Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 632 Allium tuberosum

Common Names: garlic chives, Chinese leeks, Chinese chives, flat chives Family: Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis Family)
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garlic chives
A tiger swallowtail butterfly enjoys a dinner of garlic chive nectar.


Garlic chives is an allium grown for its leaves, and not its little bulb. The tough, fibrous bulb is elongate and originates from a stout rhizome (underground stem). The gray-green leaves are flat and grasslike, to 15 in (38 cm) long, and about 0.3 in (0.8 cm) wide. The plant grows in a clump and the leaves bend down under their own weight. The showy inflorescence stands above the leaf clump on 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) stalks and consists of a rounded umbel, 2 in (5 cm) across, with many small creamy white, star-shaped, fragrant flowers. Each perianth segment (petal and sepal) has a brown stripe. The unique flavor of garlic chives is both sweet and garlicky. Several cultivars are available in Asia, including some grown for the flower stalks, which are also eaten.

garlic chives
Steve grows his garlic chives in the vegetable garden where they can be conveniently plucked for positioning atop baked pototoes.


Originally from SE Asia, garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) has become an invasive weed in some parts of Europe and North America.


Garlic chives is a fast growing and fast spreading perennial that needs to be divided every 3-4 years. Maintain it as a permanent crop, and harvest individual leaves as needed. Light: Full sun to light shade. Moisture: Garlic chives can tolerate drought, and thrives with normal garden watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. xxx Propagation: Propagate by seed or by dividing the clumps.


Garlic chives spreads by rhizomes and by self-seeding, and makes an excellent ground cover or edging plant. Garlic chives is equally at home in the herb garden, the vegetable garden, a flower bed, or as an edging along a mixed border or along a path. It takes the heat better than true chives (Allium schoenoprasum), and doesn't die back in summer. Whether grown as an ornamental or for food, garlic chives usually is treated as a semi-permanent crop, and left in place for several years.

The flavor, at once sweet and garlic-like, is useful in salads, stir fries and soups. It goes well in egg dishes and with fish. I use garlic chives raw in salads and as a substitute for chives. The flavor is best in winter, especially after a few frosts. Younger leaves are more tender than older ones. In China, garlic chives usually is cooked as a vegetable potherb rather than used as a flavoring in other dishes. The Chinese often blanch alternate crops of garlic chives. Blanching causes the garlic chives to yellow and gives them a softer texture. Typically, the garlic chives are cut back, then shaded for 3-4 weeks before harvesting the pale yellow leaves. A simple way to do this is to cover with a layer of straw.

garlic chives
Steve grows his garlic chives in the vegetable garden where they can be conveniently plucked for positioning atop baked pototoes.


Some authorities place the onions, garlics, leeks and their relatives in a family of their own, the Alliaceae, and others put them in the lily family, the Liliaceae. There are about 400 species in the genus Allium, including some magnificent ornamentals.

Steve Christman 2/20/00; updated 2/12/01, 9/8/01, 9/1/02, 8/27/03, 12/9/03

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Allium species profiled on Floridata:

Allium cepa Cepa Group

( onion, bulbing onion )

Allium fistulosum

( scallion, green onion, bunching onion, ciboule )

Allium giganteum

( giant onion )

Allium sativum

( garlic, softneck garlic, hardneck garlic, rocambole )

Allium schoenoprasum

( chive, cive )

Allium tuberosum

( garlic chives, Chinese leeks, Chinese chives, flat chives )

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