I grow chives for years. It is not an easy herb to grow and it often grows droopy. If you want to revive your chives you should first know the cause of the problem. This article has you covered explaining all you need to know regarding the reasons and actions to take to tackle this problem. Let’s dive in!
The most common reason for droopy and limp chives is often 1) excessively low or high temperature. Other reasons that might cause chives to get floppy are also 2) overwatering 3) underwatering 4) inadequate water salinity 5) lack of light 6) pests 7) poor soil 8) bad seeds 9) small pot and 10) lack of pruning
Since several reasons might lead to drooping chives, you first need to identify which one is responsible for your case. Then, you can undertake adequate countermeasures. Indeed, if your plant is overwatered (but you believe the opposite), your action (water even more) will kill your chives.
No despair, unless your plant has still a bit of life in it, it can quickly be revived. Just follow the tips below to get your chives back in perfect shape.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Overwatering
- 2 2. Underwatering
- 3 3. Salinity
- 4 4. Light: Natural or Artificial Does Not Matter
- 5 5. Temperature: Is It Too Warm?
- 6 6. Pest Infestation
- 7 7. Poor Quality Potting Mix
- 8 8. Poor Quality Seeds
- 9 9. Small Planter
- 10 10. Lack of Pruning
- 11 Droopy Chives: Normal To Some Extent
- 12 Are Droopy Chives Safe To Eat?
- 13 Related Questions
- 14 Further Readings
Overwatering is the number one mistake that causes droopy chives. Indeed, an excess of water might suffocate the chives’ roots, reducing the amount of oxygen available.
Not at all. Like you and me, roots need to exchange gases. If you prevent that, then your chive will start losing vigor (drooping). Another sign of overwatering is the presence of yellow leaves or/and leaf burn. This, in short, is the yellowing of the terminal part of the leaves and their veins getting darker.
Moreover, an overwatered plant will not be able to absorb all the water trapped in the soil (too much), leading the soil to stay wet for longer (water crystals might be a viable alternative). A moist and low-oxygen environment is ideal for the development of root-rotting bacteria. If this happens, your plants need to be thrown away as, in general, although not impossible, it is difficult to recover from root rotting.
The majority of herbs suffer in the case of wet soil. The difference is how forgiving is the herb. Some, like basil and chives, are not forgiving. You overwater them once, and your herb might not survive.
Overwatering is a way bigger problem than underwatering. In general, an underwater herb (chive included) can recover if watered accordingly. However, the same cannot be said for overwatering. Once the root-rotting process started, I usually threw the herb away as it might take too much time and effort to recover it.
Overwatering is even more of a problem during winter. Indeed, as discussed here for basil, the combination of low light (reduced photosynthesis) and low temperature (reduced evaporation) make your chives less thirsty.
The difficulty is identifying if you are actually overwatering or underwatering. Indeed, all the previous signals that the plant is sending to you (yellow leaves, including drooping) can be caused by both overwatering and underwatering.
A simple and efficient way to identify if you are overwatering/underwatering your chives, as already discussed in tip 11 in this article, is the finger/toothpick test.
|Simply insert a finger/toothpick in the soil. Is the soil damp to the touch? Does the soil sticks to the toothpick? If so, you are overwatering. Does the soil fill dry? Does the toothpick come out totally dry? Then you have an under watering problem.|
Tip: do not trust your eyes! Indeed, the superficial soil layer can be dry, but the soil at the root level (the one that counts for the health of your herb) might be wet! That’s why you need to go deeper by testing the soil with a finger or toothpick.
Do not follow gurus or “expert” that gives you a precise time schedule (like once a week). This indeed depends on so many (varying) factors like temperature, container size, age of your herb, the sunlight received, and amount of leaves. Just taste the soil and check if it is moist or not to understand if it is the right time to water.
Despite being way less common, droopy chives can be caused by underwatering. IF the soil is dry or even cracked on the surface, then the lack of water is the culprit.
This problem happens in case of a very dry environment and in case the chives are left under direct sun for long hours.
Underwater is often easy to recover by adding water until the first droplets come out from the drainage holes.
Chives can get droopy in case of excessive water salinity. This might be a problem of tab water in certain regions of the USA and Europe.
you might want to make sure that its salinity content is not too high. Indeed, as discussed in this scientific study, salt has the power to ruin a perfectly good chive plant.
To check the water salinity you might need to have some instruments like a refractometer or hydrometer.
|However, if you suspect that the water used to water your soil is too salty, you might spot salt crusts (whitish) on the soil surface when it is dry, then you have found your culprit.|
Be aware that also the excess use of fertilizer might cause a similar white crust on the soil. So, if you are fertilizing, just stop with it, remove the shallow soil and check if the crust forms again. If so, then salt is responsible.
In this case, you need to change the soil and transplant your chives, as described in this article.
Chives, like most other plants, need 6 to 8 hours of light to thrive. Chives, in particular, can still do well with as little as four hours of direct light. As you can notice, I am talking about light, not sunlight. Indeed, as also discussed in this article, it is the quality of light that an herb, chives included, depends on.
|Hence, if you do not have the luxury of four hours of sunlight, then this might be one the cause of your drooping chives. In this case, you can provide the missing extra light through a grow light. How an which one to choose? Well, have a look here and here for some useful tips on grow light.|
Chives are herbs that, differently from others (like basil, for instance), prefer and thrive in cool temperatures. If your living room, due to a combination of south orientation, large window, and very hot area, might easily reach indoor temperature (without air conditioner) close to 80F (30C). This will trigger a dormant state in your chives that will stop growing and might also droop.
40F and below
40 to 85F (65-70F ideal)
80F and above
4C and below
4 to 29C (18-21C ideal)
27C and above
Remember that high temperature is often associated with longer daylight hours and so, potential risk of sunburn (yellow/brown tips leaves) and lack of water. In this season, following the watering guidelines provided before, you need to water more often.
Chives, likely for us, bugs do not like chives. Indeed, as also stated by this university resource is classified as “usually not harmed.” The bugs that might have a chance against this herb are onion maggot and thrips. Both of them, among other more severe issues, cause drooping.
These can be spotted at the base of the plant where they lay their white eggs. This insect looks very similar to common flies but lighter in color. They create tunnels in the chives bulb, potentially causing root rotting and the introduction of other diseases.
Although you might find a gardener suggesting remedies, given the aggressive invasion of such insects might really challenging (and not worth the effort) to get rid of them. The only suggestion is to transplant, to a new pot with fresh potting mix, those chives that looks not affected.
These are tiny insects that, similarly to aphids, suck plants’ nutrients and fluids from their leaves, causing the surrounding area to die.
Thrips can change their appearance significantly during their development, so you need to be able to recognize them. You can see them in two different forms:
- Larva stage: they are white/semi-transparent bugs (usually below a millimeter) and spend most of their time slowly feeding on your leaves.
- Adult stage: they are brownish/dark with four legs and wings with hair, as shown here of around 2mm. They will start flying all over your herbs. If this happens, it is a sign that their colony might be already well developed.
In case you did not spot them directly, you can identify them by the presence:
- Silver patches on leaves: these are the dead areas due to their feeding
- Small black spheres on leaves: these are their excrements
There are several solutions available to get rid of thrips. One of the least chemical-heavy is the use of sticky sheets that attracts and traps thrips. They are sold on Amazon (here to check their price, generally around a few dollars). The more aggressive solution requires the use of spray (either bought or chemical), as discussed in this video.
Chives are one of the most beginner approachable herbs. Indeed, they will withstand drought and low-fertile soil as also detailed here. Hence, even if your potting soil is not rich in nutrients (perhaps you have it sitting there for a long while) and you might sometimes forget to water it, your chives will do fine.
Hence, the only aspect you should take care of is the physical properties of your potting soil. Indeed, especially old potting mix, as discussed here, tend to get more compact. This will limit the exchange of gases (due to plant respiration) with the outside (the soil becomes like brick). In this situation, your chives will start slowing to suffocate, and drooping might be one of the first signs to look at.
|One of the easiest ways to check if this is the case is just to touch your soil. Is its surface hard to break? Does the water stays on top of the soil for a while before going through the pot. These are all signs of compacted soil.|
Tip: In the meantime, you replace the potting soil; you can, with a toothpick, move the soil every time you water. This will definitely help to allow more air to get in.
8. Poor Quality Seeds
Chives can get droopy in case of poor-quality seeds. If chives seeds are left in a warm and moist environment they can develop fungi weakening the plants.
If you left your seeds in a drawer, perhaps in the kitchen and not sealed, the chances are that the warm and moist environment might have weakened the seeds. This is a common problem among beginner gardeners. Seeds should be stored in a dark and dry place.
9. Small Planter
Chives will start competing for water and resources if left in a small and shallow planter becoming droopy and weak. This is a common problem for supermarket-bought chives that are typically sold in very poor quality soil with a very small place compared to the number of plants on it.
When I grow chives I always prefer at least a classic 12-inch planter. This will provide plenty of soil volume that can accommodate water and nutrients.
10. Lack of Pruning
Chives, like many herbs, tend to become droopy and limps if not pruned regularly. Ideally, chives should be pruned 3 to 5 times during the growing season (from March to September) leaving at least one-third of the leaves from the soil.
Many herbs like basil, mint, and chives develop social hormones that promote growth when cut. It is an extremely useful defense mechanism that plants have developed over the years in order to be able to reproduce despite being attached by animals (or eaten by us).
In a controlled environment like your garden, your chives will not be “forced” to increase their production if do not get under stress. The best way is to prune it. This is a great win-win and the main reason we love herbs. We prune them and provide fragrant leaves and they are getting stronger and stronger over time.
It might happen that you did all the checks suggested in the previous sections, and you did not find any apparent cause or your droopy chives. In this case, your herbs are likely healthy, and there is nothing to worry about.
Indeed, drooping, especially for tall chives, is normal. At this point, what you should do, to stimulate more healthy growth, is to harvest them until 1-2 inches from the soil level.
Another reason behind their legging behavior might be the presence of a light source coming from one direction. In this case, the green leaves of your chives will stretch in that direction to maximize light intake, becoming droopy on that side.
|In this case, I do recommend: |
1. Rotate the pot every week to balance their direction of growth
2. Using a grow light (more here and here)
3. Change their position to a more sunny location.
Are Droopy Chives Safe To Eat?
Do you know that you can eat stalks and flowers of the chives? In case droopy chives are due to poor soil, lack of sunlight, incorrect watering (or just because they are pretty tall), then they are ok for consumption. However, if they are drooping because of attacks of bugs, I would avoid eating them (if you do not want to eat some larva as well).
Do drooping chives taste good? Their flavor is similar to that of fresh chives. They may not taste as bold, but the general flavoring will be the same as also discussed by these gardeners. The main difference between healthy and drooping chives is in their texture. Healthy chives will have a bit of crispness to them while drooping chives will not. However, this does not make much of a difference when it comes to most recipes involving chives.
How can you preserve harvested chives? Among the most common technique, are flash freeze, oven dry, and using them as part of a long-lasting product (chives-based oil or butter)
What are some chives replacement? Scallion and onion are used as a replacement for chives in recipes. Leeks are another alternative, although their onion flavor is way more intense than chives. Hence, leeks should be used in a moderate amount.
Are chives safe to dogs and cats? Chives are poisonous to dogs and cats, and specific breeds can suffer from more severe effects. For more information, please go to Poisonous herbs for pets and Pet Poison Helpline
21 Tips To Grow Healthy Basil That Apply Also To Your Chives – https://yourindoorherbs.com/21-easy-tips-to-grow-massive-basil-indoor/
Tips For The Best Potting Mix – https://yourindoorherbs.com/2-aspects-of-the-best-potting-soils-and-diy-recipe/
Chives and Pets – https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/chives/
Master Gardener Guide on Chives – https://wimastergardener.org/files/2015/12/chives.pdf
Thrips Information – https://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/thrips/common_blossom_thrips.htm
Get Rid Of Thrips – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAhyOyeLbXA