above the base of the plant. New leaves will sprout to fill in the gap.

Chives can be chopped finely and frozen (with a little water to cover) in ice cube trays; pack the chopped chives into the tray cell to press out air before adding water. Turn the chive cubes out into a freezer bag or container, label them, and put them in the freezer door where they’re easy to get to. Add cubes to soups or sautees as needed.

Chive cubes will keep for 3-4 months in the freezer.

Chive Butter is a great way to preserve chives. Mix 2-3 Tbs of finely chopped chives into 1/2 cup (1 stick) of softened butter. Use on baked potatoes or toasted bagels.

Chive Vinegar can be made by steeping whole chive leaves in your favorite vinegar. Chive vinegar is a natural for salad dressings and vinaigrettes.

Top of Page | Planting Herbs | Container Chives
Harvesting Chives


Allium schoenoprasum

Prized for the delightful onion or garlic flavour of their leaves, chives are a member of the onion family native to Europe, Asia and North America. Chives are perennial herbs that are much easier to grow than traditional onions and garlic, with the added benefit of not taking as long between planting and harvest time. Chives are ideal plants for pots, make attractive grass-like plants in herb beds and can be used as pest repellent plants as well.

Planting Time: September – March

Position: Full sun – part shade

Water Needs: Low

Difficulty: Easy

How Long: Any time is a good time for chives!

Both garlic and onion chives will thrive in a full sun to partially shaded position, provided they are protected from strong winds. When there is a dry period, water deeply to ensure the root system is well hydrated and mulch well to retain moisture. If planting in a pot, go for one at least 30cm wide as chives can form clumps of up to 50cm wide. To encourage continuous supply of leaves, cut off the flowers; they are edible too so toss them in a salad to dress it up.

Chives are definitely not needy and will thrive in just about any type of soil. A little bit of compost mixed through the soil prior to planting is ideal and if planting in a pot, go for an organic potting mix. Chives in pots should have their soil replaced every three years to ensure flavour and performance is top-notch!

For those of you who with limited garden space, chives can be easily grown in pots indoors. A bright and sunny position, good quality well drained potting mix and good pot drainage is all you need. During winter when light is poor, you may notice that the plant will not grow much and may even die back a bit, but should spring back to life with the return of brighter sun in spring. It’s advisable not to fertilize during winter.

Possibly the least demanding of all our herbs, chives are generally happy not to be fed at all. If growth seems a little slow, or you have been harvesting a great deal, give them a drink of compost tea. Do the same if re-potting, or dividing up large clumps.

Chives are fairly drought tolerant, although those grown in pots (especially terracotta) have a tendency to dry out fairly quickly. A drink once or twice a week is sufficient if chives are planted in a rich soil or potting mix and mulched well.

Harvest as needed throughout the life of your chives.

As well as being hardy, chives are an excellent companion plant in the vegie and flower patch. Said to repel aphids, many rose growers swear by garlic chives as companion plants. They are also said to prevent apple scab, but keep them away from your beans though.

Passionate home cooks recommend that chives be eaten fresh – much better flavour. Extra chives can be frozen by chopping up prewashed leaves into small pieces and freezing them in plastic containers, or in water in ice cube trays. There is no need to thaw pieces out before using.

Here are a couple of recipes to get you inspired:

cheese chive scones

lemon chive dressing

Photos: Elaine Shallue & Mary Trigger

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