Chives grow to 16 inches tall, are easy to grow outside or in pots. They like lots of sun, so a windowsill is a great place. They have a wonderful delicate onion flavor, and develop a pretty pink flower. Find out all you need to know about this wonderfully delicious member of the allium family.
What Are Chives?
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) belong to the allium (Amaryllidaceae) family, which consists of other tasty bulbs such as onions, scallions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and even the beautiful but highly poisonous flower, the amaryllis. It is even believed that all of these alliums are poisonous to some animals, even our beloved dogs! So thank goodness we’re ok because where would we be without the humble onion?!
Can I Grow Chives At Home?
Chives are a hardy perennial, meaning they keep on growing back without replanting. They resemble thin, hollow grass, and are quite easy to grow. They grow in clumps and you can grow them inside your home, but as they love the sun, it’s best to put them near a window, so they get maximum light, or grow them in a pot outside.
If planting directly into your garden, they do require good, well-draining soil to thrive and need to be planted 6-12 inches apart. It’s best to plant them as clump roots, which you can buy from garden centers. They are quite prolific self-seeders so you could end up with a beautiful carpet of wonderfully pretty chives in your garden – not a bad thing as the bees and other pollinating insects love the flowers too!
Edibility of Chives
Every part of the chive is edible – even the pretty purple/pink flowers, and the roots. As they have such a lovely flavor and don’t make your eyes water like the onion, you can use them in salads. They also taste great snipped up on different foods such as smoked salmon, or a fluffy, hot jacket potato with a sour cream filling – delicious!
The pretty flowers have a similar subtle onion flavor and add a gorgeous splash of color to a green salad, turning an average looking dish into something rather arty and beautiful. The roots can be chopped and sautéed as a side dish or added to soups or other dishes. A really versatile culinary companion.
Are There Many Types of Chives?
There are 4 main types of chives;
- common chives (as above)
- garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)
- giant Siberian chives (Allium ledebourianum)
- Siberian garlic chives (Allium nutans).
They all have different strengths of flavor, and I was once lucky enough to taste wild garlic chives whilst out walking and they were absolutely amazing!
So, How Tall Do Chives Grow?
Common chives can grow to around 16 inches tall in 6-9 months, depending on the conditions. It is best to harvest chives just as the flower buds are just developing. You just need a pair of scissors so you can snip the stems about 2 inches above soil level.
You can let them flower but this will reduce the amount you can harvest and the flower stems are tough and inedible. But they will regrow and you should be able to harvest them around 4 x per year. If you want to eat the flowers, make sure you harvest them just as they open for the best color and tender taste.
If patience isn’t your strong point, you can harvest your chives once they have reached 6 inches in height, but of course, there will be less volume. So be patient and you’ll be able to enjoy extra meals with this tiny but tasty addition.
Maintenance of Your Chive Plants
Chives are best trimmed after they have flowered and the flower heads have started to dull in color and die off. You can either just deadhead them or remove the whole tough dry stalk. You should also cut the whole plant back to the ground in the autumn, ready for the new vibrant green growth in the spring.
If you are growing them indoors, and they start to get too clumpy, you can divide them up into separate pots in the spring to avoid overcrowding and give them lots more space to grow into the delicious kitchen addition that you love.
Just be sure to keep the soil slightly moist throughout the dormant phase, but not wet. If growing them outside, this isn’t such an issue as they will be benefiting from the dewy mornings and rain over the winter, so they will not require any help from you.
Should I Feed My Chive Plants?
If you are growing in a container indoors or outdoors, then yes. Use just one application of a gentle 5-10-5 fertilizer once in the spring, and then use a liquid fertilizer mixed to half the label strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Stop feeding once the flowers have died off.