Garlic chives are one of my favorite herbs because they’re so incredibly easy to grow and you get a ton of flavor. Snip them throughout the growing season for a delicious onion-like garnish.
The perennial plant returns each year without much help and, when left to flower, attracts pollinators and offers a pleasant addition to the garden. They’re ideal for gardeners seeking a low maintenance perennial that doubles as an edible.
Okay, but what the heck are garlic chives? Are they the same as regular ole chives? Let’s find out.
The Difference Between Garlic Chives and Chives
There are a few differences between chives, Allium schoenoprasum, and garlic chives, Allium tuberosum. They’re both perennial garden plants, but they have a different flavor profile. While chives have a pronounced onion taste, garlic chives are significantly more garlicky – as you probably guessed by the name.
Garlic chive leaves are flatter than those of onion chives, and the flowers are usually white, though the flower color depends on the variety. Garlic chives also bloom later than onion chives.
Planting Garlic Chives
Like onion chives, garlic chives are super easy to grow and are not at all demanding.
Where to Plant
Garlic chives like full sun, but they grow fine in partially shaded areas. Plants require fertile soil with a pH of between 6.2 and 7.0.
Garlic chives are perennial in zones 3 to 10. They return every year and produce new green growth for you to snip and enjoy.
You can direct-sow chives, but starting them indoors in the early spring gives you a head start on the growing season. Start growing garlic chive seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before your average last frost date.
Many herbs, including garlic chives, need a good head start to the growing season because they take a long time to germinate.
Direct sowing should be done once the soil has warmed in the spring. The tiny seeds are best sown shallowly. Plant them too deep, and they’re likely to rot before they reach the surface.
Chives are ready to transplant when soil temperatures reach between 60 and 70°F. Harden off for about a week before transplanting and add compost to the planting hole.
Space garlic chive plants about 4 to 6 inches apart. Put seeds about one-fourth inch deep.
Chives of all kinds do well planted directly in the ground or in containers. While garlic chives can be grown inside a pot in the kitchen, they’re best grown outside since they’re perennial.
Garlic chives will spread over time, so if you’re concerned about the plants encroaching on other areas of your garden, remove blooms before the plant goes to seed.
Because of their pretty flowers, garlic chives make a great addition to any landscape. Some people even use chives as border plants.
Caring for Your Garlic Chive Plants
Like their onion-flavored siblings, garlic chives are super easy to grow. The plants require hardly any upkeep. They’re perfect for people who are brand new to gardening.
Here’s how to take care of your chive plants so they continue to produce yearly:
All allium family plants need plenty of water. Water your garlic chive plants regularly—about 1-inch of water per week. You don’t want the soil to dry out too much between watering.
Mulch not only conserves moisture for your thirsty garlic chive plants, but it helps prevent weed growth. Use an organic straw or leaf mulch to give your plants a boost.
Give your garlic chive plants a feed at the start of the summer with some high-nitrogen fertilizer. It’s wise to test your soil before adding fertilizer to any area of your garden, though.
Pruning is only necessary if you want to keep the plant from self-seeding. Remove blooms to keep growth in check. Dividing is recommended to ensure your plant stays lush and healthy from year to year.
You can divide chive plants and share portions with friends and relatives. Just dig out a section of the plant and put in a new location.
Problems and Solutions to Growing Garlic Chives
Like chives, garlic chives don’t encounter many problems. They’re a low-maintenance garden plant, but there are a few issues to look out for.
This common disease shows up as white spots on foliage. Plants infected with mildew need to be disposed of immediately to prevent spread elsewhere in the garden.
Plants that are too close together are prone to this type of infection. Some copper-based fungicides can help quell the spread of the fungus, but they can’t eradicate it completely.
If you notice ugly marks on leaves, a fungus might be the culprit. Use a fungicide to prevent it from spreading to nearby plants. Your best bet, though, is to trash the plant.
Brown colored spots on leaves are the result of another fungal infection called rust. It’s usually caused by high humidity and overwatering. Plants should be thrown away as there’s little to be done once the plant is affected.
To prevent rust, always water from below.
These small bugs feed on leaves and are likely to spread diseases to your chive plants. You can control thrips with sticky traps or diatomaceous earth. Manual removal with an intense burst of water from the hose is also an option.
These little flies attack plants in the allium family and affect the bulbous part of the plant. They can quickly kill your entire chive plant—even one that’s established. Insect row covers will keep the bugs from laying eggs.
You can also encourage the presence of predator insects like parasitic wasps and rove beetles, who feed on the flies and minimize further damage.
My garlic chive plants are so small! What am I doing wrong?
Growth takes time. Your garlic chives won’t become a huge clump overnight. Have patience, and you’ll one day enjoy an established chive plant.
Chives didn’t return this year. Why?
You’ve chosen a variety that’s not perennial or not suitable for your growing zone. It’s also possible that your plant was killed because of disease or pests.
Chives are growing so slowly. How do I fix this?
Garlic chives take time, and it may take a year or two for the plant to really establish itself.
My garlic chive plant spreads everywhere. How do I stop it from happening?
If you’re struggling to keep your garlic chives in check, consider deadheading blossoms to prevent self-seeding. You may also consider planting chives in a container.
Companion Planting for Garlic Chives
Chives, garlic ones included, are excellent garden companions. Many gardeners swear by chives to help repel garden pests. Here are a few of the plants you might want to try growing near garlic chives.
Avoid growing garlic chives next to the following plants:
Harvesting and Storing Garlic Chives
You can cut chives at any time throughout the season. A simple snip with scissors will net you a few sprigs to garnish dishes or add to recipes. It’s best not to harvest garlic chives when they’re still young, so wait until the plant is established before cutting it.
The flowers of garlic chives are edible, so if you’re removing blooms to prevent self-seeding, don’t toss them, eat them!
If you have too many chives on your hands to handle, consider dehydrating them or freezing them to preserve them for use during the winter.