Chives are cultivated both for its culinary uses as well as its ornamental value, as the violet flowers are often used in ornamental dry bouquets. It also makes a good choice for growing as a low edging for borders. Its flowers are also attractive to bees, which are important for gardens with an abundance of plants in need of pollination.
It also has insect-repelling properties which can be used in gardens to control pests due to its sulfur compounds.
From June to July, in the northern parts or from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones, chives produce large round flower heads consisting of round deep purple or pink globes flowers, with six tepals, 1-2 cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together. Before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The small seeds are black when ripe and similar to onion seeds, are produced in a small three-valved capsule and become mature in summer.
Chives grow best in full sun in a fairly rich, moist but well drained soil, rich in organic matter that has a pH of 6-8, but they will tolerate partial shade and most soil types. Chives should be fertilized several times during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer or bone meal and manure. Chives should be kept well watered and weeded.
Leaves can be harvested after established plants are 15 cm tall. To harvest, simply cut the leaves and flowers 5 cm above the ground to use fresh. The green from the clumps can be cut 3-4 times in the season, easier to snip with scissors than cut with a knife. The leaves will soon grow again and be found more tender each time of cutting. All plants should be cut regularly to encourage new bulblets to develop, to prevent leaves from becoming tough, and to prevent flower formation if you want to prolong the harvesting period. For freezing or drying cut the leaves before flowering occurs and chop them finely.
In the winter, chives die back to the underground bulbs. The new leaves will appear in early spring. For early crops, you can force some clumps by placing cloches or a light over them or plant some clumps in containers in the fall for early spring chives. Make sure the containers will get plenty of sun.
Chives can be easily grown from seeds and mature in summer or early the following spring as soon as the soil gets warm. For a good germination they need temperatures of 15-20 Celsius degrees (59-68 F) and to be kept moist. They can also be planted under a cloche or germinated indoors in flats containing a peat-based soilless mix, if you live in cooler climates, then planted out later. In four to six weeks, the young plants can be planted outdoors, preferably after all danger of frost is past. Chives can also be direct seeded outside when the soil is warm, but then few if any leaves should be harvested that first year.
The easiest way to start chives is by dividing an established clump in spring or autumn. When dividing the clumps, leave 5-6 little bulbs together in a tiny clump, which will spread to a fine clump in the course of a year. For renewing the plant and prevent it to become over-crowding is best to divide established clumps of bulbs every two to three years and transplant clusters from the outer edges of the clumps.