svg How to Grow Chives Indoors | Urban Leaf

How to Grow Chives Indoors

Chives were some of the ancient Romans' favorite herbs - so much so that clumps still grow in the English countryside wherever their soldiers camped. In this blog, we’ll be talking about everything related to growing chives indoors, from basic facts, supplies, setup, and steps to grow, care for and harvest it.

Plant type

Perennial

Family

Alliaceae

Binomial name

Allium schoenoprasum

 

Timing

Chives sprout in 1-2 weeks. Then they can be harvested from Month 3+ on.


Part sun

Chives need at least an equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day].

Care

Growing chives indoors is beginner-friendly. You’ll thin, prune, and harvest.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Ways to Grow Chives Indoors

Growing Chives Indoors Using Soil vs Hydroponics vs Microgreens

Growing Chives Indoors Using Soil

Chives plants don’t do well in moist soil conditions. The roots are not accustomed to being too wet and will rot in boggy conditions. On the other hand, if the soil dries out completely the roots will die back and the plant won’t recover. This can catch you off guard because the plant’s not very expressive (its leaves don’t wilt) so it will look fine right up until it dies. 

Grow Chives Indoors Using Hydroponics

Unlike other herbs, chives do not grow well in hydroponic systems such as the aerogarden. This is due to them not liking moist soil conditions.

Equipment Needed for Growing Chives Indoors Using Soil

We prefer a Ceramic Self Watering Planter filled with a standard potting mix that self-regulates to keep the soil at consistent moisture for your plant to thrive (and no watering guesswork for you).

To set one up:

  1. Fill up the planter with dry soil from the bag, gently tamping down the top.
  2. Dump the soil into a large mixing bowl and add water until the soil is moist, but not sopping wet (about ½ Cup)
  3. Mix in 1 tablespoon of the Balanced Blend Plant Food.

Of course, chives will also grow perfectly well in a pot and soil. If you are using a regular pot, look for something at least 4” with good drainage. Remember that you are likely to need to water it every 2-3 days. . Let the top of the soil dry out between watering.

Here is another self-watering planter that we recommend:

XS Self Watering Planter by Wet Pot

Growing Chives Indoors as Microgreens

You can definitely grow micro chives or chives as microgreens. However, chive microgreens take longer to germinate compared to other herbs. If you love anything that adds a distinct flavor to your food and something you can grow all year-round, then maybe you can try it out. 

Click here to learn more about the different types of microgreens (herbs being one of them), or grab a copy of our eBook to learn more about all the different ways you can grow chives (and more!) at home.

 

Care and Maintenance of Chives Indoors

Lighting for Growing Chives Indoors

Like all edible plants, Chives plants need lots of light to grow and develop good flavor. Sunlight is excellent for plant growth (and free!) and you might be lucky enough to have a spot that’s got the 5+ hours of direct sun they need. Even with a bright window, it’s unlikely that you’ll have enough natural light in the winter so we recommend a grow light for anyone who wants a constant supply of flavorful produce.

For an introduction to grow lights, head over to our post on grow lights for indoor gardeners. We’ve also got a buying guide for screw in types, but to keep things simple in this guide, we’ll just provide directions for the 24W Screw in Bulb by Sansi, which we think is a good middle-of-the-road option.

How bright should your grow light be? 

Chives plants need the equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sunlight [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day] to grow their best. In order to provide an equivalent amount with a grow light, it needs to be pretty bright! The 24W Sansi bulb should be placed 6 inches away from the top of the plant. This will give your PPFD (the standard measure of brightness) of 500 μmol/m²/s.

How many hours per day do your Chives plants need under a grow light?

Chives and Green Onions have varieties that are known as “short-day” and “long-day”. In either case, our goal is to stop them from going to flower (so they keep producing leaves). Check your variety - if it’s “short-day” then light it for at least 12 hours per day. If it’s “long-day” then light it for less than 12 hours per day.

The Right Temperature for Your Chives Indoors

Grow Chives Indoors Even During Winter: ​Extend your harvest by keeping the Temperatures Cool 

Chives is known as a “cool weather crop.” Therefore you can grow chives indoors even during the winter. If it senses warming temperatures it will “bolt” –  send up flowers and become bitter in the process. Where you plant them can have some effect on the temperature – lower positions on a growing rack and ceramic planters tend to run cooler. It’s best to avoid windows that get really hot (like bay windows).

Water and Humidity

Herbs such as chives thrive on an adequate amount of moisture but can suffer if they’re waterlogged, so make sure to water them just enough, especially if you’re using soil. To avoid your chives being waterlogged, make sure to use a pot with drainage, or just use self-watering pots, as mentioned above.

Nutrients and Fertilizers

Chives like to start with nutrients that are equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10). For this Balanced Blend we recommend: Dr Earth All Purpose

Once they are growing, it’s better to use plant food that is high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5). For this Herb Blend, we recommend: Joyful Dirt All Purpose

Moving Your Indoor Chives Outdoors

Chives mostly thrive in colder temperatures, as we mentioned above. So we suggest moving your indoor chives outdoors only when the temperature is not that warm anymore, preferably during spring or fall, when the temperatures are at around 50-85℉ (10-26℃). To learn more about how to grow your chives outdoors, check this out. (coming soon!)

Timeline and Steps on How to Grow Chives Indoors

Best Setup for Chives Indoors

Below is the best setup (and a very easy one!) for growing your chive plants indoors. You’ll need:

Planter: 

Ceramic Self Watering Planter (preferred) or pot that is at least 4″ / 1 pint.

Soil: 

Free-Draining Mix

Plant Food:

At the start: Balanced Blend. This should be equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10). 

Ongoing: Herb Blend. This should be high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5).

Grow Light:

A strong grow light that can give the equivalent of 5+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 15+ mol/m²/day].

Starting your Chives: Seed vs Propagate vs Nursery Plant

Chives are easy to start from seed. If you are feeling impatient – they’re also easy to propagate by dividing an established clump or buying a pot of them (you can even find them at grocery stores).

How to Plant Chives seeds

Chives grow quickly from seed. Plant 10 sites in a 4″ / 1-pint container. In larger containers, space sites 1/2″ apart. For each site plant 5 seeds 1/4 inches deep. Keep the soil warm ( 45-95°F, ideally 60°F). Sprouts typically appear in 14 days but can be as quick as 7 days or as long as 21 days depending on your conditions. 

Propagating established bunches: How to divide Chives

Chives replicate underground – so if you’ve already got an established plant you love (or a friend does!) you can easily “clone” it by dividing the bunch. First, give it a good watering to loosen up the roots. Then pull the entire cluster out and gently tease the roots apart. That’s it!

How to Transplant Chives

Live starter plants give you a big jump start on your first harvest. When you’re in a garden center – pick the bushiest plant available (tall and lanky ones will be weak growers) and give it a good inspection for pests. Leaves should be dark green without holes, spots, or curled edges. A best practice is to actually “quarantine” your plant for about a week after bringing it home to make sure it’s free and clear of ride-on pests. 

Ensuring it’s pest and disease-free it’s time to transplant your seedling into its final home.

  1. Remove some soil from its final planter – leaving enough space for the bottom of the seedling to be just higher than the soil surface.
  2. Hold on to the base of the stem with one hand, and turn the pot over while gently pulling the seedling. Giving the pot a few squeezes can help dislodge it.  
  3. Place in its final container and fill around it with soil so that it’s tight, but not compacted. 

 

Week 1-2: Check for Sprouts

You could see seedlings in as little as 7 days (though 14 days is more typical). If it’s been 21 days and you still don’t have any sprouts, it’s likely that your setup is too cold.

Week 5: Check Your Seedlings

There’s no need to thin Chives, but you should check on your seedlings’ progress to make sure you’ve got enough light. They should be about 1 inch tall by the end of Week 5. If they aren’t you likely need a bit more light.

Month 3: How to Prune & Harvest Chives Plants

You’ll notice how all the stems and leaves of Chives grow from a single, central point (called radial growth). The plant puts out new leaves in the center and pushes old leaves outward, getting bigger and bushier over time. 

Pruning and harvesting are one-in-the-same with Chives. Once the plant at least 3 separate stems coming from the base take one of the outside leaves and cut it close to the base (½” above is fine). It’s good to leave at least 2/3rds of the plant left to regrow. If you only want a tiny amount of herbs, you also can clip the top of an individual stem – just be sure to leave some leaves on that stem, otherwise it won’t grow back.

Month 3+: How to Harvest Chives

Cut the stem clear to the base – only cutting what you can use fresh. Each time you cut, new stems will come in to replace them – kind of like mowing the lawn. 

How to Use Your Freshly-harvested Chives in Cooking

Most herbs are a staple used in the kitchen by the most prominent chefs around the world to ordinary food lovers at home. One of them is chives - which can be used in many ways:

  1. Garnish for soups
  2. Added to salads
  3. Added to eggs or any other dish you could think of

Check out some more of our favorite chives recipes here.

How to Preserve Chives 

There are several ways to preserve or keep your herbs fresh, and here are just some of the easiest and the ones we recommend the most:

  1. Lazy person technique. It involves keeping the fresh herbs in their original packaging and simply storing them in the fridge.
  2. Storing the herbs in a glass of water inside the fridge. You can do this by cutting the end of the stem of your herb, filling a glass jar or cup with water, and placing your herb inside. Almost like a vase or bouquet of herbs!
  3. Keep in a glass of water under natural lighting.
  4. Wrap loosely in a damp paper towel.
  5. Freeze them herbs! Yes, you can freeze fresh herbs such as chives to use at a later time! All you need are some ice cube trays and a freezer, and you’re all set.

Learn more about how to preserve and keep your herbs and chives fresh here.

Year 2: End of Life

Chives grow from an underground bulb that multiplies every year,  so a clump can produce indefinitely.  In its second year, the first bulbs will flower – they’re edible and should be harvested right after they open.

If you’d like to learn about the dozens of other herbs, fruits, and vegetables that you can grow indoors then grab a copy of our free eBook below. 

 

Best Chives varieties to grow inside.

Growing chives indoors is very much possible since they are the smallest edible plant. Green onions/scallions are a bit bigger - are all part of the same family if you want a more dramatic look. Here are the top 4 varieties we recommend for growing chives indoors:

Chives

Compact, productive, and easy. These are some of the best kitchen herbs.

Urban Leaf

Garlic Chives

These add-ins a pleasant mild garlic taste.

Amazon

Evergreen Hardy White Scallion

Crisp and tasty, this first-class perennial onion continues to grow and form new shoots making it a superb choice for year-round kitchen gardening.

Amazon

Deep Purple Scallion

Excellent for salads and cooking retains color in high or low temperatures.

Amazon

We hope that this blog has given you everything you need to know about growing chives indoors. In case you have any questions, just leave a comment below.

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