A Complete Guide to Growing Chives Indoors
You cannot go past growing chives indoors if you are looking for an easy to care for, fast growing, flavorsome herb to begin or add to your indoor herb garden.
Originating in China, chives have been used in cooking for over 5,000 years.
It was Marco Polo who first introduced Europe to chives back in the late 13th century, having fallen for their delicious, onion like flavor.
In fact, chives or Allium schenoprasum, are a member of the onion family, with their not so strong flavor being a popular addition to salads, seasoning and sauces.
Indoors, chives usually grow to 8 – 12 inches (20 -30cm) in height.
Although rarely flowering indoors, if you plant some chives outdoors as well, you’ll hopefully get to enjoy their pretty pink or white flowers.
Here now are all the tips you’ll need for successfully growing chives indoors, even if you’re a complete indoor herb gardening beginner.
How to Grow Chives Indoors
Chives need plenty of sunlight, so place them by a south or bright west window.
Chives are not quite the full-on sun and heat loving herbs that originate from the Mediterranean like Basil Rosemary and Thyme.
However, when growing chives indoors, temperature shouldn’t be an issue, as they do enjoy warmth (as long as they are well watered) and can withstand temperatures as low as -4F or -20F.
Watering Chives Indoors
Chives like a soil that’s kept moist, especially during the warmer summer months.
Test the top 1.5 inches of soil with your thumb and if it feels dry, you’ll know that your plant needs a drink.
Never over water chives as its roots are susceptible to diseases such as root rot.
Always use a pot with drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out onto an underlying dish or saucer.
Chives likes a loose, well-draining soil mix. The addition of perlite to a soil can help improve drainage.
Sprinkling perlite or small gravel on the top of the soil can help maintain moisture during hot weather and prevent leaves from damage after watering.
After the summer growth season, summer, it’s a good idea to cut the plant back and then fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer.
During the summer harvest season for chives, your plant growth will be strongly encouraged by regular snipping for use in the kitchen.
Harvest cuttings from the outside base of the plant.
If you are using lots of chives in your cooking, then it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about pruning.
In winter, prune any yellowing leaves from the sides of the plant.
If speed of harvest is your primary goal, then it’s best to buy mature plants.
However, if you are keen to grow your own chives then
they are best propagated from seeds or root division.
Propagating Chives from Root Division
Every two to three years, it’s a good idea to repot your chives into a larger pot, to prevent them from becoming root bound.
If you wish to propagate from root division, then instead of repotting into a larger pot, you could divide the root ball into two, placing one root ball back into the same pot, and the second in a similar sized pot.
At the same time, you may like to refresh your soil mix and water in with a water based fertilizer, diluted to half the normal strength.
Propagating Chives by Seed
Sow seeds in early spring.
Begin by scattering a few seeds on the surface of a small pot.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite and gently water.
The best way for germinating chive seeds indoors is to place them in a in a warm window sill or in a heated propagator to germinate.
Once the seedlings are big enough to handle safely, pick out two to three seedlings per 3-inch (8cm) container.
Water regularly, but make sure that you don’t over water as the roots can rot.
When the seedlings mature, carefully transfer them into their own pot of at least 6 inches (16cm) in width.
How to Harvest Chives
The best time to harvest chives is during the summer growing season.
Simply cut leaves as required, from the outside base of the plant, with sharp clean scissors.
Harvested leaves can be refrigerated in sealed plastic bags for up to 5 days or frozen in airtight containers for up to 3 months.
Some cooks like to freeze chive leaves in ice cube trays half filled with water.
Drying chives is not recommended as they lose their flavor.
Types of Chives to Grow Indoors
The two most popular types of chives grown indoors ( and outdoors for that matter), are common chives (Allium schoenoprasum) and garlic chives (Allium tuberosum).
Common chives consist of clumps of small, slender bulbs that produce elongated, hollow green/blue leaves that grow up to 12 inches in height.
When grown outdoors, they can resist cold temperatures and will produce edible flowers that are usually pink, mauve or white.
Garlic chives (also referred to as Chinese chives), are quite similar to common chives in appearance, but with leaves that are flatter and greener.
As their name suggests, garlic chives have a mild garlic flavor which can be used to good advantage when cooking.
The Chinese love to use garlic chives in their stir fries.
Chive Health Benefits
Being members of the onion family, chives offer many of the same health benefits as their onion cousins (without the strong smell and taste).
Chives have high levels of vitamins A and C as well as handy levels of vitamins B1 and B2.
They also contain essential minerals such as iron, calcium and phosphorus.
Scientists are very interested in the potential for chives and other plants in the onion family, to reduce risks of certain cancers.
For example, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that men who ate plenty of plants from the onion family, had a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially when it was localized.
Containing vitamin K, chives are useful in maintaining bone density and strength.
Chives also contain the amazing nutrient choline, which helps to improve memory, sleep and learning.
Choline also assists the body to absorb fat, reduce chronic inflammation and maintain the body’s structure of cellular membranes.
Allium vegetables also assists in the production of dopamine, a hormone that helps improve your mood and fight depression.
Chive Benefits for Beauty
All alliums, chives included, have a natural antibiotic effect and are beneficial for your skin, hair and scalp.
Although not yet backed up by science, herbalists have long promoted the benefits of garlic, chives and onions for hair growth, due to increases in blood flow to the scalp.
Chives can help to strengthen your hair and prevent it from splitting while giving your hair a glossy shine and body. (I should write hair shampoo commercials!)
You can use chives on your hair by added chive oil to your regular shampoo or directly adding mashed up chives to your hair and scalp while showering.
How to Make a Chives Scalp Mask
You can easily make an overnight chives mask for your face, scalp or hair mask by following these instructions:
- Place a handful of fresh chives into boiling water for 30 seconds
- Remove the chives and place them in iced water for a few minutes
- Drain the water and squeeze out the water from the chives.
- Puree chives with a ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Strain the mixture and use either the chives or the oil as a face, hair or scalp mask.
- Put onto your hair one hour before bedtime and massage it into your scalp.
- Put on a shower cap and go to bed
- In the morning, wash your hair to remove the scalp mask
- Repeat for a week or two for maximum benefit
Trouble Shooting- Common Chive Plant Care Issues
Chives really don’t suffer many pest related problems. In fact, many people plant chives in their vegetable gardens to protect other plants from certain pests such as aphids.
Diseases such as rust are usually caused by too much moisture from over watering or lack of drainage.
Here are some of the most common issues faced when growing oregano indoors;
Problem: Bright yellow spots on leaves
Cause: The fungal disease ‘leek rust’
Solution: For mild infections, immediately remove and destroy infected leaves
Problem: Shrivelling leaves
Cause: Serious rust infection
Solution: There is no solution for rust infection once established. Remove and destroy the plant.
Problem: Looking dry and colorless
Cause: Not enough water
Solution: Keep up your watering, especially in summer
How to Grow Herbs Indoors – The Series
Mint: how-to grow-mint-indoors
Rosemary: how-to grow-rosemary-indoors