How to Grow Chives/ Garlic Chives: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Chives are an easy-to-grow perennial herb used primarily for the mildly garlic-flavoured leaves. The flowers are also edible and can be used as a garnish in salads. Chives are best used fresh, but chopped leaves can be frozen.

Cultivation: Chives do best in well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter but they tolerate heavier soils. Chives prefer full sun, eventually developing into a clump about 30 centimetres wide. They are also well-suited to growing in containers. Chives should be kept watered during dry spells. Outdoors, chives die to the ground in winter.

Start chives indoors and transplant seedlings outside once danger of frost has passed. Alternatively, you can purchase plants or divide an existing clump. Chives benefit from division every three years or so. One way to have fresh chives in the winter is to dig up a small clump in the fall, transfer it into a pot, and keep it on a sunny windowsill.

Harvest leaves by snipping them close to the base. A crop of fresh leaves can be achieved by cutting growth close to the ground after flowering, which will also prevent unwanted spread from self-seeding.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). As its name suggests, this variety has a more noticeable garlic flavour. The leaves are flat and the overall clump tends to be bigger than regular chives. It also has attractive white flowers in late summer. To prevent self-seeding, flower heads should be removed when they start to form seeds. Garlic chives can become invasive, so plant them with care and remove excess seedlings. See Garlic Chives, Wisconsin Horticulture Extension.

Disclaimer: Toronto Master Gardeners does not advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. Any information in the recommended resources should be regarded as being for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

 For more information:

ASK extension:  https://ask2.extension.org/kb/faq.php?id=448518

RHS Herbs:Growing  https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=679

U of Minnesota Extension, Growing Chives https://extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-chives

RHS Grow your own herbs: Chives  https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/herbs/chives

University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension

https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/garlic-chives-allium-tuberosum/

Date revised: December 2021

Prepared by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics.  Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration.  Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.

Statement on Invasive Plants: When choosing plants, avoid invasive plants, which can spread quickly and dominate gardens.  Invasive plants are sold by nurseries, big box stores or even at community plant sales.  Invasives may already be present in your garden.  They can invade gardens by spreading from under a neighbour’s fence or may be transported by wildlife.  For beautiful, sustainable options to invasive plants, see the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s “Grow Me Instead – Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for your Garden” at https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/resources/grow-me-instead/before purchasing or accepting “gifts” of plants.

Statement on Home Remedies: The Toronto Master Gardeners do not recommend home remedies, as these have not been proven effective through scientific investigation, and may even damage other living organisms in the soil or plants in your garden.  There are other garden friendly options you can use.

If you have further gardening questions, reach us at our gardening advice line 416 397 1345 or by posting your question here in the Ask a Master Gardener section.  To book Toronto Master Gardener volunteers for talks, demonstrations, advice clinics, or other services, please contact us at 416 397 1345  or bookamg@torontomastergardeners.ca