Plant This: Garlic chives

As the days grow shorter in late August and early September, garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) burst into bloom, with clusters of starry, white flowers held aloft on long stems, like 4th of July sparklers. They’ll bloom for weeks, giving you at least a month of beauty—more if you enjoy the tawny seedheads. Do watch out for those, however, as garlic chives are known to spread vigorously by seed.

That has not been a problem in my garden in the two years that I’ve been growing them. In fact, I find this grassy, clumping plant to be trouble-free and a great asset to my partly shady, deer-visited front garden. The grassy leaves, reminiscent of liriope, are quietly handsome year-round in mild winters, though they may die back in cold winters.

Deer leave garlic chives alone, not fond, apparently, of the garlicky taste. But you can eat them if you like, seasoning soups, salads, and egg and vegetable dishes.

I grow them for ornamental purposes, in semicircles around darker leaved plants like purple fountain grass. Their white flowers show up beautifully against dark foliage.

Divide garlic chives every 3 or 4 years to renew their vigor, and then you can share your bounty with other deer-challenged gardeners.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

7 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    I need to garlic chives a try. The deer are eating society garlic which is a surprise as it does have a strong odor. I can see this working quite well in the front garden as well.

  2. Hmmmm…..deer don’t eat them. I pretty much like anything that deer don’t like.
    Haven’t had them chomping on the society garlic…yet. Our deer don’t seem to know they’re not supposed to like certain things. They’re even chomping the new crossvine.
    These are pretty. Might have to give them a chance. These do look like liriope, which is one of my favorites.

  3. Donita says:

    Hi Pam,
    I just saw one of your pictures on Pinterest. The picture is garden/galvanized metal. There is a RED door on the galvanized building. Do you know the name of the color red? Love all of your beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    Donita, I’m sorry, but I have no idea which photo you’re referring to, and I wouldn’t know the specific paint color anyway. Sorry I can’t be of help. —Pam

  4. Ruth says:

    They are beautiful.

  5. Scott Weber says:

    I always love seeing these in other gardens…but haven’t planted any myself, for some odd reason. I’ll have to keep an eye out :-)

  6. Donita says:

    Thank you Pam. Here is the link. I thought this was on your property, the picture had your name on it. :-)

    Donita, if you click on that picture in Pinterest, it’ll take you to the blog post it came from, which happens to be my post about Cheryl Goveia’s garden. Follow the links to her blog (provided in my post), and then you can contact her about the color of her door. —Pam

  7. WendyK says:

    Though I love the blooms, especially since not much is blooming at that time of year, I have been trying to eradicate garlic chives from my garden for several years, but the seedlings continue to be a problem despite hours of digging them out every spring and fall. They pop up everywhere, including in the lawn, in the center of my perennials, between cracks, you name it, and they seem to be able to regenerate if any portion of root remains. I would recommend against planting them unless you are *sure* you can be out there deadheading them before they set seed. In my garden (Virginia z7a) they are usually going to seed right around the time school starts, which is a very busy time of year for my family and I just don’t have the time in early September to keep an eye on them. That’s how I ended up in this predicament :). Garlic chive is one of only a handful of plants that I regret planting.

    Thanks for the yellow flag of caution, Wendy, especially for readers gardening in your neck of the woods. —Pam