A common item for many gardeners to grow in their home is herbs. Herbs serve a dual purpose of being both beautiful additions to your home, while also being useful in the kitchen. One of the most popular and easy to grow herbs is chives. Growing chives indoors is an excellent choice as they are easy to grow for the beginning gardener and are used in many different recipes. If you’re looking for an excellent herb to add to your collection try chives out.
There are two types of chives that are usually grown. These two are the following:
- Common Chives (onion)
- Garlic Chives
The main difference between the two is the taste. Garlic chives have a garlic taste while the common chive tastes more like a weak onion. Both also bloom small flowers of different colors; common being purple and garlic white. Which one to grow comes down to personal preference and which one tastes better to you. They both require similar care to grow properly, so it truly is a personal choice. By following the tips in this article you’ll be able to grow both with confidence.
Container & Soil
Chives are quite popular to grow due to their ability to thrive in relatively small containers. In fact, many people choose to grow them in very small containers on windowsills. Obviously you’ll grow less in smaller pots, but their ability to be versatile makes them appealing to many gardeners. Our recommendation for containers is clay pots as they help with proper drainage, but really any container will do if cared for correctly.
The most important thing is to make sure there is proper drainage so that water doesn’t sit at the bottom of the pot. Small holes are usually enough to allow excess water out of the pot. Too much water sitting in the pot can lead to root rot, which can kill your plant. If your chosen container doesn’t have any drainage consider adding some before planting.
For soil, you’ll want to use a well draining potting soil. Most commercial soils will work, as well as those labeled specifically for herbs. When planting indoors, always make sure to get a potting soil and not a garden soil. Garden soil won’t allow for proper drainage and will likely kill your plants.
When planting, you’ll want to pre-moisten the soil before sowing the seeds or planting the seedlings. Plant the seeds about 1/4″ deep and cover with a thin layer of soil. For seedlings, dig a small hole that will allow you to completely cover the roots. In both cases you’ll want to give about 4-6” of space between your plants. You can go closer when starting with seeds, but should prune them back to this distance once they begin to sprout.
If growing from seeds, expect them to germinate in around 2 weeks. During this time you should keep the soil moist and warm.
Outdoors, chives are considered a cold season crop and will do best in early spring and fall. Chives can be planted a few weeks before the last frost date, and will begin to spring up shortly after. Follow the above notes on planting as the instructions are the same both indoors and out.
If you experience very warm summer temperatures your chives may appear to stop growing. This is perfectly normal, chives like cooler temperatures so go dormant in the warmest weather to protect themselves. Your chives will likely come back to life in the fall as the temperature falls. If you want them to thrive all summer, consider planting them in an area that gets some shade or in in-direct light. This will help control the temperature and keep your chives from going dormant.
Once the season ends your chives will die back, but return as perennials in the spring. The rest of this article will primarily focus on indoor planting, but note that the care is similar when growing outdoors.
When growing chives indoors one of the prime considerations is light. Chives usually require about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. If not possible, supplementing with a grow light is a good choice.
Using a grow light is perfectly fine, and should be positioned roughly 6-12 inches away from the plant depending on intensity. Look for ones like LED that don’t give off too much heat to avoid burning out your plant and preventing dormancy as noted above.
If you notice your chives begin to bend, simply rotate the pot so they bend away from the light. They will correct themselves as they reach the opposite way to grow towards the light. It’s recommended to give them a rotation every week or so to ensure proper growth.
Water & Feeding
Chives are fairly hardy plants, so they don’t need to be watered that frequently. Simply check every day or so to see if the soil is dry to touch, and if so, give them a thorough dose of water. You’ll want to saturate the soil, but not soak it. Watch for any drainage holes to start leaking, that’s usually a pretty good sign to stop as the soil is thoroughly saturated.
Chives also enjoy a bit of humidity. Following standard humidity practices is a good idea, and you can also lightly mist them between watering to keep the humidity from getting too low.
For fertilizing, a low strength fertilizer is preferred. Use a water soluble fertilizer, and dilute to half strength 1-2 times per month during the warmer season. Chives tend to grow slower during the winter (even indoors) and therefore don’t need to be fed as often. Typically, a dose around mid fall is enough to last the plant until the spring growing season returns.
Chives are super simple to harvest. Wait until they are about 6-8” in length, this is usually enough to give you a good harvest while leaving enough plant intact to continue growing.
Once they reach the proper height simply take a pair of scissors, and cut the plant leaving roughly 2″ above the soil line. This ensures that they continue to grow back after each clipping. Don’t clip more than this or you risk damaging the plant.
Chives are a key addition to a huge variety of dishes, their slight oniony flavor helps bring out other flavors in the dish. For best results, add them add the end of cooking or as a topping. Heat will rapidly destroy the chive's flavor, so using them at the end is best to preserve their taste. The flowers are also edible, and add not only great flavor but some interesting visual appeal. You can also experiment with different types of chives as they have slightly different tastes. This is usually subtle, but when done right can completely change a dish.
Growing With Other Plants?
It is not recommended to grow chives with other plants as they are technically weeds. They will quickly spread out to fill their container, and since they are so fast growing they will usually out pace other plants. This will lead to the chives taking all the nutrients in the soil, and effectively choking out the other plants. If growing outdoors, it’s important to keep an eye on your chives or section them off to prevent them from taking over your garden. Indoors, give them a separate pot to grow in.
Indoors, chives don’t need to be actively pruned, but can be cut back if needed without harming the plant. Most growers will simply harvest as needed, no more maintenance is necessary beyond that.
Outdoors, however, you may want to be a bit more active. In particular, you will want to pinch back any flowers that bloom or cut them off. This will limit the spread of the chive seeds, and prevent them from taking over your garden. Left alone, the chives will quickly spread, and this can be problematic for nearby plants.
How To Grow Chives Quick Tips
Here are some quick tips to remember when growing chives indoors.
If you are growing chives in one big pot, it is recommended to place them apart about 4-6 inches apart to help the chives grow individually well. The same goes for outdoor growing directly in your garden’s soil.
Make sure that the soil that you are using is made for containers and rich in nutrients. You also need to ensure that the soil is well draining before planting the chives.
If you notice the tips of chives begin to turn yellow this is usually a good indication that they are not receiving enough water. Try watering them a bit more frequently, but be careful not to over correct the problem and water too frequently.
Chives can be harvested once they reach about 6” tall. When harvesting, make sure that you leave about a 1-2 inches above the soil so that the chives can continue growing. Chives are pretty quick growers, so look to harvest frequently. Harvesting actually helps them grow so don’t be afraid to cut them back, even if you don’t plan on using the cuttings. You can always freeze the cut herbs and they will retain their flavors.
When fertilizing, use a low grade, water soluble fertilizer 1-2 times per month for best results. Using a strong fertilizer may actually weaken the taste of the chives.
One thing to keep in mind about chives is that they drop seeds in nearby areas after they being to flower. They will take about 2 weeks to germinate, and then they can grow quickly and can take on a “weed” appearance in the rest of your garden. Luckily they are fairly easy to pull, and will require only light maintenance to keep contained. As noted above, dealing with the flowers early will prevent this.
Once they begin to grow, follow the steps above and enjoy the delicious chives, fresh from the garden!
Can I grow Chives Year Round?
When growing indoors yes, you can grow and harvest year round. Otherwise, chives will grow dormant after the first frost.
Can Chives Get Pests?
They can, but it’s rare. The aroma of chives acts as a natural repellant, and can actually help keep pests off nearby plants. If by chance they do get get pests, you can use a soapy water mixture to help clean them and remove the pests.
Can I move My Chives Indoors in The Winter?
Yes, chives are quite hardy and will transplant easy. It’s best to remove them clumps at a time, and then divide them up into your pots once indoors. Make sure the new soil is moist, and the chives should continue to grow happily all winter long!
Can Chives Be Grown Hydroponically?
Yes, chives are one of the most popular plants for hydroponic growing. This is due to their fast growth, small size, and easy maintenance.
Do Chives Regrow After Cutting?
Yes, chives are fast growers so will grow back quickly after harvesting or pruning. They’re also a perennial so will grow back each year even after falling back in the winter.