Garlic Chives or Chinese Chives (Allium tuberosum) are a quick growing, hardy, plant which needs very little maintenance or care. They are a prolific grower, and 1-2 plants are generally enough for a home garden. They are a good choice for a beginner garden and, also, add value to established gardens. They look especially beautiful as a border around a garden with their bountiful blooms. The garlic chive is similar to regular chives, yet, is distinctive for its garlic flavor as opposed to regular chives, which taste like onions. They are also called Chinese chives, Chinese leeks, or allium chives.
Garlic Chives Description
- Chive plants grow 10-20″ tall. The plant sports tall grass-like foliage that is flat and narrow. As it grows, the leaves curve downward with their tips pointing to the ground. This creates a fountain of green foliage that remains orderly and pretty all through the growing season. At the base of each leaf, the stem is a small white bulb which is edible, as are all parts of the plant.
- In the fall or late summer, they produce beautiful white flowers that bees and insects adore. The flower stalks emerge from the base of the plant and stand tall above the green leaves. A round bulb-like ball forms with dozens of tiny star-shaped flowers. Flower heads should be removed before going to seed since they self-seed easily and can quickly spread and become an invasive if not monitored.
Are Chives Perennial?
- Yes! Garlic chives grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. They have a long growing season and will grow all year-round in climates where the ground doesn’t freeze. In climates where the ground freezes, they will die back during cold weather and reemerge in the spring.
- To begin, choose a space in your garden which will be a good permanent place for them. Since they are perennial, they will need a designated spot. They need between 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. They like rich, well-drained, soil yet are adaptable to growing in a variety of soil types.
- Garlic chives can be grown from seed or started from divisions. To start them from seed, plant them 1/4″ deep and 6-8″ apart. Garlic chives grow slowly, just a few inches a year until they reach their mature height of 10-20″.
- To start growing chives from a division, carefully dig out a mature plant. Divide the plant into sections and plant each section in its own location with plenty of space. When you plant from divisions, hold off harvesting any leaves for the first year as they establish themselves.
- Once they are established, garlic chives need little care. They are very hardy and tolerant of heat, cold, and drought. Sometimes the center of the plant will die when it gets too large. If this happens, pull up the plant and remove the parts that are still good. These can be replanted as divisions.
- The leaves can be cut and used as soon as they are 3” tall. Cut down the leaves to the base, leaving just a bit of green showing. Like most greens, the leaves should be cut back on a regular basis to encourage new growth. The flower heads of Garlic chives can be cut off and used in salads. The small bulb roots can be pulled up for use in cooking. They have a strong garlic/onion flavor that can be used for a variety of culinary purposes.