One of the earliest herbs to come up in spring, chives, 'Allium schoenoprasum', are an attractive garden plant and versatile herb in the kitchen. They are an easy-to-grow perennial with pompom-like lavender flowers in late spring. The flower buds are plump, purple and pointed; they're cute in flower arrangements. The thin, tubular leaves are dark green and grow 8 to 12 inches tall in dense clumps.
Chives are one of 300 species of Allium, which is in the Lily family. They are closely related to garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and garlic chives. Though the leaves off all these plants have the distinctive onion smell, the flowers do smell like their sweeter lily relatives. They are frequently used in European and Asian dishes. Plants are hardy to zone 3.
Chives Growing Conditions
Grow in full sun in average to rich, well-drained soil. While they are fairly adaptable to a range of conditions, their preference is for evenly moist, slightly alkaline soil. To improve your garden soil, add organic matter in the form of compost. Plants thrive in cool weather, so if you live in a hot climate, plant where they will receive some afternoon shade. They can also be grown indoors in a bright window.
Plant from seed or transplant in spring. They are prolific and very easily divided in early spring, so if you know someone with chives in their garden they would probably be happy to dig up a piece for you. After 3-5 years, the crown can become overgrown and should be divided.
After flowering, remove flower stalks to tidy up the plant, direct energy toward the leaves and prevent the plant from spreading all over by seed. If you would like to grow seeds, leave the most robust looking flower stalks on the plant and harvest seeds when the blossoms become papery. If the plant begins to look ragged in summer, trim all leaves back to 2 to 3 inches for a flush of new growth. Plants are infrequently bothered by pests and diseases.
Kingdom - Plantae
Division - Magnoliophyta
Class - Liliopsida
Order - Asparagales
Family - Alliaceae
Genus - Allium
Uses for Chives
Harvest leaves with a scissors from the time they come up in spring till the plants start blooming, usually around June. The whole plant can also be pulled up for use as green or spring onion. Chopped chives are good in miso soup, in vegetable dishes, on baked potatoes and in dips. They can also be dried or frozen for later use. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads or as garnish on soups and sauces. Try mixing them into soft cheeses too. Pick blooms just as they open for the best flavor and texture.
In the landscape it is attractive as a border plant or in a container with other herbs such as sage and thyme. Annuals that work well around it are Johnny-jump-ups, Calendula and purple Ageratum. Chives is also an excellent companion plant for roses, because it repels pests and attracts beneficial insects.