Chives, Onion’s Little Brother

Ilona Erwin

Chives are part of the culinary herb garden, but can be tucked in anywhere – pots, edges, odd corners of a flower bed. They are easy to grow and easy to harvest, as well as being pretty and polite. They grow from small bulbs and can be multiplied by simply digging up a bit of the clump and replanting in the desired location. The leaves are chopped for a bright green garnish and they add a hint of onion flavor wherever they are tossed.

What Do Chives Look Like?

Chives, or Allium schoenoprasum, grow about 8-10 inches tall in my garden, but some sources indicate they can grow to twenty. Bright green tube shoot from the ground early in the season, turning a bit duller green as they mature. Cheerful little lavender pom-poms of blooms appear in June and July, attractive to bees.

How To Grow An Allium

Alliums all like sun, and Allium schoenoprasum is no exception. Give full sun, well drained good garden soil, and regular moisture. They grow in neutral to sweet soil, pH 6 to 8. Enrich with organic matter, a bit of bone meal, and they will love you for it. Regular harvesting for your kitchen will keep chive plants looking fresh.

Chives have a long growing season, starting early and lasting past the first light frosts. Under a cloche, who knows?

Chives grow in a clump and should be spaced 6-12 inches apart.

Don’t overfertilize.

Can be be grown from seed, but germinate slowly. If you grow from seed: germinate at a minimum temperature of 15 °C [58, or 59 °F] and keep moist. More than four weeks until transplanting to garden. I always simply use divisions of the clump, which gives results more quickly.

[ Fun Facts ]

There is some evidence that chives can improve digestion and reduce high blood pressure. –U. of Minnesota Extension

They have antibacterial properties.

Chives can be frozen by chopping up prewashed and drained leaves into small pieces and freezing them in plastic containers. That is what my mother liked to do, so she had a fresh supply all through the winter.

As a companion plant it will repel insect pests. Chives and garlic deter aphids from lettuce and peas; improve flavor of tomatoes and carrots.

What Are Some Culinary Tips For Using Chives?

The flowers are edible and have a pungent flavor somewhat more intense than the leaves. Salads dressed up with these and a few Nasturtium blossoms would be tasty and quite a color burst in the salad bowl.

After cutting, keep the leaves standing in a glass of water on the counter, or wrapped in a damp paper towel in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. I like to use kitchen shears to cut them.


Chives botanical illustration

Use chives:

  • with baked potatoes
  • as garnish on tomato soup
  • with fish, eggs [quiches-omelets-scrambled], and veggies
  • in white sauces, or white wine sauce
  • worked into softened butter
  • in vinaigrette
  • and seafood salads
chive blossom photo by Captain-tucker

Pale lavender allium blossom

Yum! Some recipes to try:

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.