Chives, A Classic, Easy to Grow Garden Herb

Chives are one of the easiest garden herbs to grow. There’s nothing like finding their bright green spikes popping through the ground first thing in spring, often when there is still snow all around. After six months of winter, they are indeed a welcome sight.

chives early spring

Also Read: 12 Favourite Chive Recipes, How to Prune Chive BlossomsChive Blossom Infused Vinegar

Of course, their fresh, mild onion flavor is a welcome addition to many recipes as well. Be sure to check out 12 Favourite Chive Recipes.

Chives are the perfect herb for beginning gardeners. They grow quickly in just about any soil or sun conditions and recover very nicely when harvested for a meal. Their pretty mauve flowers also make a lovely decorative addition to flower beds or tree guilds as shown here.

chives around the apple tree

Splitting Existing Chives

Splitting existing clumps of chives is the quickest and easiest way to start a new bunch and it’s good for the plant.

Dividing an existing clump will rejuvenate the plant and prevent the center of the patch from drying out and blades from becoming limp.

The best time to divide chives is early in the spring or in the fall. Use a garden fork to dig out the whole plant and then gently break apart into several segments. Plant these segments in a new location, share them with others, bring some inside or compost them.

It’s a good idea to do this every 3 to 4 years to keep your chives at their best.

chive blossoms

Growing Chives

If chives aren’t a part of your garden yet, here’s everything you need to know about growing, harvesting and using chives.

Botanical Name: Allium schoenoprasum

Description: Chives are a drought tolerant, cold hardy perennial that belong to the allium family along with onions, leeks and garlic.  They grow in clumps from underground bulbs that produce round, hollow spiky leaves that get about 10-12 inches long. Their round, mauve flowers appear in early summer and are best removed when faded to prevent rampant self seeding.

chives roots

Flavor: mild onion like flavor

Appearance:

  • clusters of round, hollow, spear-like leaves
  • dark green with mauve round flower heads in early summer

Height: 20 – 30 cm (10-12 inches)

Hardiness: Zone 3

Type: Perennial (return via same roots every year)

Exposure: thrive in full sun, will do okay in part shade

Soil Preference: tolerant of all soil types but do like some organic matter

How to Start – two options

  1. Start seed indoors about 8 weeks before last frost date (mid-March in Manitoba) and transfer outside when soil warms in mid May.
  2. Divide existing growth in early spring. Dividing clumps every 3 to 4 years is actually beneficial and will rejuvenate plants.

How to Harvest: cut leaves 2-3 cm (1 inch) from ground

When to Harvest: harvest from spring to fall, although they will grow more slowly in the heat of summer

Best Way to Preserve: best frozen, can be dried, but flavor and color fade quickly

Special notes: Remove dead blossoms to prevent self-seeding – read more about Pruning Chive Blossoms or use them to Infuse Vinegar

Use: in savory dishes, dips, dressings, breads/biscuits, salads, herb butter, egg dishes, potatoes – try these recipes

Chive Biscuits

Cheddar Chive Rolls – Yeast Buns

Favorite Sour Cream & Herb Vegetable Dip

Chive and Lemon Vinaigrette

Ricotta Herb Spread

Dillicious Egg Salad

Herb Butter

Chive Blossom Infused Vinegar

What are Garlic Chives?

garlic chives
Garlic chives have a flat leaf blade and taste a lot like garlic.

Garlic ChivesAllium tuberosum

Garlic chives, sometimes referred to as Chinese chives, are grown and used very much like chives but taste much more like garlic than onions. The leaves are also noticeably different with garlic chive leaves being flat, grass-like blades. Their flowers are tiny white star shapes in globe like groupings that attract beneficial pollinators. Use flowers and leaves in savory dishes where a fresh garlic flavor is desired.

chives and garlic chives
Chives are round hollow spikes, garlic chives are flat blades.

Do you grow chives? Have any favorite recipes?

I’d love to see your chives and favourite recipes. Take a photo, post it on Instagram and tag #getgettys so I can see it and like it!

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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2 Comments

  1. Is late May in zone 6 south central Kentucky too late to late to divide chives? If so do I have to wait until next spring? Thanks for all the helpful info you share.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I’ve been pretty harsh with my chives and have divided or moved them just about any time and they’ve always bounced back just fine. However, the ideal time to move them is late summer. Water the clump well a couple of hours before digging up to soften the roots. Prepare your new spot in a sunny location with a bit of compost. When splitting, get at least four or five root bulbs in each bunch you’re transplanting. Water again and then wait for the magic! You should be able to harvest in about 30 days.
      Good luck!

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