A feast for the eyes and the palate, chives are among the most prized of garden treasures. The multifaceted attributes of this popular herb plant benefit from pruning at the right time. Read this tutorial to learn when and how to properly prune chives.
Chives bloom and rumor mill
Myths and rumors surround the flowering chives. It is said that flowering chives are poisonous or at least inedible. We invite you to a short excursion that clears up misconceptions and misunderstandings about the chive blossom.
When the picturesque flowering season begins in June, chives undergo a process of transformation. Until then, the native herb plant delights with juicy, tender tubular leaves that add special flavor to many dishes. As buds begin to form, sturdy stems rise above the grassy aerie, bearing a heavy flower load. To this end, the tubes become thicker, firmer and lignify. What falls by the wayside is the fresh, spicy taste. Anyone who tastes a stalk now will be disappointed by the bitter taste. This does not mean that the flower tubes are poisonous.
In the flowers chives invest all their energy, so that neighboring leaves are affected. Gradually, the characteristic aroma is lost and the tubes take on a woody consistency. The stalks are still suitable for consumption, but no longer in spring-fresh premium quality. The violet flower heads, which give cold dishes a special pep, now provide a culinary treat.
Pruning care as a culinary herb
If the use of chives as a culinary herb is the main focus, pruning care aims to delay the aroma-destroying flowering period. As long as the plant is not forming buds and flowers, the succulent tubular leaves will benefit from the valuable plant energy. Here’s how to properly prune chives as a culinary herb:
Cut regularly from a leaf length of 15-20 cm.
Cut back stalks to two finger widths above the ground
Important: Never pluck out chives
If the first stems with buds catch your eye during harvest, cut the shoots back to 2 centimeters. Fresh leaves will sprout from each cut. As long as no flower stalks muddle in, the delicately spicy herb enjoyment remains.
Cut chives with bypass scissors
The smoother you cut the juicy tubular leaves, the better the harvest quality. For any cutting of chives should be ready scissors with bypass mechanism. In this version, the tool has two sharp blades that cut the herbaceous tissue smoothly even when it is already becoming woody. Alternatively, use a sharp kitchen knife. Not recommended for cutting and harvesting are anvil shears with one sharp and one blunt side, because here bruises on the chives are pre-programmed.
Autumn pruning favors winter seasoning pleasure
As a native perennial, chives pull in their herbaceous plant parts in the bed before winter. Only the root ball with its many frost-resistant bulbs overwinters in the protection of the soil. So that you do not have to do without fresh herbal pleasure during the cold season, the following strategy has proven itself well:
- Use a hand shovel or knife to cut off a piece and dig it up.
- Cut back all shoots to 2 cm
- Plant the root ball with several bulbs in a pot with herb soil and water.
- On a bright, warm windowsill, tucked chives continue to grow briskly. Match the water and nutrient supply to the reduced light conditions. Continue to look for flower stalks when harvesting cuttings. Where the herbaceous plant feels at home, it is not uncommon for it to attempt to bloom in winter, with all the negative consequences described for spicy treats.
Delaying flowering by pruning often results in a surplus harvest that the kitchen cannot use immediately. By freezing the fresh leaves, you create a tasty stockpile. Rinse the stalks with clean water and cut them into small pieces. Poured into a freezer can and frozen in the freezer, the distinctive flavor will remain nearly intact for many weeks.
Cutting care as a flowering perennial
Gardeners without a soft spot for the spicy herb flavor nevertheless incorporate chives into the imaginative planting plan. It is the lavish and colorful blooming season that adds decorative accents to the perennial bed. Now the purple flower heads are welcome, so a different pruning approach comes into focus. This is how you prune chives as a flowering perennial in an exemplary manner:
The best time is in late fall
Important: all plant parts must be completely retracted and dead
Grasp leaves in clumps with one hand
Cut back to 5 cm using a pruning sickle or knife.
Undoubtedly, withered chives is only a shadow of its former self. Nevertheless, you should be patient with pruning until all the leaves have dried up. In this transitional phase, the perennial shifts all its nutrient reserves from the above-ground shoots to the underground survival organs in the form of bulbs. The more plumply filled the energy depots, the more luxuriant the fresh shoots and the more opulent the blooms the next year.
Cut ornamental chives like chives
A close relative perfectly complements the flowering glory of chives. Ornamental chives are also part of the versatile Allium genus. Its hallmark is large, purple flower balls that float through the perennial bed at eye level. Already during the flowering period, the first leaves move in. To decoratively close any resulting gaps, chives make a useful underplanting. In late fall, cut both perennials back to just above ground level in one pass.
Division preserves youthful perennial freshness.
Whether you are cultivating chives as an herbaceous plant or a flowering beauty, you should divide the perennial every few years. The best time is in the fall, when pruning is on the maintenance schedule anyway. Shorten all shoots to two finger widths above the root disc. Then dig up the root system. Pull the root ball apart with both hands to gently separate the numerous bulbs. Plant each section in the new location. Thanks to this rejuvenation cure your chives will start again with fresh vigor.
Frequently asked questions
Are chive flowers edible?
Garden practice has proven that the flowers are edible and very tasty. There is a persistent rumor that chives are basically no longer suitable for consumption when they begin to bloom. In fact, the fresh stalks are particularly aromatic shortly before the beginning of flowering. In the following period, the aroma is lost and the stalks become woody. As a culinary herb, chives can still be used as long as you do not consume the flower stalks.
I would like to plant chives as a flowering perennial, but also use them as a culinary herb. Can this be done successfully? It is often said that chives should not flower if you want to eat them.
You can certainly allow chives to bloom. The flowers are not only decorative, but also edible. However, after flowering begins, the stalks become slightly woody and lose flavor. Optionally, you can cut back the herb plant, after which fresh stalks will sprout and can be harvested. Alternatively, cut back one half of the perennial and enjoy the flowers on the other half.
I harvested my gorgeous potted chives regularly, but did not radically prune them after flowering. Now the plant is wilted and spotty. What to do.
Premium quality chives depend on regular pruning. The plant sprouts vigorously again within a week and provides aromatic supplies for the kitchen. Therefore, cut back all shoots and administer an organic herb fertilizer.
Are chives hardy and perennial?
Chives are a native perennial and therefore reliably hardy. To this day, wild species can be discovered in the wild in wet meadows and river floodplains. In winter, the above-ground, herbaceous shoots retract. Only the frost-resistant root ball with many bulbs overwinters deep in the ground and sprouts again the next spring.
Should I provide winter protection for chives in the bed after the last cutting?
In the year of planting, it is advantageous to cover the bed with a thick layer of leaves and coniferous branches. Especially in regions with harsh winters, this will protect the tender bulbs from severe frost and constant moisture. From the second or third year of standing, the herbaceous perennial has established itself to such an extent that it can survive the winter on its own. This does not apply to chives in pots. Behind the walls of the container, the bulbs are vulnerable to freezing cold. A warming winter coat of fleece effectively prevents frost damage.
The 3 most common pruning mistakes
Chives will not live up to their reputation as an herbal treasure if you give a bloom free rein. This table sums up which other pruning errors affect premium quality:
|Cutting error||Damage pattern||Prevention|
|Budding shoots not thinned out||Premature end of aromatic premium quality||promptly cut off shoots with buds and flowers|
|Tube leaves plucked out||lower crop yield, total failure||always cut 2-5 cm above the ground|
|blunt cutting tool used||bruised leaves, rotting||use sharp knife or bypass scissors|
Beginning with the first harvest cut, young tubular leaves often sprout brown tips. This is no cause for concern, but a normal reaction to the previous cut into the juicy plant tissue. Those who are bothered by the purely aesthetic impairment simply clip the brownish leaf tips before eating.