Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are part of the large onion family (Alliaceae) but are much quicker and easier to grow than onions as they are grown for their tasty leaves. They have tubular or flat, green, tangy leaves. The flat-leaved form has a garlic flavour and is known as garlic chives (A. tuberosum).

Finely chopped, they add a gentle onion flavour to foods such as salads and sandwiches and are used as a garnish to vegetables, especially potato as well as eggs, stews and soups. Chives team well with sour cream.

Plants grow in clumps which reach 20-30cm high (garlic chives may be 30-40cm high). They can be grown from potted plants, seedlings or from seed (sown in small clumps). It is also easy to divide existing clumps to reinvigorate a clump or for new plants.

Chives also make a wonderful border around the veggie patch and fruit orchards. They have the added benefit of their flowers being highly attractive to pollinators and beneficial insects.

Mature plants produce flowers in summer. These form on rigid stems that are held above the clump. Ordinary chives have heads of small purple flowers, while garlic chives produce larger heads of small white flowers. The buds and flowers are edible and make an attractive garnish, especially in a summer salad or potato dish.

Follow our seven easy steps to a successful chive harvest including tips along the way.

How to grow fresh chives - seven easy tips from seeds to harvest including planting, feeding and harvest
How to grow fresh chives - seven easy tips from seeds to harvest including planting, feeding and harvest

When to plant

Chives can be grown in most parts of Australia. Check with hardware and garden centres for varieties available in your local area.

  • In cool and cold climates, grow chives from spring after the last frost has passed until autumn. In winter they stop growing and reemerge in spring.
  • In warm and temperate regions, grow chives from September onwards.
  • In subtropical and tropical climates, chives can be grown most of the year.

Location

  • Chives grow best in full sun or light shade.
  • In cooler climates, ensure your chives have at least six hours of sun each day.
  • Chives prefer moist but well-drained soil, however, they are not fussy about soil type.
  • Grow chives in a herb garden, vegie bed, around fruit trees or in a container. Chives can be grown in small pots on a sunny kitchen windowsill.

Soil

Get the soil right for a bumper harvest of fresh chives.

Follow our steps for easy soil preparation.

Step 1 – Sowing seeds

  • Grow chives from seed sown thinly into a punnet or seed tray filled with seed raising mix such as Seasol Seed Raising & Cutting Potting Mix.
  • Chives seeds are very small so be careful when handling them. Mix with sand or potting mix before sowing.
  • Seeds can also be sown directly where plants are to be grown. Sow 3 or 4 seeds at 5mm deep, 15cm apart, in rows 15cm apart. Lighty cover with soil or seed raising mix.
  • Water in well with Seasol GOLD or Seasol, as this will help to increase seed germination rates. Soil should be moist but not wet, so check the soil moisture daily to ensure chive seeds have the right conditions to germinate.
  • When sowing into pots, grow them in medium to large pots that are 30-40cm high and wide.

Step 2 – Germination

  • Seeds take around 7 to 14 days to germinate when the temperature is around 18℃ to 21℃ degrees. They can take longer (up to 21 days) when the weather is cooler.
  • If growing seeds in cooler weather ready for when the weather warms, protect young seedlings from frost by leaving them inside in a warm position or use a heating pad.
  • Apply Seasol GOLD or Seasol weekly (mix 40mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water) as this will help to stimulate strong root development and healthy growth.
  • Protect from snails, slugs and the weather especially while shoots are emerging (See “Things to watch out for…” below).

Step 3 – Baby chive seedlings

  • Chives tend to start off as small clumps and grow to be around 30cm x 30cm. If overcrowding becomes too great, select the strongest seedling and thin out to 15cm between each seedling and transplant the rest.
  • If not transplanting, use scissors or tweezers to thin out seedlings to avoid disturbing young roots.
  • Chive seedlings need to be fed to develop and grow, so liquid feed with PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Tomatoes & Vegetables every two weeks. Increase the application rates from 20mL to 50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water as the plants mature.
  • Check soil moisture daily and water as needed when seedlings are young.

Step 4 – Planting out chive seedlings

  • Transplant seedlings into the garden or pot when they are around 10 to 15cm high and large enough to handle. Be careful not to distribute the clumping root system.
  • Space clumps of chives at least 15cm apart in rows 15cm apart.
  • Seedlings are also available from hardware and garden centres, ready to plant in pots or the garden. Follow the instructions for the plant according to the directions on the plant tag.
  • Check the moisture level of the soil daily and water when needed. Apply mulch around seedlings when they are around 15cm high to retain moisture.
How to grow fresh chives - seven easy tips from seeds to harvest including planting, feeding and harvest
How to grow fresh chives - seven easy tips from seeds to harvest including planting, feeding and harvest

Step 5 – Chive plant growth

  • Keep developing plants hand weeded or hoed and well watered. Weeds around chives can reduce air circulation and lead to disease.
  • Mulch around each plant with organic mulch such as sugarcane mulch, lucerne or pea straw. This helps suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.
  • Remove damaged and brown leaves when checking plants to encourage new healthy growth.
  • Check soil moisture daily and apply PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Tomatoes & Vegetables and Seasol GOLD or Seasol regularly for tasty chives.
  • Bolting can occur when the plant flowers prematurely (often due to stress of soil moisture or very hot temperatures). Ensure plants have enough water especially during times of heat.

Step 6 – Chive harvest

  • Chives can be harvested from 60 to 90 days from sowing or at any time using sharp scissors.
  • Cut the leaves close to the base of the plant, but for continuing growth, never harvest more than a 1/3 of the plant and take the outer leaves.
  • Use regular chive harvests in your favourite recipes to promote more leaf growth. If you don’t want to use the flowers or need the seeds, pruning them will encourage more leaf growth. Flowers can be used in salads.
  • The morning is the best time to harvest when leaves are lush and juicy. Put the leaves into water or a plastic bag to keep them fresh.
  • If your garden space allows, leave some plants to flower to set seed and also to provide nectar for pollinating insects

Step 7 – Propagating chives

  • Chives can easily be divided from an established clump into new, several smaller clumps in spring. This should be done every couple of years to stop the clumps from getting overcrowded.
  • Simply dig the chive clump up and using a sharp knife cut it into half or quarters depending on its size.
  • Dig a hole larger than the clump and replant the new plant into the soil prepared with organic manure, compost and/or Seasol Super Compost. Clumps can also be transplanted into a container using a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.
  • Water in with Seasol to aid plant establishment, a strong root system and healthy growth.
How to grow fresh chives - seven easy tips from seeds to harvest including planting, feeding and harvest
How to grow fresh chives - seven easy tips from seeds to harvest including planting, feeding and harvest

Things to watch for…

Chives are relatively trouble free and easy to grow.

  • Rust A fungal disease that causes brown to orange raised spots on leaves. Improve air circulation and remove worst affected leaves. Also keep clumps clear of invasive grasses such as twitch that can be difficult to remove from the clumps and can overwhelm the plants.
  • Snail and slugs They like to eat juicy young shoots so protect plants with an organic treatment such as a beer trap or sawdust sprinkled around the plant or use pet-friendly snail pallets.
  • Aphids They love to attack new young growth, especially on garlic chives. If the infestation is small, wipe them off with your hand (wear gloves) or spray with the hose. For a large infestation use EarthCare Natural Pyrethrum insect spray.