Common Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

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Common name

Scientific name

Life cycle

Sexual system

Primary pollination method


Min. isolation distance

Min. population size for variety maintenance

Min. population size for genetic maintenance

Number of seeds per gram

Average storage life


Chives (English),
Ciboulette (French), Cebollino (Spanish)
Allium schoenoprasum
(Amaryllidaceae family)
Perennial Monoecious Insects Primarily outbreeding 250-800 m 20-50 80 ~250 3 years Do not cross with other allium species but will with other varieties

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Native to both the New and the Old Worlds, chives are a common herb used as an ingredient in dishes and grown in home gardens. Along with chervil, parsley, and tarragon, chive makes the perfectly “balanced quartet” of classic French fines herbes (fine herbs). Chives close relatives include the common onions, garlic, shallot, and leek. While they possess insect-repelling properties that can be used to naturally control pests, they provide a great quantity of nectar for pollinators. In that regard, they are often kept to increase desired insect life.

Chives contain vitamin A in quantities that are superior to many other vegetables belonging to the allium family. They also help to retain calcium in the bones and blood, and are a rich source of vitamin K. Chives might sometimes be mistaken for green onions – which are top greens of young, immature onion plants (Allium cepa) – and scallions, top greens of Welsh onions (Allium fistulosum).

Growing recommendations

Chives are a cool-season herb that will grow easily in most climates, preferring a sunny position in a rich, moist but well-drained soil with a pH ranging from 5 to 8. They can also be grown in heavy clay soil, semi-shaded locations, and don’t require much water once established. While the leaves can be regularly harvested for consumption as they are growing, plants meant for seed production shouldn’t be cut as it will prevent them to flower, making the production of seeds impossible. Chive seeds usually ripen from July to August, with the plant tending to self-seed very freely, leaving behind many volunteers.

Chive seeds sown outdoors in the spring typically germinate within a few weeks at a temperature between 15-24° C. They should be sown close to the surface, adequately spaced from each other. They can also be started inside in a seed tray, then transplanted outdoors, provided the seedlings were hardened off beforehand. Chives can be easily propagated by dividing clumps every few years. This will improve the productiveness and health of the plants, and prevent them from becoming overly congested.

Pollination, crossing, and isolation

Chives are insect-pollinated and will therefore require to be isolated at an adequate distance depending on your surroundings. While different chive varieties will cross with one another, they won’t cross with garlic chives. If several different varieties are grown simultaneously and spatial isolation is not possible, using a mechanical isolation technique such as the alternate day caging method will be necessary. The flower heads are collected when they are completely dry.

General seed saving guidelines (harvesting and processing)

The seeds will easily separate from the flower head by just rubbing its surface with your fingers over a plate or bowl. Winnow to remove any remaining chaff.