Chinese chives are also known as garlic chives, Oriental garlic, Asian chives, Chinese leek, or allium tuberosum.
No matter what you call them, garlic chives are a delicious addition to your herb garden.
For gardeners interested in growing hydroponically, the Chinese garlic chive is an exceptional beginner’s plant that is hardy and grows quickly.
Learning how to grow hydroponic herbs lets you have a constant supply of fresh herbs year-round.
What are Chinese Chives?
Chinese chives are a garlicky cousin of the onion chives commonly found in grocery stores. Garlic chives are a clumping type of onion bulb commonly grown in China for culinary use.
Chinese chive plants are now grown all over the world for food and decoration. Chinese chives are used in recipes that call for chives, and they give an incredible garlic flavor to soups, stews, and stir fry.
Chinese chives grow 12-inch grey-green stalks from small bulbs. The flowers are white with brown stripes and have a scent similar to violets. All parts of the plant have a garlic smell when cut or crushed. Chinese garlic chives grow as a perennial and make excellent choices for containers and windowsill planters. They grow well in the ground and will self-seed and spread through division.
What Does Chinese Chive Taste Like?
The Chinese chive has a distinct chive aroma with a savory garlic flavor. The chive is not as pronounced as in other varieties, and the garlic is less pungent than a clove of garlic. The flowers are edible and have a very mild flavor. You can grow Chinese garlic chives like leeks to enhance the flavors.
How to Grow Chinese Chives
Chinese chives are easy to grow in many parts of the U.S. They are cold tolerant in zones three through nine, according to the USDA hardiness system.
Chinese garlic chives can grow in the ground, in containers, and suitable for hydroponic gardens. Gardeners can follow some simple steps to learn to grow healthy and flavorful Chinese garlic chives.
Starting Chinese Garlic Chives from Seed
Garlic chives are easy to start from seed. You can start seeds in the ground in spring as soon as the last frost has passed. Chinese chives are not picky about soil conditions but grow best in loose, dry, to well-draining soil. Plant seeds ¼” deep, 2-3 seeds per inch. Chinese chives grow well when they are relatively close together.
Chinese garlic chive seeds are easy to start indoors, and they can be started two to three weeks before the last frost. You can use a soilless growing medium or rockwool to start growing Chinese chive plants from seed. Transplant the seedlings when the danger of frost has passed after hardening off for a few days.
Starting Chinese Chives from Division
Division is merely splitting up clumps of growing Chinese garlic chives to grow into new clumps. You can divide a healthy Chinese chive clump about every three years. All you do is dig up the Chinese chives in the spring and pull the clump apart. Just plant the clumps, and they will grow into new chive clumps.
What is Hydroponic Gardening?
Hydroponic gardening is a popular method of growing plants without soil. Hydroponic gardens provide the gardener with absolute control over nutrients, making it possible to grow healthier, stronger plants. Hydroponic systems for gardening can be small indoor units for use in a kitchen to large outdoor systems. Many people build hydroponic gardens in greenhouses also.
Hydroponic systems work by circulating water through the roots of growing plants. Smooth stones and artificial materials support the roots. The gardener can regulate how much water flows, how often, and what nutrients are fed to the plants.
Often, hydroponic gardens work in tandem with artificial lighting that provides the correct spectrum of light. With control over the lighting, nutrients, and water, the gardener can grow plants year-round, regardless of weather conditions.
Chinese Chives for Hydroponics
Chinese garlic chives are one of the best choices for hydroponic gardens because they grow rapidly, and they have weak root structures that benefit from hydroponic gardening. The mature plants are rarely taller than 14-inches, making them ideal for indoor growing on a countertop.
Garlic chives are a great way to learn how to grow with hydroponics successfully. The Chinese chive plants are hardy and will survive mistakes and mishaps that will kill other plants. The Chinese chive will even grow well with sub-par lighting. Once you can grow strong Chinese chives in your hydroponic garden, you’ll have the experience to try more challenging plants.
Another advantage of hydroponic gardening is that the gardener can select plants to breed together to enhance specific traits. Gardeners could choose plants that grow faster or plants that have more flavor to produce better seeds.
Chinese Leeks – Growing Garlic Chives for More Flavor
A widespread practice in China and Japan is to grow Chinese chives like leeks. When you plant your chives, start them in a depression, then as the plant grows, mound mulch or potting soil up the stalk. When you grow garlic chives this way, the white portion will extend up the stalk, giving the Chinese leek plant a more pronounced flavor.
Soil Conditions for Growing Chinese Chives
Chinese chives are known to be hardy in most soil types, and they are not particular about pH. Chives will grow well in medium soil that drains well, but gardeners should not grow chives in moist or wet soil because the conditions are perfect for bacterial and fungal infections. Chinese garlic chives grow well in full-sun locations and will also tolerate some shade.
Watering Chinese Chives
Chinese chives don’t require a ton of watering and will grow well when the soil dries somewhat between waterings. It’s usually unnecessary to add fertilizer to growing chives in the garden, but a liquid fertilizer can help boost growth if applied before planting. Water should be lightly sprayed on the leaves of growing Chinese chives to help prevent insects.
How to Harvest Chinese Garlic Chives
Harvesting Chinese chives is easy. You can use a sharp knife or shears and cut the plant off about three inches above the ground. Harvesting the stalks in this manner encourages the plant to grow new shoots. You can harvest Chinese chives when they are 12-inches tall.
Gardeners can keep Chinese garlic chives in a windowsill or small indoor planter, and you can harvest as much as you need. This is a great way to have fresh herbs available in your kitchen. Small hydroponic systems are ideal for growing herbs like Chinese garlic chives indoors.
When the flowers begin to develop, gardeners should snip them off. Cutting the flowers encourages the plant to grow and will extend your growing season. The leaves will have a stronger flavor when you cut the flowers. Gardeners will get two blooms from Chinese garlic chives by snipping off the flowers. Chinese chives rarely flower in the first year of growth.
Chinese garlic chives are typically grown for the leaves, but the bulb is edible and delicious, too. If you plan on harvesting bulbs, you’ll want to pull young Chinese chives before they flower. Once the flower develops, the bulb becomes tough and difficult to eat.
How to use Chinese Chives in Meals
The flat leaves of the Chinese chive plant are excellent for adding flavor to a variety of meals. The leaves are diced and sauteed with greens and protein, often pork or chicken. One of the most popular uses of Chinese garlic chives is to add them to scrambled eggs.
Leaves are also eaten raw in salads. The leaves are usually finely chopped and tossed into green salads, where they add a mild onion and garlic flavor. The diced leaves make a flavorful addition to fried potatoes.
Flowers are used when they are still buds. You can cut the entire flower stalk and chop it into two-inch pieces, and you can sautee them with garlic and fish sauce or soy sauce. The flowers cook quickly and have a tenderness similar to green beans.
Are Garlic Chives Good For You?
Not only are garlic chives a tasty way to add subtle garlic flavor to all sorts of meals or dress up a garden salad, but garlic chives are also good for your health. Traditional Chinese medicine has many uses for garlic chives. Eastern medicine prescribes the plant to treat joint and muscle pain and frequent urination.
Garlic chives are high in antioxidants and vitamin A and C. They are also a high-fiber food source that can benefit people with heart disease and aid in your digestion. Garlic chives added to your diet can help detoxify the liver and kidneys. Garlic chives also help add iron, phosphorus, and other essential minerals many diets lack.
Pests Common to Garlic Chives
Garlic chives are one of the most pest-resistant plants you can grow in your garden. The only harmful bug common to infest garlic chives are thrips. These little bugs will suck the sap from chive plants and can cause an infestation. Use diatomaceous earth and periodically spray the leaves of garlic chives to discourage thrips.
Garlic Chive Diseases
The most common diseases that impact Chinese garlic chive plants are a blight and pink root rot, both associated with too much water. Powdery mildew and downy mildew can both be a problem when growing Chinese garlic chives in humid regions. If you make sure that your garden drains well and water your garlic chives correctly, you won’t have disease problems.
Chinese Garlic Chives as a Companion Plant
Chinese garlic chives are a great companion plant that can defend your garden from destructive pests and even improve other plants’ flavor. Gardeners can plant garlic chives near tomatoes and carrots to enhance the flavor. Planting garlic chives near fruit trees can prevent borers, and they can even stop black spot disease when planted near roses.
Japanese beetles and cucumber beetles are repelled by garlic chives, while the blossoms are popular with beneficial pollinators like wasps and bees. Not only will these pollinators improve the health of your garden, but many of them also eat destructive pests.
- Chinese garlic chives originate in China but are grown all over the world.
- Growing Chinese garlic chives is straight-forward because the plants are fast-growing and hardy.
- The garlic chive plant makes an ideal plant to start a hydroponic garden because it grows quickly.
- Chinese garlic chives can be grown like leeks by mounding the growing plant to increase the flavor.
- The garlic chive plant will grow in most types of soil and doesn’t require excessive watering. The plant is drought-resistant and grows best in full sun.
- It’s eaten cooked in stir fry and soup recipes and raw in salads and as a garnish.
- Garlic chives have traditionally been used in Eastern medicine and provide an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
- Garlic chives are mostly pest and disease-free.
- They make excellent companion plants and help prevent infestations from pests.
Growing Chinese garlic chives is relatively easy, and once they are established, you’ll have to spend very little time keeping them up. The leaves are excellent herbs to add to meals, and the pretty white flowers attract beneficial bugs to your garden.
If you have contemplated trying to start hydroponic gardening, the Chinese garlic chive is perfectly suited and is an excellent performer.