Updated December 13, 2021 by Mark Marino
With their mild onion flavor, it’s no surprise why many people opt to grow chives indoors year-round. A member of the allium family, chives are frequently added to everything from soups and stews to dips and salads. While common chives boast a milder flavor than onions, there are varieties that have a distinctively sweet or more pungent flavor. When growing chives indoors, you’ll be able to harvest this plant to enjoy in a wide range of dishes. With their star-shaped flowers and attractive hollow, grass-like stems, chives make a lovely addition to any herb garden but will grow happily on any sunny windowsill.
Types of Chive Varieties
There are several varieties of chive plants. Each is a perennial plant and is relatively easy to grow indoors. When growing chives indoors, most people opt for:
Onion chives, also referred to as common chives and known botanically as allium schoenoprasum, grow to a height of 10 – 15 inches. They have a mild onion flavor as their name suggests and are the most popularly grown chive plants.
Garlic chives have slightly flatter leaves than common chives and, as their name suggests, feature a slight garlic flavor. Though not as cold-hardy as common chives, they will grow well indoors in a sunny window.
Growing Chives Indoors: Supplies
To easily plant chives indoors, you will need the following materials and supplies:
- Chive seeds or chive seedlings
- Potting soil / potting mix
- 6-inch clay pot with drainage holes
- Water-soluble fertilizer
- Window with full sun / direct light
- Grow lights (optional)
- Indoor garden kit
To plant chives, add moistened potting soil to your clay pot. Add your chive seeds and cover them with about ¼ inch of the potting soil. Place your pot in a sunny window. To grow chives from seed successfully, you should try to keep the seeds moist (with a spray bottle) until they germinate, which usually occurs in about two weeks. You can also choose to grow seedlings from your garden center. In that case, simply plant the seedling in your well-draining pot and place in a sunny windowsill. Follow the care tips below.
Caring for Chive Plants
Growing chives indoors is easy because they don’t require a lot of maintenance in order to thrive. If you choose, you can even transplant chives from your garden to grow them indoors until you’re able to replant them outside in early spring.
Chive plants require about 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you aren’t able to grow chives in a sunny window, you can use grow lights instead. In that case, they’ll require about 14 hours of exposure to these lights.
Common chives or garlic chives grow happily in well-draining soil that features some organic matter. Avoid adding garden soil to your pots. It’s best to use potting soil or medium that’s specially crafted for growing garden herbs and vegetables.
When growing chives indoors, you’ll need to water them whenever the soil is dry. Chives prefer moist soil, but be sure it’s well-draining. Keep in mind that if the leaf tips become yellow, your soil is too dry. If your leaves turn yellow, water your chive plants immediately. Of course, avoid excess water. The soil should never be saturated with water.
Temperature and Humidity
Chive plants prefer a temperature between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you find that your home is dry, particularly in winter, you can mist your chives with a spray bottle from time to time.
Add water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half-strength to your soil about two times each month.
How to Harvest Chives
You can start to harvest your common or garlic chives once they reach 6 inches tall. When you harvest the leaves, leave about 1-2 inches remaining to support continued plant growth. Harvesting chives generally can typically take place 60 days after germination. If your harvest is as abundant as you could wish, keep in mind the second year will usually result in more abundant growth for your chive plants providing you harvest them year-round to support their growth. Your plants should continue to grow all winter long, though more slowly than during the summer months.
Chives lose their flavor when they are dried, so plan to use fresh chives when cooking. Or, you can chop your chives and freeze them in a freezer bag, but again, their flavor may not be as intense as fresh chives.
Uses and Benefits of Chives
Many people prefer to sprinkle chopped chives on everything from potato soup and eggs to salads and stews. Chives, like other members of the allium family, offer a wide range of nutrients and may offer health benefits such as:
- Potential to reduce bad LDL cholesterol and support heart health
- Support bone strength
- May help guard against cancer with their antioxidant protection
Chef’s tip: I love using fresh chives in mignonette sauce for oysters. Chives are also one of the three main herbs in the classic fine herbs, along with tarragon and chervil (and sometimes parsley).
Indoor Chives: FAQs
Can you grow chives indoors all year long?
Yes, growing chives inside is easy all year long provided you meet your plants’ care requirements as outlined above. Be sure they have access to 6 hours of direct light. Be sure to water if the plant’s leaves turn yellow. It’s best to keep the soil moist routinely.
How long do chives take to grow indoors?
When growing chives from seeds, you can typically begin to harvest them 60 days from germination, provided they’ve reached about 6 inches in height.