Close this search box.

How did tasty and pretty chives get such a bad rap?


If social media has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what is going to cause controversy. It’s hard to imagine gardening ever being controversial, but there are plenty of strong opinions. I’m good with healthy discussion on any topic, but sometimes I just don’t see the controversy coming.

And I certainly didn’t think an Instagram post showing a picture of my chive hedge would fall under the category of “hot-button issue.”

But no sooner did I post that photo than comments and private messages started coming in suggesting it was irresponsible for me to recommend growing chives free range (my phrase, not theirs). 

circle garden trellis
The chive hedge mostly in flower. 

In my garden, this is how onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum) behave: after planting they do their thing, gradually bulking up over time. They are easily propagated by division, which is how I created the “hedge” I have in the circle garden. Once a year they come into flower, which is quite beautiful in the hedge. The flowers last for maybe two weeks before they start looking ratty and I go in and either pull out just the flowers or, if the foliage is looking weak, I cut back the entire thing and throw some water on it. Within two week, the plants are fully regrown and standing upright.

chive hedge in spring
Even now, when they are just coming up, the chives in the circle garden create a lovely, bright green framework.

But one thing they have never done in my garden is anything close to “taking over.” Yet, multiple people complained that they feel they will never get all their chives in their garden out because a plant had spread beyond control. They even likened it to mint (a thug that must be contained in every circumstance, in my opinion).

This got me thinking, and researching. And what I’ve come up with is that this is either a case of mistaken identity (aka common name confusion syndrome) or an excellent example of how conditions mean more than plant labels.

My first theory is that my poor onion chives—skinny, round tubular leaves that make everything from baked potatoes to scrambled eggs taste amazingly delicious— were mixed up with garlic chives (A. tuberosum)—beautiful, pollinator-friendly plants with flat leaves that have a stronger, garlicky flavor and are best used when the leaves are young, and are known to reseed rambunctiously from pretty white flowers. This would have been a problem of my creation, as I just called them “chives” without specifying the type.

garlic chives
Garlic chives have flatter leaves and pretty white flowers that attract pollinators, compared to the pink flowers of onion chives. Photo by Rhonda Fleming Hayes, used under CC 2.0 license.

Or, is this a case where my experience in my zone 5 garden is completely different from what other gardeners in other climates, with other soil types, have experienced? I did a bit of searching on the internet and found some suggestions that chives grow best in colder areas, so it seems that if anyone was going to have a problem with them showing signs of being aggressive, it would be me.

circle garden with chive hedge
In the second year after the full chive hedge was planted you can see how it has almost filled in to create a solid hedge.

So, what is your experience growing chives? Have you found them to be invasive?

In any case, I’m pretty sure I have a good method of controlling them: deadhead the flowers before they set seed. 

Onion chives are just too beautiful, too easy (yep, I said it) and too useful to not grow without a darn good reason. 

chivesI think the easiest way to star them is with one plant, perhaps a division from a friend’s garden. My entire chive hedge started from two medium-size clumps from my mom’s garden, divided time and time again. Plant them anywhere: in an herb garden, in an ornamental garden or get a little creative with them and try your own chive hedge or some other decorative planting. Or grow them in a container.

They are perennial even in cold zones.

So let’s get to the bottom of this chive bashing. What’s your beef with chives? 

31 Responses

  1. I have grown the same chives clump in a pot for probably ten years but never thought of making a hedge. I think it’s brilliant and I’m going to try it along a brick pathway! Zone 5b here.

  2. Enjoying the posts about onion chives. especially you guys talking about zone numbers. Here in the northern half of England I guess I’m in zone 2 to 8, usually all in the same weekend!!
    Have only grown chives in pots on patio and was considering planting out, hence researching possible invasion issues. Love you hedge

  3. I’m late responding. I have a chive hedge around my raspberry bed, and up to this year one underneath my fruit trees. I love the purple blossoms and have always been able to contain them when needed. They will spread if disturbed too much, but I just weed them out like all the other plants. I have perennial flowers that are more obnoxious than my chives. And the mint–I don’t put it in a container–is just as easily handled if you are willing to work a little. I love your hedge as well! BTW the blossoms make a delicious vinegar for salads when left to steep for awhile.

  4. I have had chives growing for 5 years and while i might get a couple of new seedlings/bunches growing, I’ve never had them start taking over any of the 4 places I have them. I do also trim them back the same as you do, sometimes just flowers, sometimes all the way back if they are flopping and looking worn. I’ve even tossed the seed filled flower heads in the wild and weed filled meadows next to our property and not once have I seen a chive in there, yet I see a random coneflower or morning glory or yarrow or salvia sprout and grow from time to time – so I I’d think if they were really that bad, they would have had ample opportunity to take off in my dumping grounds.

  5. I just found your blog and wow. I love your mini chive hedge and think it is a fun usage for the herb. I’m in Georgia zone 8a and my onion chives are in no way invasive. My mint that it is planted right next to has repeatedly been dug up time and time again. At our local botanical garden in Columbus they freely plant chives in the rose garden among helebores, daylillies, and rosemary. You just can’t make some people happy.

  6. In Idaho (5a), I have had onion chives reseed. The first year, I didn’t know that could happen! Then I had them all over the place! I learned to not let them go to seed and pulled up what I didn’t want. Then they just enlarge the clump. I would never stop growing them. It simply helps to learn about plants new in my garden and how to manage them.

  7. I wish I could get more chives to grow but the snails chomp on them. Garlic chives are another matter. The seed everywhere and the snails don’t care for them.

  8. Gardening here in a suburb of Dallas, TX. Just put in some chives for the lovely flower they have. hope all goes well!

  9. Zone 9b, Central California here. Chives in pots, raised beds or in the ground don’t spread anything like mint here. They are delicious & tasty & grow year-round.

  10. In my zone 4 garden, onion chives only form nice clumps, but I regret the day I planted garlic chives with their pretty white bloom that just seduces you to try them! I still have them show up after years of trying to get rid of them. I have always thought your chive hedge was a great idea–vertical, spiky foliage, nice blooms, plus an endless supply for cutting/cooking, and easier/cheaper to get going than boxwood for a hedge.
    I think the alliums that can be a nuisance are the drumstick allium, (allium sphaerocephalon). Unlike other alliums I have grown, they form lots of little bulblets (close to the original bulb) that can be pesky. However, I am willing to battle that trait to have their tall, perky blooms in a dry, somewhat neglected bed along my driveway because they are so showy en masse when they are blooming. So not sure what the controversy is about onion chives–sounds like it could possibly be a zone issue… I just know my husband would be very upset if I didn’t grow chives for his potato salad!

  11. All I can say is WTF!?!?!?! What kind of world do we live in that a chive photo stirs up haters?
    I haven’t grown them myself, but my parents did, and we experienced no hostile takeovers.
    I do like to have them around. I make a recipe with Swiss chard, where the leaves wrap up little packets of onion/cheese/cream and are tied shut with chives. Delicious.

  12. Well, I’m in the PNW (zone 7), and my onion chives do self sow quite a bit, because I’m often too busy to deadhead. I’ve never grown mint, so I can’t compare it to that. I pull the seedlings as much as possible, and occasionally put them all together into a pot and make another clump to put elsewhere in the garden or give away. So possibly the problem is a combination of mistaken identity AND climate. We have long, cool, wet springs and dry, cool summers. Plants do behave differently depending on climate. I bet you all just love Buddleia, right? Here in Washington state, it’s a noxious weed on the quarantine list.

  13. Pretty sure you determined the confusion…I’m in zone 6B, northernmost Virginia. True chives are lovely, well mannered and delicious. However, garlic chives DO reseed everywhere. I am constantly taking a shovel to dig them out. True, the blooms are very pretty, but I never seem to cut them back prior to seeds being distributed all over my garden. That is the culprit.

  14. I love chives, I have both the onion and garlic chives. Never a problem with them being invasive for me. The bees and butterflies love them. I use them all the time in cooking. I’m in zone 3b. ?

  15. I grow chives in pots on my deck, to use in cooking all season long. There are a few clumps in my garden left from the previous owner, and I leave them be since I like the way they flower. I don’t find them invasive, however!

    BUT the mint that the previous owner planted all around the outside of the veggie garden drives me out of my mind. I rip it out every year, and every year it comes back. .

    And do not even talk to me about the Tansy they put in the perennial bed and elsewhere. What a nightmare it is, and I cannot get rid of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. I’ve been growing chives for more than 30 years now and have never had to pull any out! I totally came to read your post because I was stunned by your title. I cannot imagine what the haters were talking about.
    🙂 gwingal

  17. I love my chives – the clump i have originally from my grandmothers house over 40 years ago. My mom, sister and I have transplanted it through 4 houses. Its one of the first things that comes up in the spring and I always think of my grandmother when i see them. Otherwise, are people confusing them with alliums? I grew a “hair” variety that I still cannot get rid of, it is everywhere.

    1. Out here in a temperate zone 7b, I have never had onion chives do anything but what they are told. The idea of them spreading is totally foreign to me!

    2. Those hair alliums are the worst. I grew them one year a very long time ago and I still have plants coming up all over the place. I have tried digging all those little rascals out, but they always return. I’m going to just forget it this year because it is a battle that cannot be won. I also have another allium that thinks it owns every space it can find. I think gardeners need to really think twice about planting alliums.

      1. I keep garlic chives in a pot. On a paved surface. Onion chives with their pretty purple flowers attract pollinators and never get invasive. They are in my garden Zone 5b and well behaved. Alliums (large or small) on the other hand are really hard to get rid of and I won’t plant any more. I think this is a case of mistaken identity garlic chives for onion chives. Carry on with your hedging, it looks great, and tasty too!

  18. Several years ago I purchased a type of chive that was called garlic chives. It looked just like onion chives with round leaves and purple flowers, but it was a brut. It took many years to remove it from my garden. Love my very well behaved onion chives, and will never be without them.

  19. Garlic chives, with the white blossoms, are extremely invasive for me. They grow into my daylilies and take over. For years I have tried everything. Even RoundUp ? doesn’t touch them ! And you can dig and dig but you will never get them all. I am in zone 5.

  20. I love them. Mine haven’t taken over. The clump has gotten larger, but not obnoxiously so. I do have one new clump, a foot or so away from the original one…definitely not taking over in my Kansas City garden.

  21. I don’t have a beef with chives. I have had them in my garden for years. I am a zone warmer than you 6B. I use them where I need something different or a filler. I don’t think they spread anything like mint. The clumps get larger. I am not good at dead heading either. Maybe further south they can get weedy. The wild onions/garlic are what drive me crazy. I have been told by farmers and chemical sales men that nothing will kill them except starving the bulbs ie keep cutting them back. That doesn’t ever seem to help either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

What would you like to know? Search, or jump to categories below.