Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 803 Allium schoenoprasum

Common Names: chive, cive Family: Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis Family)

Chives are fun to grow in containers where they're such a lovely site or grow them in the kitchen where they'll flavor every bite!


Chive plants look like the tops of tiny onion plants. Chives are grown for their leaves which have a mildly pungent flavor, not as strong as garlic (Allium sativum) or leeks (Allium ampeloprasum Porrum Group), but more assertive than most common onions (Allium cepa Cepa Group) and bunching onions(Allium fistulosum).

Chives have tiny bulbs clustered on underground rhizomes. The leaves, 10-15 in (25-38 cm) tall, are cylindrical and hollow, not flat like the leaves of garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), which do have a similar flavor. Chives are perennial, and most years they produce little purple or lilac flowers in rounded umbels (clusters in which the flower stalks all arise from the same point). The umbels are about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter and are held above the foliage on thin stalks. The naturally occurring varieties orientale and sibiricum differ in minor characteristics. Some catalogs list a few cultivars (Cornucopia II lists 10), but chives usually are offered simply as plain old generic chives. The cultivar, 'Forescate' has especially pretty pink flowers and stands taller, to 24 in (61 cm). 'Shepherd's Crook' has contorted and twisted leaves


Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are derived from a wild ancestor that is native to Europe and Asia.


Chives should be cut to the ground after flowering, unless you want to collect seeds. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Regular watering keeps chives growing strong, but they can tolerate dry periods if they have to. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 9. Chives lose their leaves in winter. They need at least a few weeks of rest before sending up new leaves. Propagation: Chives can be started from seeds, but they take a few weeks to germinate. The best way to propagate chives is to divide existing clumps. In fact, chives should be divided every couple years before the plants weaken from crowding and too much cutting. Divide them in winter when they are dormant.


Chives are grown in the herb or vegetable garden, often as edging or around larger plants. Many cooks grow chives in a pot on the kitchen windowsill so they can cut a few leaves as they need them. The perennial plants just keep growing back! It's best not to cut every leaf from a plant; leave a few to keep the plant growing. Use chives as a garnish or combine with marjoram (Origanum majorana) and tarragon (Artimisia dracunculus) as French cooks do. Chopped chives are practically required on baked potatoes and creamed soups. For cooked dishes, always add chives at the last minute since their subtle flavors quickly vaporize when heated. Don't overlook the flowers; they are tasty as well as pretty in tossed salads. And don't bother trying to dry chives for storage - they just don't hold a candle to fresh!


Dainty little chives make great edging plants around flower beds and borders. The flower heads are showy and dry beautifully for use in arrangements. Chive flowers are very attractive to bees and other nectar-loving insects.

Steve Christman 9/9/00; updated 8/28/03, 4/25/1

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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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