Published on 09/02/98

Chives Great for Georgia Fall Gardens

Diners find chives chipped on baked potatoes, sauteed in stir- fries or sizzled on steaks. But don't reserve chives' delicate flavor for fine dining. Use them in your kitchen, fresh from your fall herb garden.

Chives are perennial plants that belong to the onion family. They are grown throughout most of North America and will thrive in all of Georgia. The small, bulbous plants grow in clumps eight to 12 inches high. Their attractive violet-colored flowers appear in May.

Common cultivars in Georgia gardens are:

  • Common Chives - Grass-like herb with mild onion flavor. Excellent to grow indoors over winter.
  • Garlic Chives - Broader leaved than common chives, with a flavor midway between garlic and onion.

The plants are usually propagated by dividing the clumps, keeping four to six bulblets per clump. Plant them the same way you plant onion transplants. They can be divided in the fall or early spring. Divide clumps every two to three years to prevent overcrowding. Chives may also be started with seeds planted in the early spring.

The tender leaves or the entire plant may be harvested any time during the season. The bulbs are not used. Some gardeners dry the leaves; others chop them up fresh and keep them in the freezer for winter use. Many gardeners dig a clump of chives in late fall, place them in a pot and bring them inside for fresh use during the winter.

Garlic chives resemble the common chives in clump-growth habit, but have flat, dark green leaves and white flowers. The leaf portion of the garlic chives is prized as a fresh product.

Constant harvesting of the leaves is essential to keep a healthy, vigorous plant. Every third year, dig and divide the clumps and plant them in another part of the garden. They are easily grown in gardens and do exceptionally well in pots or in other containers.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.