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Chives are among the most versatile herbs designed to infuse more delicious flavors into many dishes. What’s even great about chives is that they can produce lovely flowers.
Growing chives can make your herb and vegetable garden even more interesting. Let’s learn about how you can grow chive plants through this article.
Quick Facts About the Chive Plants (Allium Schoenoprasum)
- Common name: Common chives, chives
- Type of plant: Perennial, herbaceous
- Size upon maturity: 10 to 14 inches tall, similar when spread
- Type of soil: Sandy, loamy, well-drained soil
- Soil pH level: A bit acidic to neutral
- Sun exposure: Light shade, full sun
- Bloom time: Early summer
- Color of flowers: Lilac purple
- Native areas: Asia, Europe, North America
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 3 to 9
Short Description of the Plant Chives
Chives belong to the onion family – the family which garlic and leeks are also a part of. They are naturally perennial and serve as delicious additions to flower, herb, and vegetable gardens.
This plant often features purple flowers and green leaves and has high levels of Vitamins A and C. It has a clump-forming habit and can provide a delicate and mild onion flavor to any dish you are planning to cook.
Chive is also an herb you can plant in a perennial flower bed, making it resemble an ornamental. The reason is that it has neat clumps of green leaves. The purple flowers that it blooms often come out starting from the late spring season to the early summer.
What’s even more beneficial about the chive flowers is that they can attract beneficial insects to your garden. One more thing that makes chives so good is that they are adaptable, making them capable of growing anywhere, even in plastic containers.
Once you have established plants, clumps of this herb can be expected to return every spring. In some cases, they are the first greens that tend to appear in your vegetable or herb garden.
When planning to grow chives, getting to know more about their different types and varieties is advisable. That way, you can better decide which one fits your area and garden the most.
The most common types/varieties are the following:
Among the most well-known chives are the common chives, also known as the Allium schoenoprasum. Many gardeners grow and cultivate this type because of their attractive green leaves, around ten to twelve inches in size. Many are also in love with its pink-purple flowers.
Garlic Chives (Allium Tuberosum)
Also called Chinese chives, garlic chives look the same as common chives. What makes it different is that its garlic flavor is only light. You will also notice the garlic chives are a bit taller.
Garlic chives also feature greener and flatter leaves compared to the other types or varieties. In addition, they always bloom white flowers. One more quality of the garlic chives is that they can tolerate the cold, which is why they are also known as cold-tolerant perennials.
Siberian Garlic Chives
Also known as Allium nutans, the Siberian garlic chives boast of their unique onion-garlic taste. You will also notice that their pink flowers bloom during midsummer. In addition, they feature erect foliage in the shade of blue green.
Giant Siberian Chives
You can expect the Giant Siberian chives, also known as the Allium ledebourianum, to stand out distinctively in your garden as it is capable of growing around two feet tall. This chive variety is also otherwise referred to as wild onion.
The Giant Siberian chive taste is richer than the other types or varieties. You will immediately notice its intense and strong onion-garlic flavor. This chive plant is also taller and blooms big rose-violet flowers.
Growing Chives from Seeds
To grow chives from seed, you can sow the chive seeds outdoors during spring so they will germinate after a few weeks. During that period, you have to maintain a temperature of around 65 to 75 degrees F.
In case of cold temperatures during the early spring, it is highly recommended to sow their seeds in a tray and put it on a sunny windowsill, meaning it should receive sufficient sunlight. Do this at around 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last spring frost.
When sowing the seeds, ensure that they are close to the surface. There should also be proper spacing between each seed. For seedlings that were germinated indoors so you can transplant chives outdoors, let them harden first. You can do that by increasing long visits outdoors to around ten days.
After sowing in seed trays, you can plant them outside but make sure that they are in groups composed of 3 to 4 seedlings as this is the key to making them grow in tiny clumps. One more thing that you have to exercise when planting seeds outside is patience.
It takes quite a while for the germination to complete, usually around two to three weeks. Outside, it is advisable to sow seeds in groups or clusters of a few seeds at around one-fourth inch deep. You have to space plants properly (in the case of chives around one inch).
Maintain the moisture of the seeds. Once the chive plants become taller by a few inches, you can thin them to around eight inches apart. The thinning can actually be used afterward, either by replanting it into another area or including it in your salads.
How to Grow Chives in Containers or Pots
You can also use pots or containers in growing chives. In this case, you only have to plant chives once. After that, you can expect every season to present you with newly grown leaves, even in areas that have cold weather that cause the leaves of other plants to die during the winter.
To start growing chives in containers or pots, you need a fill a large pot or container with potting soil then plant the chives in there. Make sure that the bottom of the container has holes where the water can drain properly.
Use a slow-release and organic fertilizer and dig it in with the potting soil. You should then plant the chives as deeply as they were in the pots or containers. Water the chive plants and maintain the moisture in the soil as they get established inside the container.
Caring for your Chives
After you have successfully planted chives, you have to start caring for them and giving them what they need to grow healthily and productively. The following are among their most important needs – whether you are growing indoors or outdoors:
Look for a spot where your chives will receive full sun – a minimum of 6-hour direct sunlight daily. You can also expect chives to tolerate light shade or partial sun if you can’t provide it with the full option. However, the display of flowers may not be that impressive if they are in shady spots.
There is a high chance for you to produce the most fruitful and productive harvest if you grow chives in the right soil. In this case, you need rich, moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, the specific conditions that make onions thrive and survive.
You may also stimulate better growth during the entire season if you put in organic compost upon planting.
Once established, you can expect chives to become drought tolerant. However, it does not also mean that you can already ignore or neglect their watering needs, especially when the weather is dry and hot.
Encourage better harvest by ensuring that the chive plants stay moist consistently throughout the entire growing season. It also helps to mulch in case you can’t keep up with watering the plants.
Mulching helps in conserving moisture. This means that it can help make the soil moist for longer since the chive bulbs are often planted near the soil surface.
One positive quality of chives is that they do not require plenty of nutrients to thrive and survive. In other words, it is not completely necessary to fertilize it frequently.
Despite that, it would still be good for your chives to receive a top dressing using a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. Apply the nitrogen-heavy fertilizer during the early summer or the late spring.
Humidity and Temperature
As herbs that thrive during the cold season, you can expect chives to have a bountiful harvest during the fall and early spring. There are also times when the summer’s extreme heat causes the plants’ dormancy in the middle of that hot season.
Extreme cold is also harsh for the chives as it may cause their foliage to die. This is the reason why chives grown in a pot or container need to be overwintered indoors.
To mulch the plants, use compost or other organic material, like pine straw or wood chips. Mulching is essential as it aids in retaining moisture and suppressing weeds. For container-grown or pot-grown chives, promote better drainage by using potting soil.
Avoid the use of 100% topsoil or compost in container or pot plantings as it may only weaken the plants and make them drain poorly. However, if you still plan on using compost, combine it with coconut coir or peat and sand first. This should help improve drainage and acquire more oxygen.
You can do the harvest based on your intended purpose for growing the plant chives. If you grow this plant specifically because of its food value, then harvesting should be done by cutting off its flower buds prior to their actual blooming. This should stimulate more vigorous and abundant growth.
Harvesting leaves during the early morning, specifically before the sun’s heat dehydrates them, is also highly advisable. Harvest chive leaves by wrapping your hand on a clump or group of them.
Use a sharp and clean pair of scissors to cut a few inches over that area where the chive plant meets or connects with the soil. Make it a point to leave a few greens at the plant’s base. This should encourage regeneration.
It would be best to use chives while they are still fresh right after picking. You can also freeze and preserve chives for a while before use. Also, note that their flavors tend to diminish if you dry and store chives for a long time.
Do you want to consume chive flowers? Then pick them right after completely opening them as it is the time when they deliver the best flavor, especially when added to your dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Will chives grow back after cutting?
Yes. You just have to make sure that you harvest chives correctly so you can continue to witness and enjoy their new growth next season.
Where do chives grow best?
Chives tend to grow really well in areas that receive partial shade or full sun. Ensure that you are also growing them in sandy and well-drained loam or soil with high organic matter content. Do not plant chives in wet soil as it may lead to bulb and stem disease.
Should you let chives flower?
Yes, you can. Note, though, that this move may also result in smaller harvests. Despite that, you will still enjoy its aesthetically pleasing and edible flowers.
How do you harvest chives, so it keeps growing?
Once the chive plants bloom, you can make the harvest by cutting back the entire plant to around two to three inches tall, so it can sprout tender new leaves. You can also do the cutting two or three times throughout the plant’s growing season. As for the regrowth, you will notice it happening exactly at the base of the plant.
Do you need to propagate chives?
One good thing about chives is that you can easily propagate them through division – this means you have to divide clumps of this impressive herb.
Dividing clumps is even advisable every few years even if you have no plans of making and growing new plants. This is important in making the plants healthy and productive and ensuring that they do not get overly congested.
Is pruning necessary?
Pruning is necessary if you do not plan on making the chive pop up over your whole garden. You can do this by deadheading chive flowers right after blooming. It also helps prevent the spread of the seeds.
With the many uses of chives, growing them home is worth it. It will give you easy access to your own herbs, which you can use in many things–such as dried or fresh culinary herbs, ornamental plants in containers and gardens, and flower arrangements.