Chives are a great addition to your herb collection. With grass-like, mild, onion-flavoured leaves and purple miniature allium flowers, it’s a very ornamental herb plant, loved by bees. The chopped leaves and flowers make lovely summer garnishes for salads and soups.
Chives are easy to grow, even if you only have a windowsill, as they thrive both in containers and in the ground.
How to grow chives
Grow chives in moist but well-drained soil or compost in full sun to partial shade. Harvest the leaves and flowers as and when you need to. Chives are perennial so will come back year after year. They grow well in pots but are best suited to growing in the ground.
More on growing chives:
- How to rejuvenate chives
- How to divide oregano, chives and lemon balm
- Eight shade-loving herbs to grow
How to grow chives from seed
Sow chive seeds into a small pot or module. Chives need between 20-25°C to germinate so use a heated propagator, or place on a warm windowsill. Seedlings should appear within three weeks. There’s no need to thin them out unless your pot is very crowded.
When your seedlings are about 5cm high, they can be moved from the propagator and transplanted into 15-20 cm (6–8 inch) pots of peat-free multi-purpose compost. Grow these young plants on in cooler conditions, taking care to harden them off for about a week before planting them outside.
For their final growing conditions, plant chives in a large pot or the ground.
How to care for chives
Chives do best in fertile, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Keep plants well watered, particularly during hot weather.
Chives are perennial plants, so they will die back in winter and regrow in spring.
Pot grown chives will need dividing and repotting every couple of years. Chives growing in the ground can also become congested. Lift and divide congested clumps to rejuvenate them. Plant out the divisions to make new chive plants, or pass them on to friends.
Growing chives: problem solving
Chives are relatively trouble-free but can be prone to greenfly on new shoots, particularly if being grown in a greenhouse. Simply remove the greenflies from the leaves with your fingers or use a biological control.
Leek rust is a fungal disease that can cause bright yellow spots on chive leaves. Once it’s infected plants, there’s no cure so it’s best to dispose of the plants. Don’t add to the compost heap as the disease could spread. Keep chive plants well spaced as this can affect how the disease develops. Wet weather can contribute to the spread of leek rust and serious infections can cause leaves to shrivel. If leek rust is a problem, avoid growing leeks, garlic or onions in the same spot.
Snip chives with scissors as required, cutting the leaves from the base of the plant. This will encourage more leaves to grow. If you want to use the flowers as a decorative garnish, snip the heads off, as the stems of flowering shoots are not edible.
Chives are best used freshly picked, as a garnish for salads and soups, or chicken, fish, egg or cheese dishes. They can be frozen for later use in cooked dishes, but will lose some flavour and texture.
Organic growing tip
Chives are a good companion plant for carrots, as the smell can deter pests such as carrot root fly.