Name: chives, garden chives, common chives, onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum).
Plant type: perennial.
Climate: all climates.
Soil: plant in a soil enriched with compost and well-aged manure, or try growing in pots in a premium organic potting mix.
Position: full sun, but can be grown indoors or in part shade.
Flowering and fruiting: purple pompom-like flowers are produced on flowering stems in late spring and summer.
Feeding: apply blood and bone or dynamic lifter in autumn and spring.
Watering: although tolerant of short dry periods, regular watering is best. Mulch to improve soil moisture.
Chives are clump-forming perennials with narrow, hollow, cylindrical foliage that has a pleasing mild onion-like flavour. Typically, the leaves are used in cooking and the purple pompom-like flowers are used in salads, although the entire plant is edible.
Aside from the obvious culinary purposes, chives can also be grown as a wonderful edging plant, especially in vegetable gardens and orchards. With pest-repelling qualities as well as attracting pollinators, chives are a popular companion herb, especially under apple trees or planted alongside tomatoes.
Chives can be grown from seed sown in spring, summer or autumn. Evergreen in tropical climates, chives die down in winter in cold and warm temperate climates before re-emerging again in spring.
Sow seed directly in the garden or start in punnets. Seedlings will establish in the garden easily, rapidly growing into a clump around 30 × 30cm.
Chives should be harvested from the outside in. Never take more than around a third of the plant at a time, and give plants time to establish before harvesting.
Also popular in pots, chives are an easy-to-grow, versatile herb that will tolerate most conditions, but they are most flavoursome when grown in an enriched soil with adequate moisture.
Chives are very easy to grow – regular water and seasonal fertiliser is all that's required, especially if you have planted your chives in an improved soil or premium potting mix and mulched to reduce weed competition.
Although chives are tolerant of frost, wait until all likelihood of frost has passed before planting or sowing chives in the garden in spring.
Being a low-maintenance plant, chives only need watering once or twice a week, more often in dry conditions. Apply blood and bone in spring and autumn. An application of an organic liquid fertiliser will also help to improve the overall health and vigour of your chives.
Harvest your chives as needed; no further pruning is required. Remove the flower stems to improve flavour and to keep your chives productive. You can add the flowers to salads.
Protect your plants from snails and slugs when they're young, using pet-friendly snail pellets or traps. As plants mature, they will be relatively pest free.
Chives can be propagated by seed or division.
Divide plants in early spring once they're actively growing. This should be done every 3–4 years to keep plants productive and to prevent overcrowding.
Simply dig up the entire clump and cut it in half or quarters, depending on the size of the clump, using a sharp knife or spade.
If you would like to propagate chives from seed, leave them to flower and set seed in autumn.
Remove the dry flowerheads as soon as they brown, but before their seed is released.
Leave to dry indoors for a few days before placing in a paper bag and shaking vigorously. Seed will be released from the flowerheads.
Dry the seed on paper towel for a week or two before storing in a clearly marked envelope, ready for sowing next spring.
Spring onions: easy to grow and a versatile kitchen ingredient.
Flat leaf parsley: another staple herb of the garden that's used in the same cuisine as chives.
Chilli: spice up your kitchen with the addition of homegrown fresh or dried chilli.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!
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