Chives – characteristics, cultivation and use

chives flowers
chives flowers

Chives is one of the classic culinary herbs that can be bought fresh at any time of the year and is one of the best-known herbs in the world. You can also eat it raw, in salads or sprinkle it on butter bread and you can also plant chives between flowers. Some of the ingredients also promote good health.

Profile of chives:

Scientific name: Allium schoenoprasum

Plant family: amaryllids family (Amaryllidaceae)

Other names: –

Sowing time / Planting time: February – March

Flowering period: May – August

Harvest time: May – September

Useful plant parts: stalks (tubular leaves), flowers

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: loamy-sandy soil with moderate humidity

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: loss of appetite, bloating, bladder weakness, hemorrhoids

Use as aromatic herb: salads, herb butter, soups, cottage cheese, potato dishes

Plant characteristics and classification of chives

Origin and occurrence of chives

In many sources it is shown that the chives come from the Alps or the Mediterranean. However, many botanical studies suggest that the original home is in Siberia. Today, chives is found in those countries that have a temperate climate. It is cultivated and grown as a culinary herb in many countries of Europe, Asia and North America.

Chives is still found wild on river meadows and wet meadows.

Plant order of chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is a monocotyledonous plant (Monocotylodoneae) and belongs to the order of asparagus (Asparagales). In closer relationship chives is a member of the amaryllis family (Amarylidiaceae) as well as the leek family (Allioideae). The genus leek (Allium) is with more than 300 species very species rich. These include other well-known representatives such as garden onion (Allium cepa), garlic (Alium sativum) or wild garlic (Allium ursinum).

Over time, some chives were bred, which sometimes differ significantly in taste and growth. Of particular importance here are the varieties:

  • Staro: chunky chives, strong aroma
  • Miro: fine-tubular and fast-growing chives, fine aroma
  • Middleman: fine-tubular and fast-growing chives with a fine aroma
leaves of chives
leaves of chives

Look and characteristics of chives


Chives is a perennial plant that can reach heights of growth between 10 and 50 cm (4 and 20 in). The egg-shaped onions of chives are relatively inconspicuous. The diameter of the onion usually never reaches more than 1 cm (0.4 in).


The leaves emerge from the typical white onion and usually have a greenish to gray color. They appear as individual blades of grass, which can also form individual tussocks depending on the degree of vegetative propagation. The leaves of the chives are tubular and hollow inside. Depending on the cultivated variety, the tubes may be very fine or very coarse. Striking is the typical leeky smell, which immediately stands out when rubbed.


Chives usually form violet to red (rarely white) flowers, which are summarized in the form of a cyme. One cyme contains up to 50 flowers and grows directly on the tip of the leaf. A single flower measures about 3 to 5 mm (0.12 to 0.2 in) in diameter. The plant usually blooms between May to August. For many insects, the flowers that appear from May to August are a welcome source of nectar – especially for butterflies, bees, bumblebees and hoverflies.


Chives forms at the time of fruit ripening spherical capsule fruits with dark, mostly black seeds.

Chives – cultivation and care


The best location for chives is a bright and sunny to partially shaded spot in the garden. The same applies for the cultivation in the apartment: the windowsill in the sun is preferred. It is a very easy-care herb that needs fresh to moderately moist, nutrient- and humus-rich, calcareous soils.


Also important is the regular water supply. Nevertheless, waterlogging causes the stalks to turn yellow and the formation of mold is encouraged. In particular, when keeping chives in the pot should be paid attention to a good drainage. Useful for this are expanded clay, perlite and lava at the bottom of the pot.


Chives can be grown from seeds. However, direct seed is recommended only on weed-free soils as the seeds germinate very slowly. When sowing in the bed you wait until the soil has reached a temperature of 5 °C (41 °F). If you mix the seeds with coarse sand, they will spread more evenly. Favorable is a sunny to partially shaded place. A fleece cover speeds up emergence when sowing early. Because of the weed problem it is easier to preculture in sowing trays or pots on the windowsill at a temperature of 18 to 20 °C (64 to 68 °F).

Since the plant needs dark to germ, the seeds should be covered with about 2 cm (0.8 in) of soil. It takes about two weeks before the first shoots appear. The cultivation on the balcony is easily possible. However, deeper pots are more suitable, so that sufficient space is available.

Keep in mind that chives is also well suited for self-sowing. For this you don´t cut the flowers and let them ripen.


Every three years it makes sense to separate the chives. The tussock of chives is carefully divided with hands and thinned out. Soon, new, young shoots will show. The optimal time for the separation is the end of the growing season in late autumn. If you also want to enjoy fresh chives in winter, you should part of the tussock in late autumn, cut back the leaves and cultivate the section on a bright windowsill in the house. In order for the plant to be particularly good, chive is exposed in the pot at night frost for a short time outdoors. The stalks then wither, but quickly shoot again when heated in the room.


The regular cutting of the chive stems promotes renewed growth. The taste remains particularly aromatic when, at the time of flowering, the inflorescences are separated before. This prevents the plant from investing much of its energy in flower formation.


Like many leeks, chives have an increased need for nutrients. If the leek plant grows on a nutrient-rich and humus-rich soil in the field, smaller amounts of compost will do, which will be incorporated in the spring. For pot cultures, more frequent fertilizer cycles are usually necessary. Depending on the pot size and number of plants per pot, a nitrogen-stressed organic herb fertilizer should be administered approximately every four to six weeks.

Companion planting

In addition, chives in the garden has an ecological function. Chives are on the menu of earthworms, which help to decompose the herb and provide the minerals contained in chives in the garden again. In addition, chives planted next to other plants, has a pest repellent effect. The aromatic fragrant dispels many plant pests (such as mildew and some beetles), which is why it is planted on overgrowths. It is a good neighbor to strawberry, cucumber, dill, coriander and radish.

Diseases and pest

Nevertheless, chives may even be hunted by pests. To mention is at this point rust. The rust fungus can be seen well on the stalks due to the rust-red, small elevations. The fight against the rust is sometimes cumbersome, as this particular fungus was observed only on chives and commonly anti-fungicides are not effective. Only a radical cut a lasting effect can be achieved.


Chives are harvested almost all year round. The leaves should be at least 15 cm (6 in), but at most 25 cm (10 in) long. Cut off the juicy tube leaves best with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors at about 2 cm (1 in) above the ground. In addition to the stalks, the flowers can be harvested and eaten.


When you prepare chives, you should not chop it as finely as many other herbs, because then it is very mushy and develops after a short time a somewhat severe, pungent aroma. Instead, cut it with scissors into small tubes. Fresh from the garden the herb will last two to three days. To do this, put it in a glass with water right after the harvest. The best preservation method is freezing – either finely cut into freezer bags or with water in ice cube trays.

chives - young plant
a young chives plant

Chives and its use

Chives in the kitchen

The taste of chives is a bit stronger and spicier than leek plants, but do not quite match the taste of garlic or onions.

Among the best-known recipes for using chives are, besides the butter bread, mainly egg dishes – as omelette, fried egg, egg salad or scrambled eggs. But also fresh leaf salads, sour cream, herbal dips, herbal butter, herbal quark, mayonnaise, potato salad or potato soups get a spicy touch. No less delicate are the edible chive blossoms.

Since the herb is sensitive to high temperatures, the herbs should not be cooked. It is better to garnish cooked dishes with it just before serving.

Fresh chives offered as bundles in markets or supermarkets should not be stored in vessels filled with water. It is better to wrap chive bundles in a damp kitchen paper, linen or towel and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.

Chives as a medicinal herb

The best health-promoting effect unfolds chives when it is consumed raw. Heat during cooking destroys above all the contained vitamin C and also the essential oils evaporate. Seen in this way, it is one of the few herbs whose healing effect is achieved by eating the herb. It dispels spring fever, cleanses the blood and gives us vitamin C. Above all, it has a positive effect on digestion, dissolve bloating and stimulate the appetite. It is antibacterial, expectorant for cough and take hold against high blood pressure.

Chives can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • bloating
  • cough
  • gout
  • high blood pressure
  • intestinal inflammation
  • loss of appetite
  • spring fever
  • stomach inflammation

Medicinal properties

  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • expectorant


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy chives – What is there to pay attention to?

When buying chives, make sure that the stalks are green, strong, and upright. If the stalks are already yellow and no longer vital, there is little hope that the plant will recover. The price range is from 1.5 to 4 €/$.

When buying seeds, there is a larger assortment due to the many varieties. The varieties differ, in formation of the leaves and their tubes (fine tubes, coarse tubes). A well-known coarse tubular variety is under the name Staro to obtain. In return, the fine tubular varieties are usually obtained under the name Miro. The price for a packet of seeds is about 1.5 to 3 €/$.


    • Not sure if I get the question correctly. I don’t know all varieties, but I´’m pretty sure that most common varieties have hollow leaves, so if you cut the leaves they are tubular.

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