Chives Life Cycle: From Seeds to Harvest in 4 Steps
Do you have chives growing either at home or outdoors, but are you now wondering how long they can last, how tall they can get, when you should sow them, and what is it time to harvest? If so, you are in the right place. Here you will learn about the whole chives lifecycle, with all the timing from seeds to harvest.
Hence, what is the chive life cycle? Chives usually last up to 4 years, with a lifecycle that, from starts to finish, articulated in:
- Germination stage: in March
- Transplanting: after 2-3 weeks
- Harvesting: 2 months later
- Division: in 2 years
From germination to death, here are the stages. However, those that are up to you (like harvesting and division) can make the difference between flourishing long-lasting chives and a plant that lasts only a season.
Knowing the timing of each stage is essential to promote the maximum growth for your chives and have the best out of it.
From Seed to Grown Plant: The Full Life Cycle
Chives are what is called a perennial. These are herbs that (can) last more than 2 years if you take care of them and provide light, nutrients, good potting soil if you grow them indoors.
1. Germination: March
As you cannot propagate chives from cutting (as happens with other herbs as discussed in the article below) you are left with transplanting it from existing chives (if you are lucky you can find potted chives in the supermarket, not very common in the UK) or growing from seeds.
Let’s talk about growing them from seeds.
You should sow your chives seeds in March or April (spring in the northern hemisphere). From that day, you need to wait 7 to 21 days for the seeds to germinate.
It is not rocket science.
Chives germinate at between 45 to 95F (7 to 35C). It’s best to sow chive seeds in well-drained soil. The growing medium should be well watered and ideally the container within a plastic bag to trap the moisture. However, the process needs to be delayed in case the weather conditions don’t allow you to sow seeds early in the spring (temperatures below average).
Here what you need to do:
- Buy some good quality compost starter as this good brand on Amazon. A small bag will be more than enough;
- Place the compost in a seed propagation kit (this is quite good on Amazon). A seed propagator is, in general, a good investment that will save you time and make the seed germination quite easy. Trick: if you do not want to buy one, even a plastic glass with an inch of compost is enough. Make sure though that the temperature is right, and you might also want to cover with some plastic wrapper to keep the moisture.
- Place the seeds around half a centimeter (0.2 inches) below the surface. Cover with other compost and just wait.
2. Transplant: Around 2-3 Weeks Later
After 3 weeks from sowing your seeds, their seedlings should be ready to be moved to their final home. Be careful! Some gardeners also reported seeds taking up to 6 weeks to sprout.
If you like growing chives indoors, you can transplant the 10 seedlings in a pot of around 7 inches (20cm) in diameter (or 6 seedlings in pots of 10cm or similar in diameter). As a potting soil, my personal best pick is this one on Amazon. Such size is also ideal if you have a few small pots.
Transplanting is also crucial if you are planning on moving your chives from outdoor to indoor. Indeed, you can dig clumps from the garden before a freeze and plant them in pots so as to be protected from the harsh weather.
Here a trick: the germination and transplant shortcut
The process of seed germination and transplanting is what many gardeners (and I do) recommend. However, speaking with others, I noticed the practice of growing seeds directly in the “long term” pot you want them to grow. This will make the whole process way faster.
What do you need to do?
If you want to give it a try, just follow the germination steps, but you should use straight away a large 20cm pot (or smaller 10cm ones). Once the seedling grows, do not transplant them, just let them grow in there. Remember that, for seedling, temperature, and moisture conditions that I discussed before should still be maintained.
3. Full Plant and Harvesting: Around 2 Months
After the 2-3 weeks from planting the seeds, your chives might need up to 2 months to develop fully. However, the good news is that it might take just a bit more than a month when their growing medium has a moderate fertility level and high organic matter content. That’s why starting with a good quality potting mix is essential.
Water: when you grow them indoors, one of the common mistakes is to overwater them. Remember, chives like moist soil but not waterlogged.
Do not trust your eyes!
The soil might look dry on the surface, but in reality, at the root level (an inch below), it might still be moist. This is what really matters for your chive. So, stick the finger (or a stick) until your second knuckle. Is the soil there moist or dry? If damp, your chives will be ok. If moist, avoid watering.
Here is a trick!
If you are unsure about your chives, better to let the soil dry out between watering. Indeed, chives are drought-tolerant. So, a few days of dry soil will not hurt them. On the other hand, leaving them in a soggy one will probably kill them in no time (root rot).
Light: chives are not shade lover herbs (if you need one check the article below). They need at least 6 hours of full sun. However, although their harvest can be affected, it can grow in the shade, as discussed by the Wisconsin Master Gardener.
Do you want good news?
Chives, once ready for transplant after they sprout, are extremely strong herbs. They can survive extreme temperature swings. This means that you grow them indoors, and you leave for a weekend vacation, without any heating, your chives will be fine. For maximum growth and harvest, the ideal temperature is between 55 and 75F (13 and 24°C).
When should you harvest?
After a month a half from transplanting, your chives should be ready to be harvested. As a general rule, wait until 6 inches long (around 15cm). All you need to do is to cut 3 inches of leaves.
Here the recommendation
You should aim to cut chive leaves approximately 1, 2 inches above the soil. You should use a good pair of scissors to cut chives. I would recommend this pruning shears.
No worries after cutting. Your chives will continue to grow and produce new leaves within a few weeks. This can provide a continuous harvest during the growing season.
The frequency of harvest depends a lot on the way you grow chives. During the first year, chives can be harvested up to 3 – 4 times. Later, chives can be harvested once per month. If so, your chives are likely to weaken over time. In these cases, you might need to provide some fertilizer. For more check the article below about how to fertilize herbs
4. The Division Stage: 2 Years Later
After 2 years, chives have the tendency to multiply, creating very tight clumps. This is the time for division. This means you need to separate these large chives clumps in smaller bunches.
Do you need to separate the clumps?
Yes. Indeed, many gardeners, as discussed here, clearly found that, without division, the clump dies starting from the center with the possibility to lose the entire clamp.
What do you need to do in practice?
For an easy division, you need to:
- Water the soil
- Extract them from your pot
- With the fingers gently pull them apart, creating small clumps of 3-4 chives each.
- Place each clump in a small pot. This can be in a pot as small as 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 3 inches height (8 cm), as shown here. However, I do recommend an 8 inches wide pot. You need extra potting soil for this. This my best pick in case you are undecided
Above all, the productivity of chives increases if plants are divided on a regular basis.
How long do indoor chives last?
Chives are classified as perennial. As discussed in this article, perennial are herbs that can last (with the appropriate water, light, and temperature conditions) more than two years.
Indeed, chives indoors, as the temperature is relatively mild, are plants, and they can be harvested all year round. They can last 5 or more years if properly taken care of. If this happens, you can divide plants and replant them in early spring. As a result, chives will multiply, and new plants will grow again. The life cycle of those new chives will continue, and you will have an endless supply.
Chives: The Whole Life In a Table
The table below shows, in a glance of an eye, what we just saw regarding the chives lifecycle.
|Time of the year||Cycle|
|2-3 weeks later||Transplanting|
|2 months later||Harvesting|
|2 years later||Division|
Chives Hardiness Zone
Each geographic area has its own climatic conditions. In the USA, a hardiness zone defines the local microclimate and so allows identifying whether that area is suitable for the growth and survival of your chives if you want to grow them outdoors before placing indoors before the winter comes.
Plant hardiness zone from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
It’s worth noting that the hardiness plant zone map is based on average annual minimum winter temperatures, divided into 10-degree differences each. Every plant is unique and has its limitations and grows in certain hardiness zones. The hardiness plant zone map makes it easy to figure out in which location the plant is likely to grow well.
Chive outdoors grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 – 9. If you do not know in which zone you belong, check this website where you just place your postcode, and it will tell you in which zone you are.
The ideal hardiness zone for chives is 3. Garlic chives should be grown only in the areas with hardiness Zone 4 if plants are not protected in winter. Check the article below if you are unsure if you have garlic chives or not.
If you look at the United States, you’ll see that chives plants will grow well in almost every part of the country. However, chives are likely to grow best in Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. These areas have the ideal climatic conditions for growing chives outdoors.
On the other hand, gardeners in such areas as Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas may find it more challenging to grow chives.
Can chives can be grown in pots? Chives can grown in pot relatively easy if 6 hours of direct light is provided in a good quality potting soil maintained moist but not dump. Gardeners although often claim that such herbs have higher success when grown outdoor.
Do chives need light to germinate? No, chives seeds do not require light to germinate. They can stay in a moist and starting growing medium for 2-3 weeks without light in a warm environment.
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