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Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)
Allium schoenoprasum
  • Allium schoenoprasum
  • Allium schoenoprasum



Origin and description

Chives, hardy to zone 3, are perennials growing to 45 to 60 cm tall. They form tight clumps of small oval bulbs that send up narrow, hollow leaves. The small flowers, borne in compact umbels at the end of the stems, usually appear in June.

Species, cultivars and related plants

The different cultivars available on the market may be distinguished mainly by their habit and the width of their leaves.

'Fitlau' – Somewhat rust resistant;
'Grande' – Broad leaves;
'Grolau' – Good cultivar for growing indoors;
'Profusion' – Sterile cultivar developed to produce edible flowers;
'Purly' – More erect habit, narrow leaves;
'Staro' – Broad leaves, good yield;
'Wilau' – Broad leaves, somewhat rust resistant.

Common name


Latin name (genus)

Allium schoenoprasum

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Alliaceae

Growing conditions

Plant chives outdoors after all risk of spring frost is past. Space plants 20 to 30 cm apart and leave 45 to 60 cm between rows. Chives should be grown in cool, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter and pH between 6 and 7.5.

This species requires fertile soil. For a good yield, add 4 to 5 kg/m2 of aged compost annually. Chives tolerate partial shade, but thrive in full sun.

This cool-weather plant does fairly well in high temperatures provided that it is watered during dry spells.

A chive plant in bloom can be rejuvenated by cutting it back to within 5 cm of the ground. The plant will produce new leaves that can be harvested four to six weeks later.


Chives are easy to propagate from seed or clump division. Sterile cultivars developed for flower production are propagated only by clump division.

Sowing: Sow the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Sow directly in 7 to 10 cm pots, as chives are difficult to transplant. The seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days at 21-24° C and retain their viability for up to two years. In general, plants reach full maturity after two years.

Division: Divide clumps in spring or early autumn (about six weeks before the first frost). Allow at least five bulbs per division. Division is also used to rejuvenate the plants every 3 or 4 years.


Fresh, finely chopped chives are used to enhance the flavour of fish, veal, poultry, egg and vegetable dishes. They should be added at the end of cooking, however, because chives' essential oils are quickly destroyed by heat. They are also used to flavour butter, cheese, salads, soups, salad dressings and egg- and yoghurt-based sauces. Chives go well with tarragon, parsley and chervil.

The flowers can be separated from the floral bud and added to egg, cheese and fish dishes.

Early and regular harvesting prevents blooming and encourages the plant to produce new, narrow and tender leaves all summer long. The leaves can be harvested initially once they are 15 to 20 cm tall. Remove small bunches of leaves, keeping just 5 to 7 cm of stem, to encourage the plant to produce new leaves. Cutting the stems back closer than 5 cm from the ground can cause the plant to die back prematurely.

All the stems can also be harvested at once, and then dried. In that case, cut the plant back to 5 to 7 cm from the ground. New, ready to harvest leaves will appear within 4 to 6 weeks.

Chives are less flavourful when dried. They are best fresh or frozen.

  • Fresh: Chives may be kept for about one week in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.
  • Frozen: The leaves may be frozen in ice cubes.
  • Dried: Cut the leaves into 6 to 10 millimetre lengths and spread them out to dry in a warm, dark, well-ventilated location. Once dry, store the leaves in an opaque, airtight container.

See also

Pests and diseases


Leek moth

Physiological disorders

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