Sow chive seeds at any time of year. Hardy, perennial, and easy to grow, the chopped stems and pink flowers add a fresh, mild green onion flavour to sandwiches, salads and baked potatoes. Clumps can be divided in spring or fall. If grown in containers, divide frequently enough to provide for constant lateral growth. Chives are surprisingly hardy and can be harvested all winter if given some protection from extreme cold. They are also quite drought tolerant, so they're good candidates for xeriscaping. The edible flowers are highly attractive to bumblebees, hoverflies, and other beneficial garden insects.
Chives have been in use as a culinary herb in China since around 3,000 BC. It was Marco Polo who returned westward with the notion that they made good eating, but chives were not popular in European gardens until the 16th century. Continue reading below for our top tips on how to grow chives from seed.
Allium schoenoprasum & A. tuberosum
Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full sun
Zone: Hardy to Zone 3
Start indoors from late winter through mid-spring, and transplant or direct sow once the soil has warmed in late spring. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 19°C (65°F).
Sow 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep and keep moist until germination. If starting indoors, use bottom heat and plant 10-15 seeds per cell in a 72 cell plug tray. Transplant either into containers or into the garden once the soil has warmed up. Space clumps 15cm (6″) apart.
Clumps of chives spread to about 30cm (12″) across. They should be divided at that point and replanted to stand 30cm (12″) apart or broken up for container planting. Remove flower stems before they open to increase foliage production. Keep chives watered evenly throughout the season. For a winter crop, try digging up a small clump after the foliage dies back in the fall. Plant this in a container using loamy potting mix, and bring indoors to a warm, and very bright windowsill.
The whole plant can be cut down to 4cm (2″) from the ground. Use scissors and take as much as needed. Chives don’t dehydrate well, so use fresh portions regularly. The flowers can be used in salads or to flavour vinegars.
In optimal conditions at least 65% of seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years.
Chives are said to improve the flavour of carrots and tomatoes, and make a good companion plant for Brassicas. They help to repel aphids, carrot rust fly, and Japanese beetles. Avoid planting near beans and peas.
More on Companion Planting.