What You Need to Know About Chives

Chives have a very mild onion taste and are extremely easy to grow.

Once established in the garden, they will likely self sow (unless you cut off the flowers after they are finished) to give you all the leaves for fresh cutting, drying or freezing you could possibly use.

Having said that, your first patch of chives is likely going to be started indoors because they are very slow germinators.

Propagating Chives

Sow them inside in early spring in the pot you want to grow them in – transplanting them can be a bit of a pain – so growing them in a pot allows them to develop without any setbacks.

Put 6 -8 seeds in a 4" pot. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil and firm the soil. Water with luke warm water. Keep in bright light. The soil should be around 65-70F but if you've planted indoors in late spring, water with luke warm water to keep the soil temperature high when watering (cold water plunges soil temperatures) you should be fine without bottom heat.

If you sow outdoors for your first crop, plant small clumps of seeds as if you were putting them into a pot. Cover them lightly with fine soil (mark those spots with some kind of plant tag so you don't weed them out) and let them germinate on their own. It helps to keep the soil dampish during germination. They will likely take slightly longer to germinate outdoors than indoors.

Once all danger of frost is over, plant them outdoors as close to the kitchen door as possible. The first reason is because they're attractive little spring bloomers with their purple flower heads. The second reason is because it is more likely you'll use a few sprigs in salads and cooking if they're easy to cut. Walk out the door, snip, and you've harvested the lunch garnish or the fixings for the fried egg salad.


Chive blossoms

Full Sun

When planted outdoors, they do like full sun and a loose open soil with good drainage.

They're like most members of the onion family and will rot off if kept constantly damp. Watering regularly in the summer is a good idea to keep them growing strongly.


If you have several clumps, you can divide one of them in the fall (simply insert a shovel into the middle and dig up half the clump) and pot up the clump. Take it indoors to the sunniest windowsill you have and enjoy fresh chives all winter long. Sometimes the bulbs will want to go dormant or will die off. Don't worry about this because if you've let the flowers go to seed, you'll have ample replacements for next winter.

A clump of 8 seeds will mature rather rapidly and will likely need dividing every three to four years to maintain leaf size. If you see the leaf size getting thinner, it is time to divide.


If you want to take a full harvest at one time, cut off the flowers right after then have bloomed and then harvest the entire clump of leaves right to the ground. They will resprout quickly and do not resent this treatment.

Note that the flowers are equally edible and are used in gourmet cooking.

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"Profusion" is a variety that keeps flowers edible longer and is good for indoor use.

"Grande" has wider leaves than normal.

"Grolau" was developed for indoor and greenhouse forcing. Keep it well lit and well harvested for best performance.

Garlic chives Allium tuberosum is a chives type plant with flat leaves and white flowers. The leaves have a garlic taste along with the expected onion flavour. I wouldn't have an herb garden without this form of chives.

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