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ALLIUM schoenoprasum

Image of Allium schoenoprasum

James H. Schutte

Family

Liliaceae

Botanical Name

ALLIUM schoenoprasum

Plant Common Name

Chives, Cultivated Chives, Garden Chives

General Description

Most know only know chives as a chopped herb sprinkled on salads or added to cream cheese for mild onion flavor and green color, but chives are much more than that. This lovely bulbous perennial produces a bottle brush of fine, cylindrical foliage in spring and becomes topped with beautiful lavender-pink, sometimes white, clover-like flowerheads in late spring or early summer. It is a far-flung and diverse onion that’s native across much of the northern hemisphere, so it has been historically used and enjoyed by many cultures worldwide.

Chives die back to the ground each fall but return in spring as soon as temperatures begin to warm. This is when their fine, upright, oniony blades are at their most tender and mild. By late spring they put forth upright flower scapes that become topped with puffball blooms that are also edible and look beautiful on salads. Bees pollinate them and heads of black, angular seeds follow. It is wise to cut the heads back after bloom to encourage a second flush of foliar growth.

Full sun and well-drained, fertile soil with a moderately neutral pH is needed for good growth. Though bulbous, chives are usually sold as plants, not bulbs. On the rare occasion they are purchased as bulbs, plant them two to three times their width. Once established, chives will tolerate limited drought, but foliage output and flavor will suffer. Chive clumps slowly spread over time; lift and divide them when they become too large or too crowded. Refrain from mulching chives as this can smother and weaken clumps.

This wonderfully versatile herb is both pretty and functional. Plant it in alpine beds, rockeries, and herb or vegetable gardens. The leaves can be snipped all season for their mild, fresh onion flavor.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Herb

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    8"-24" / 20.3cm - 61.0cm

  • Width

    6"-12" / 15.2cm - 30.5cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    World/Pandemic, North America, Europe, Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Pink, Lavender

  • Fruit Color

    Black

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Yellow Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Alpine, Cutflower, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes