Everything You Need to Know About Growing Chives at Home

updated Jun 4, 2024
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Young woman gardening and cutting fresh chives with scissors.
Credit: Kay Fochtmann/Shutterstock

You might not consider yourself much of a home gardener — but if you love to cook (especially when it comes to fresh, seasonal flavors), learning how to grow culinary herbs is a skill that really comes in handy. It’s super easy to grow your own herbs, regardless of whether you’re limited by time, space, money, or that highly coveted green thumb.

Chives are one of the easiest plants to grow at home. I’m talking low-maintenance, high-yield, and serious versatility. They also are one of the first herbs to pop up in the spring, making them a great one to plant for the season. Here’s everything you need to know about how to plant, cultivate, harvest, and preserve chives. Plus, some of our favorite recipes featuring this flavorful herb!

Why You Should Grow Chives at Home

I tell all my non-gardening friends that chives are the “gateway herb.” Because they are so easy to grow, chives build up a new gardener’s confidence, allowing for further exploration with growing other delicious herbs. Since they’re perennials, they grow back each spring and are one of the first to arrive on the scene during the cooler season.

Chives (allium schoenoprasum) have a light onion flavor, and their hollow, green leaves can grace your summer salads, soups, omelets, and almost anything else that needs a hint of flavor or an herbaceous punch. They’re a classic match for potato salad, of course, but are versatile enough to work with almost any cuisine.

Did I mention the entire plant is edible? The leaves, blossoms, and even bulbs to a lesser extent, all have various uses in the kitchen. Pollinators are also attracted to chives’ vibrant, purple blossoms, which is a major plus if you’re planting them in your garden.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

How to Plant Chives

  • Where: I plant my chives throughout my landscaping, so you’ll find them along the walkway, within my wildflowers, and alongside my tomatoes and carrots. Chives also grow well in container gardens and thrive indoors on a sunny windowsill.
  • When: Set chive seedlings into your backyard garden or container garden once the ground temperature hits at least 65°F. If you’re planting chives from seed, start them indoors, optimally, so they will have a head start on the growing season, once you’re ready to set them in the ground. Aim to sow the seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last projected frost and transplant them, when the seedlings are about two inches tall.
  • Planting chives in containers: Chives have a shallow root system, so they need plenty of space to stretch out. If planting in a pot, choose one that’s roughly 8 to 12 inches deep. Terracotta pots are best because the material is more breathable, which helps prevent root rot. Wooden or metal containers also work well too, but be weary that they can get especially hot in the sun. Be sure whichever you choose has drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Planting chives in the ground: Chive bulbs are small and grow close to the top of the soil, so you can use mulch to keep the weeds down. You can also plant chives in rooted clumps rather than starting from seed.

How to Grow Chives

  • Soil: Plant chives in fertile, well-drained soil. Integrate a little bit of organic fertilizer or healthy compost into the soil and avoid over-fertilizing throughout the season to obtain the best flavor.
  • Sun: Chives thrive in full sun, but they will grow almost anywhere. If you’re growing chives indoors, place them in a south-facing window or a spot that receives at least six hours of sunshine per day.
  • Water: Keep the soil moist. Chives grow best when watered frequently, as long as there is proper soil drainage.
  • Spacing: Chives grow about 12 inches tall and spread about 12 inches across. Every three or four years, divide the bulbs, so that they keep proliferating.
  • Companion Planting: Plant chives alongside carrots, celery, tomatoes, mustard greens, lettuce, peas, and/or cabbage for the healthiest growth. (Chives are known to actually repel carrot flies, aphids, and cabbage worms.) This spring, I planted chives near my apple tree, since chives are known to prevent apple scab — talk about putting your garden to work for you!
(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

How to Harvest Chives

  • Leaves: You can start harvesting from your chive plant roughly 60 days after seeding (or 30 days if you transplanted it). Using garden shears, clip chive leaves, cutting one to two inches above the soil. Clip leaves from the outer portion of the plant first, making sure not to clip all of the plant at once. If you accidentally cut back all of the plant, no worries. It will grow back the following year! Wait to harvest your chives until the plant is at least six inches tall.
  • Blossoms: Clip the flower at the base of its stem. The stem is edible but is often tougher and “woodier” in taste than its leaves. Chives flower between May and June, and the blossoms are tasty in salads and in chive blossom vinegar.

Troubleshooting Your Chive Plants

Chives are fairly easy to grow, but if things don’t go to plan, follow these foolproof tips and tricks.

  • Beware of overwatering. Chives like moist soil, but overwatering them will cause root rot, which can kill them. Under-watering, on the other hand, will lead to tasteless leaves, so try to find that perfect balance. Water your chive plants enough to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
  • Give them the perfect temperature. Chives thrive when the temperature is between 39°F – 84°F. If the temperature falls below 39°F, the plant will go dormant and you won’t see any growth. If this happens, you can bring them inside, but be sure to keep them away from drafts. You can also cover the plants outdoors during freezing temperatures.
  • Harvest and prune regularly. Chives like space so don’t be shy when it comes to harvesting. You can easily divide the plants if necessary to give them even more space to spread out and grow. Chives are usually pretty tolerant to being moved. If you allow your plant to fully develop flowers, be mindful that this helps scatter their seeds, so you may end up with more plants than originally intended.

How to Preserve Chives

Chives are the workhorse of my kitchen — I use them almost daily! I find such satisfaction clipping a few leaves and tossing them in my omelet or atop my vegetable stir fry at lunch. I’ve been growing them for years, and even when I forget to tend to them, they keep faithfully producing. Since the entire plant is edible, there are many exciting ways to use chives. You can freeze them, dehydrate them, or add them to condiments. Find more details on how to preserve and enjoy your chives here.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

The Kitchn’s Favorite Chive Recipes

How do your chives grow best? Do you plant them in the garden or in pots? What tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments below!