Care Of Garlic Chives – How To Grow Wild Garlic Chives Plants

It looks like an onion chive but tastes more like garlic. Garlic chives in the garden are also often referred to as Chinese chives plant and as such were first recorded between 4,000-5,000 years ago in China. So, what are garlic chives and how do they differ from ordinary garden chives?

What are Garlic Chives?

Its scientific name of Allium tuberosum is indicative of its oniony roots and falls among the family Liliaceae. Unlike onions or other types of garlic, however, the fibrous bulb is not edible but is grown rather for its flowers and stems. It is easy to differentiate between onion chives and garlic chives. Garlic chives have a flat, grass-like leaf, not a hollow one as do onion chives. They grow between 12 to 15 inches tall.

Garlic chives make a lovely flower in a border or container plant, and work well in the herb garden. They can be planted along a path or as a dense ground cover too. The small, star-shaped flowers are usually cream colored and born on sturdy stems in June.

The flowers can be eaten or dried and made into floral arrangements. The seed heads are also often used in everlasting arrangements or can be allowed to remain and drop seeds for continual reseeding.

Growing garlic chives are usually cultivated for culinary uses such as in herbal vinegars, salads, soups, soft cheeses, compound butters, and grilled meat. Of course, its ornamental properties are nothing to sneeze at, and, it attracts butterflies.

How to Grow Wild Garlic Chives

I’m betting that everyone will want to know how to grow wild garlic chives in the herb garden, that is if you haven’t already. These little perennials can be planted up to USDA zone 3 in full sun exposure and rich, well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0. Transplant or thin to 6 inches (15 cm.).

Plant your garlic chives among carrots, grapes, roses and tomatoes. They will supposedly deter pests such as Japanese beetles, black spot on roses, scab on apples, and mildew on cucurbits.

Propagate either from seed or division. Divide the plants in the spring every three years. Propagation from seed may result in an invasion of garlic chives, so you may want to either eat the flowers before they dry and drop seeds or remove them and discard.

Care of Garlic Chives

The care of garlic chives is pretty straightforward. Water as needed; although the plants are drought tolerant, they do enjoy moist soil. Other care of garlic chives instructs fertilizing them at the start of the growing season with a slow release fertilizer.

After a long term freeze, garlic chives will often die back only to return again come springtime.

Garlic chives not only have a multitude of culinary uses, but are said to be beneficial to the digestive system, stimulate appetite, promote blood circulation, and have diuretic properties.

Clip the stems either all the way to the ground or with 2 inches (5 cm.) remaining to allow the herb to grow anew.

Chives are a member of the Allium family. This means that they are a close relative of onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, elephant garlic etc… They are a plant that is widespread across much of Europe, Asia and North America.

Interestingly, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is the only species in this plant family that is native to both the Old and New Worlds.

These plants are herbaceous perennials which grow into dense clusters around 12-20cm tall.

The bulbs are slender and conical and grow in dense clusters from the roots. Above these, scapes (stems) rise up. These are thin, hollow tubes around 2-3mm across.

Grass-like leaves also form. These are also hollow, though shorter than the scapes.

Flowers form on the scapes between April and June (earlier in the south and later in the north). These flowers are pale purple and star-shaped, with six petals.

They form on an influorescence of around 10-30 such flowers. Seeds are then formed in a small capsule, and mature in summer.

These plants are self-fertile, hermaphroditic, and pollinated by bees, flies, moths and butterflies. They are in leaf from February through to December and are not frost tender.

Chives have been cultivated in Europe since the Mediaeval period, though they have been in use for over 5,000 years.

What are Garlic Chives?

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Garlic chives — also known as Allium tuberosum, ku chai, gow choy, oriental garlic Chinese chives, Chinese leeks and nira — are an herb native to Asia and a common ingredient in Asian cooking. Unlike the tubular leaves of chives, they have thick, flat, bladelike leaves, the part of the plant most often used in cooking. All parts of the plant, including the flower, can be used in recipes as an herb, spice or garnish.

As the name implies, garlic chives have a taste similar to chives, though with a sharper taste similar to garlic. They are not as strong as garlic, though, and are especially useful for salads and uncooked dishes where some garlic flavor is needed but raw garlic would be too strong. In fact, when cooking, it is important to add garlic chives quite late, because they lose flavor when cooked for too long.

Stir fry dishes often include garlic chives for flavor and garnish. It is a critical ingredient for Japanese miso soup. In western cooking, they make a tasty stand-in for chives and can be used in soups, salads, sauces or entrées. The root can be used as a substitute for garlic, with a softer, more delicate flavor.

A ready supply of garlic chives can be found by growing them in an herb garden, where they grow in tight clumps. Seeds are tiny and must be fresh for good growth. Garlic chives can survive dry spells, but they do best with regular watering. They prefer direct sunlight but will grow well in slight shade. White clusters of flowers, which can be used to season and garnish meals, blossom during the summer.

Plants must be trimmed back regularly to prevent them from self-seeding and taking over the garden. When harvesting, the plant should be trimmed close to the ground to control seeding. Even if the herbs are not being used, regular harvesting still is recommended to control growth. Some growers also cover the plants with straw after harvesting, a process known as blanching, to further control growth. This not only will slow the plant’s growth, but it causes any new leaves to appear white.

Topical and oral folk cures using garlic chives have been used to treat fatigue, anemia, cuts and insect bites, and they even have been used as a poison antidote. Seeds also have been used to treat liver and kidney conditions and digestive complaints. Garlic chives are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, calcium and iron.

Problems with Planting Chives Outdoors

Weeds are the most common problem when growing chives outdoors.Mulching the area around your chives can prevent weeds from settling in. Regular weeding is also helpful, especially in the first couple months after planting when your chives are still becoming established. [2] Utah State Univ. Horticulture Ext.

Chive Pests

Be on the lookout for thrips, which are tiny insects that may eat your chives’ leaves. If you notice the leaves turning gray or silver or becoming twisted, you probably have thrips on your chives. We’re organic gardeners, so always seek natural remedies first, such as a natural insecticidal soap to buy or make your own.

If you have had a prior problem with root maggots in the area where you want to plant chives, use a natural insecticide at planting time to prevent them from returning. [3] Utah State Univ-Horticulture Ext.

Natural Aphid Remedies and Recipes

We used a homemade natural organic aphid spray for our longevity spinach plants, where you can find that simple recipe, instructions and also a video on it.

We’re not typically plagued by aphids in the garden, thanks to natural predators to aphids. But once we bring the plants into our sunroom and greenhouse for winter, they tend to appear.


Add to one 24 oz. spray bottle:

  • 1 teaspoon each of:
    • baking soda
    • cooking oil
    • Epsom salt
  • Water to fill:
    • shake
  • Add 2 drops of dishwashing detergent
    • rotate bottle a few times to blend soap up without it getting to frothy.
  • Pick off aphids and drop them into a container of soapy water to kill.
  • Spray both sides of leaves and also stems and soil around the plant with natural aphid spray remedy.

We LOVE that you can easily make so many remedies and cleansers that work just as well as more expensive (and often chemically laced) products.

Beneficial Pest Predators and Pollinators to Attract to Your Yard and Garden

You will also benefit by attracting good garden pest predators to your garden, such as birds that eat aphids and harmful insects. Other beneficial pollinators that eat bad garden bugs like aphids and thrips include Hoverflies and Lacewings. [4]

Chives Are Self Propagating

Chives self-propagate when the chive flowers go to seed. And, they may spread more than you want them to. So if you don’t want them to take over your whole garden deadhead the buds before they go to seed by clipping them off before they start to wither and fade.

Fresh garlic chives have a short lifespan. Remove any dark green leaves that have wilted before cooking. Both regular garlic chives and flowering chives will last for a few days stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Fresh yellow chives, on the other hand, should be used within the same day.

Garlic chives pack a major nutritional punch for a mere 30 calories per 100 grams.   Low in fat and high in dietary fiber and protein, they contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene and are a good source of calcium. They also contain vitamin B-6 and B-12.  

In Chinese medicine, garlic chives are considered to be a yang or warming food. Like other members of the garlic and onion family, garlic chives contain a sulfur-rich mustard oil that aids digestion and helps promote the flow of blood. The rejuvenating power of this oil has been known since ancient times when chives were used to heal wounds. Today, Chinese cooks put garlic chives’ antiseptic qualities to good use by combining the chives with pork fat to season a wok.

Chive Problems

Chives are relatively problem-free, but let’s cover the possibilities for trouble so can feel confident growing this delicious herb.


  • The plant seems small – You need to be patient. Chives take time to become established. Whether you’re growing indoors or outside, your little starter plant will take some time to clump up and become a fixture in its pot or garden area.
  • Doesn’t return the following year – It’s either not perennial in your growing zone or something killed off your plant. The culprit could be a number of things from pests to disease.
  • Slow growing – It’s normal. Most herbs are slow growing. Each year your chives will grow bigger, and you’ll have more to harvest.
  • Spreads to other areas of the garden – This is bound to happen, unfortunately, but thankfully chives aren’t as aggressive as some other garden plants. The first step is selecting the proper location for your chive plant so that your herb doesn’t infringe on anything delicate nearby.

Here are a few diseases that may affect chive plants. These diseases are also capable of infecting other plants in your garden. It’s usually a good idea to remove diseased plant material to prevent spread to other plants.


The first sign of this fungal infection is white coated leaves. Once an infection has taken over your plant, get rid of it. You can also control the spread by using a fungicide. Avoid mildew by picking disease-resistant varieties. Space plants properly to encourage proper air circulation and to prevent overly humid conditions.


Rust-colored spotting on leaves is caused by a fungal infection. The disease is caused by humid conditions resulting from poor drainage or over-watering. Get rid of affected plants and make sure you avoid watering from overhead in the future.

Leaf spot diseases

Noticeable marks on leaves are caused by fungi. Fungicide can be used to control the spread of diseases, but consider getting rid of infected plants.

Bulb Rot

Bulb rot is caused by over-watering or if your plant is in poorly draining soil. You may notice yellowed leaves and stunted growth. Bulb rot may be caused by a number of pathogens.

Onion fly

Onion flies attack the bulb of the plant, and eventually, an infestation can completely decimate your chives. It’s important to rotate crops to prevent infestation. Use insect netting to keep flies from laying eggs. Biological methods of control include beetles and nematodes


These are tiny insects that feed on foliage and are capable of spreading illness. Get rid of them by placing sticky traps or diatomaceous earth around your plants. A strong jet of water may also do the trick.

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

Chinese Chives, Gow Choy, Ku Ts'ai, Nira and Oriental Chives

Garlic chives are an herb-like perennial that is indigenous to Eurasia and North America (1). Garlic chives grow up to 2' tall and spread 1' wide when fully mature. Garlic chives are slightly less hardy than their common chive counterparts, reaching as far north as zone 4 without preparing for winter. They like full sun and are most compatible with damp soil. Garlic Chives do well in many soil types, but prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6-7 and high organic content (achievable from composting). They have long, narrow hollowed leaves similar to the appearance of short grasses. Chinese chives produce showy white flowers (2).

Chives are related to onions and share many of the same companion plants as its relative. They grow well with beets, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, rhubarb, kohlrabi, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, mustard and peppers, and are thought to enhance their flavors and growth intensity. Garlic chives discourage the spread of Japanese beetles, slugs, aphids and cabbage worms, so place them where plants in full sun have a problem with these insect infestations. Garlic chives also repel aphids which are known to be a problem for grapes, so planting these two in the same area is a good idea. Avoid putting garlic chives near asparagus, peas, spinach and beans, as they will compete for similar soil nutrients (3).

Regular harvesting (by clipping the leaves of the plant) will promote more vigorous growth and spreading behavior. Leaving the white pommed flowers may create dormancy in the plant during hot summer temperatures. Rotate the plant every 3 to 5 years to ensure the soil is not void of nitrogen and other proper soil nutrients (2).

Culinary or Medicinal Uses
It takes 50 days to harvest chives for best flavor. It is common to use primarily the garlic chive's leaves for cooking because the flower stalks are more fibrous and tougher, however, flower stalks and even the flowers themselves are edible. Chives are best used fresh and lose flavor and attractive color after being dried (2). Traditional medicinal uses of these chives include treating intestinal parasites, boosting immune systems, promote good digestion and even cure anemia. Ancient Chinese herbal medicine used garlic chives for a multitude of additional purposes including increasing energy, regulating hemorrhages, helping with ailments of the liver, kidneys and digestive track, and even as the antidote for some poisons. Used externally, garlic chives' small bulbs can be rubbed on bug bites and minor cuts. Garlic chives have the nutritous benefits of being high in vitamins A and C, fiber, carotene, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, calcium and potassium. For culinary use, garlic chives have been employed in flavoring butters, creams (including sour cream and cottage cheese), soups, eggs, seafood, oils and vinegar. They are typically used as a garnish or eaten raw because they will begin to lose their flavor if they are cooked for longer than 5 minutes. Garlic chives are a staple in many asian cuisines and are lightly fried with meats and vegetables. In Japan, garlic chive segments are added to miso soup (1).

Significance to Cultural Communities
Chives have been gathered since ancient times and cultivation began in the Middle Ages (1). Van Gogh created "Flowerpot with Chives" in 1887 - an oil on canvas painting that is now displayed in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Registered evidence in text shows garlic chives to be used as medicine as early as the Liang Dynasty (502 - 557). It is believed to promote Yang energy (4).

Watch the video: Wild Garlic Chives -- How Did I Miss These?

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