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How to Grow a Chive Plant Indoors! (It’s Easy)

Close up image of fast growing chive scapes in the sun

Introducing the Chive Plant!

Today we’re talking about chive plants. It can be so frustrating going to the grocery story, searching for those little plastic packets filled with bent chives only to find that half of them are browning.

There is an easy solution to this problem: growing chives indoors in your own personal windowsill herb garden! Growing chives is wonderfully easy to do and having them on hand will ensure that your dishes also have that needed kick of flavor.

The common chive (sometimes called onion chive), otherwise known as allium schoenoprasum, is part of the amaryllidaceae. This makes them cousins with many other integral kitchen items like scallions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and onions.

Through this article we’ll go through all of the necessary information regarding planting chive plants, and you can decide whether growing indoors or outdoors is best for your needs. Either way you do it, get ready to learn to grow chives!

What do Chive Plants Look Like?

Lovely garden chives with blooming purple flowers

Starting underneath the earth, chives grow from underground bulbs. A bulb is a specialized type of root that basically contains all of the necessary nutrients and moisture that a plant needs to survive.

From a chive bulb will grow scapes. Scapes are basically the hollow, tubular stems of the plant that are edible! They grow to be 12-20 inches in length and have a soft texture to them, and they tend to grow in a clump.

Some may also call this a leaf, as it is very similar looking to grass. A chive scape isn’t too fragrant but has a surprising punch of flavor that is like a sweet and mild onion flavor.

The chives plant is a perennial herb, and will bloom in the late spring to early summer with an inflorescences comprised of many pale purple flowers that are star shaped (and also edible!)

Where do Chives Come From?

The chive is a very very common plant both in the wild and as a garden plant. It’s native growing region spans across Asia, Europe, and North America, but they have easily become naturalized all over the world.

Chive plants can exist happily outdoors all year long in USDA growing zones 3 through 9, but should be treated as annuals or brought indoors outside of those zones.

It is important for gardeners to know that chive plants spread very quickly. If planted in the garden and they are allowed to go to seed, they will populate your entire garden with enthusiasm. If you’ve got indoor chives, no need to worry!

How are Chive Plants Used?

Chopped chives sitting on a cutting board next to knife

Culinary – chives are a super duper common herb. Gardeners and cook alike will always have fresh chives on hand to incorporate into savory dishes. The green stalks are edible, the mature flower buds are edible, and even the bulbs of the plants are edible!

Chopped chives make the perfect garnish for all sorts of savory dishes like omelettes, different noodle dishes, poultry, fish, and they’re great in salads too! (Just make sure you have a nicely sharpened knife!)

Companion Planting – chives are also a very popular choice when it comes to companion planting. Chives are great at repelling unwanted insects and are also great at attracting beneficial pollinators.

Gardeners will often companion plant chives between rocks and along garden bed borders to protect vulnerable plants inside from fungal infections and pests. Companion plant chive alongside carrots, tomatoes, peas, celery, and lettuce for some serious symbiosis!

Ornamental – let’s not forget that chives are beautiful too! They are fast growing, grass like leaves do a great job of filling bare areas, they bare lovely purple flowers that can then be dried and used in dried flower bouquets!

How do you Grow Chive Plant Indoors?

Young container chive plants growing

Now for the final step on your chive learning-journey: growing potted chives indoors. Luckily, this is a super easy thing to do and to maintain! Soon enough you’ll have an entire indoor herb garden with all the fresh herbs you can imagine. First, you’ll need a few things:

  1. well draining, fertile potting mix
  2. chive bulbs/chive seeds
  3. small pots
  4. grow light (optional)

Potting Mix – it is very important that the soil type you choose is both well draining and fertile. There are tons of options in garden centres and nurseries for soil that is already mixed with organic matter, or you can incorporate compost yourself.

Organic matter does a great job of increasing drainage while at the same time increasing the nutrient content of the soil. Sand is also a great way to improve drainage.

Water – watering a chive plant is pretty simple. It is best to keep their soil moist, though they’re tolerant to short periods of dry soil. Water chives more frequently if summer temperatures get really high, but this doesn’t apply as much to an indoor plant.

You can check the soil moisture by sticking your finger into the soil. If you feel moist soil a couple of inches down, it doesn’t need to be watered.

Sunlight – chives love sun exposure. When growing outdoors, they should be planted in an area with full sun, so this indicates that they’ll need the sunniest place in your house as well.

If you have a south facing window that has at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, that will be perfect. If you don’t have a south facing window with bright light, you may need a grow light.

Grow lights are very easily available and should be situated a good 5 inches above your chive plants. Set the timer to 10 hours a day and your chive will be perfect happy.

Temperature – chives do tend to be a little bit particular when it comes to temperature. These are cool season crops that do most of their growing in the spring and fall.

They prefer temperatures occurring between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and will go dormant in areas that experience super hot summers. Their growing season will start again once things cool off a bit.

Potting – it is important that each chive plant has enough space to grow. The bulbs should be planted at least 6 inches apart from one another, or if you’re growing from seed, the same distance is required.

Pruning – not much needs to be done in way of pruning other than removing the blooming flowers. Many fresh herb types will lose their best flavor after the plant has gone to flower, so if you snip those away it will extend the growing season.

Additionally (if growing chive outdoors) if you’re looking to control the population of your chive plants, you’ll need to pluck away the blooming chive flowers before they are able to go to seed.

Otherwise, they will self seed prolifically and take over the garden. But don’t forget, those chive flowers are edible! They have a compact mild onion flavor!

Harvesting – chives will grow quite quickly and will be ready to harvest a couple of months after they have been planted. Make sure not to harvest chives all at once as it will take a ton of energy for them to grow, and they may not grow all the way back until their next growing season the following spring.

The time of year for harvesting chives will vary according to when the chive seed was originally planted and how quickly the chive seedlings grew. Chive seedlings will grow into mature plants anywhere from 30-60 days after they have been planted.

Hands snipping away the tips of chive leaves

FAQs

Are chive plants deer resistant?

Growing herbs is the best thing that you can do for your ornamental plants. Growing herbs around your flowers helps deter small and large pests alike because herbs tend to have extremely fragrant leaves which deer, rabbits, squirrels, and smaller insects do not like.

What are the damaging agents to chive plants?

Chives are super growers and won’t be bothered by too much, there aren’t any chives pests to look out for. If your chive plant is inexplicably wilting, that probably means that it’s time for the bulbs to be divided.

Chives don’t like to be too crowded in their containers and pots and their bulbs should be divided every 3 to 4 years. Once this happens, they will experience some seriously enthusiastic growth!

Are chive plants perennials?

The chives plant is a perennial herb This means that it bears small purple flowers that will continue to bloom each year as long as the ideal growing conditions of the plant are met and maintained.

What USDA growing zone can chive plants grow in?

Chive plants can exist happily outdoors all year long in USDA growing zones 3 through 9, but should be treated as annuals or brought indoors outside of those zones.

How often should a chive plant be watered?

Watering a chive plant is pretty simple. It is best to keep their soil moist, though they’re tolerant to short periods of dry soil. Water chives more frequently if summer temperatures get really high, but this doesn’t apply as much to an indoor plant.

You can check the soil moisture by sticking your finger into the soil. If you feel moist soil a couple of inches down, it doesn’t need to be watered.

What is garlic chive?

Garlic chive is a type of chive plant that is native to China. It basically looks like a chive but has a flavor that is more similar to garlic.

Should a chive plant be pruned?

Not much needs to be done in way of pruning other than removing the blooming flowers. Many fresh herb types will lose their best flavor after the plant has gone to flower, so if you snip those away it will extend the growing season.

Additionally (if growing chive outdoors) if you’re looking to control the population of your chive plants, you’ll need to pluck away the blooming chive flowers before they are able to go to seed.

Otherwise, they will self seed prolifically and take over the garden. But don’t forget, those chive flowers are edible! They have a compact mild onion flavor!

Do chive plants prefer full sun or partial shade?

Chives love sun exposure. When growing outdoors, they should be planted in an area with full sun, so this indicates that they’ll need the sunniest place in your house as well.

If you have a south facing window that has at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, that will be perfect. If you don’t have a south facing window with bright light, you may need a grow light.

Grow lights are very easily available and should be situated a good 5 inches above your chive plants. Set the timer to 10 hours a day and your chive will be perfect happy.

Where can I buy chive seeds?

Chive seeds will be readily available to buy at your local nursery or garden centre.

What is the ideal soil type for a chive plant?

It is very important that the soil type you choose is both well draining and fertile. There are tons of options in garden centres and nurseries for soil that is already mixed with organic matter, or you can incorporate compost yourself.

Organic matter does a great job of increasing drainage while at the same time increasing the nutrient content of the soil. Sand is also a great way to improve drainage.

What is the easiest way to propagate a chive plant?

Chives seeds or bulbs will grow very readily and can easily be grown as indoor potted chives. Chives are one of those very easy and simple herbs to propagate.

How tall do chive plants get?

Starting underneath the earth, chives grow from underground bulbs. A bulb is a specialized type of root that basically contains all of the necessary nutrients and moisture that a plant needs to survive.

From a chive bulb will grow scapes. Scapes are basically the hollow, tubular stems of the plant that are edible! They grow to be 12-20 inches in length and have a soft texture to them, and they tend to grow in a clump.

Some may also call this a leaf, as it is very similar looking to grass. A chive scape isn’t too fragrant but has a surprising punch of flavor that is like a sweet and mild onion flavor.

The chives plant is a perennial herb, and will bloom in the late spring to early summer with an inflorescences comprised of many pale purple flowers that are star shaped (and also edible!)