Chives are among the most popular culinary herbs grown at home. Read on to find out where and how to grow chives correctly.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are easy to grow whether in a garden bed or a pot. Find out everything you need to know about sowing chives in pots and beds as well as growing them as perennials.
Chives, which belong to the Allioideae subfamily, are closely related to onions (Allium cepa), garlic (Allium sativum) and leeks (Allium porrum). The slightly pungent taste of chives makes them a very popular kitchen herb and the delightful purple flower heads really brighten up the garden or balcony. Read our other articles for a full profile of the chive plant and tips on how to care for your chive plants.
Where to plant chives
Growing chives is actually pretty simple. All they need is a warm, sunny to semi-shady spot with slightly sandy, humus-rich, well-aerated soil. And water regularly so that these herbaceous plants thrive. Chives grow well in raised beds and greenhouses and prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil conditions.
Tip: Keeping chive plants indoors permanently can lead to reduced growth, as the light intensity there is often insufficient. Move them to a warm outdoor location during the sunny summer months so that they can thrive.
Growing chives in a pot
Chives can be grown both in pots and directly in garden beds depending on the space you have available. When growing chives in a pot, ensure that the soil is loose and never saturated with water. While they do not like to be too dry, they do not like to be overwatered either so make sure your container has good drainage. Put a layer of expanded clay in the bottom of the pot to ensure that excess water can drain away easily.
Supermarket chives usually come in pots that are too small so repot these chives as soon as possible. It is also very easy to sow chive seeds directly in pots. In summer, place the pot in a bright, sunny spot in the fresh air. During the cold season, from the beginning of October, move the chives to a cool, frost-free place but not indoors as it will be too warm.
Tip: It is possible to have a crop of chives throughout winter too with the forcing chives method. This method involves moving the plants indoors to grow. However, if you simply bring the chives inside in autumn, you will notice reduced growth and the plants may even die. Read our main article on chives to learn how to grow healthy chives indoors in winter using the forcing method.
Choosing the best soil for your chives
Unlike some of their other herbal counterparts, chives actually need nutrient-rich soil. Low nutrient soil is perfect for spice plants, which can lose flavour if there are too many nutrients present. An all-purpose soil such as our compost-based Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is perfect for growing chives. It provides nutrients as needed over time as soil organisms release nutrients from the compost with the added bonus that it is completely peat and animal product-free.
Sowing chive seeds
If you want to grow chives yourself, you have several options, though sowing seeds is by far the most common approach. The ideal time for this is between March and July. Chive seeds need a cold snap to stimulate germination. Place the chive seeds harvested from your own plants in the refrigerator, which runs at just the right temperature, for about two weeks before sowing. This signals to the seeds that winter has taken place and triggers germination. Sow the chive seeds outdoors once the outside temperatures are about 12 to 18°C. It then usually takes 7 to 14 days for the seeds to germinate visibly. If you have purchased stratified seeds, you can sow them without cooling them in advance. Sow the seeds 1 to 2 centimetres deep in a high-quality growing soil such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. Scatter the seeds loosely and cover with soil as they only germinate in the dark. Press down lightly and water well and regularly. If the chives are sown in a pot, cover the pot with a glass pane or cling film to create a greenhouse climate. Always remember to lift the lid and air them from time to time to prevent a fungal infestation.
If you start your chives indoors in the warm, transplant them outside when they are about 5cm tall. The best time for this is between April and July, when there is no risk of frost damage to the plants. If you are keeping them in pots, transplant the young plants into larger pots with nutrient-rich soil after germination. A high-quality soil such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is ideal. Apply a granular fertiliser to sustainably promote growth by providing the chives constantly with all the important nutrients. Thanks to its balanced ratio of nutrients, our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food provides the best conditions for healthy growth.
Other than transplanting them at the right time, no further assistance such as pricking out is required to grow chives successfully. Read our article on caring for chives to learn how to properly care for young chive plants so they can thrive.
Growing chives in a mixed cropping can have a beneficial effect on quite a few other plants. Chives are an excellent companion plant for strawberries (Fragaria), where the risk of grey mould is greatly reduced when planted with chives. The same can be said for a downy mildew infection in cucumbers (Cucumis sativus). Chives also make good companions for root vegetables like black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica), as well as tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), and herbs such as dill (Anethum graveolens), parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and thyme (Thymus).
There are, however, some plants that chives do not mix well with, such as other allium species. To avoid potential problems, it is best to ensure a cultivation break of 4 to 6 years. Cabbages (Brassica) such as kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica) and kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) as well as radishes (Raphanus sativus subsp. sativus) can also be problematic, so avoid planting them with chives.
Different varieties of chives also add a little more diversity to your home vegetable patch. Have you developed a taste for fresh garden herbs but do not have a place to grow them? Find out how to create and plant your own herb spiral.