20170930A Captain-tucker
Chives are among the easiest herbs to grow … outdoors in temperate climates. It needs a bit of special treatment to do well indoors, though. Photo: Captain-tucker, Wikimedia Commons

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is perhaps the easiest herb of all to grow, at least in temperate to cold climates. It’s tough, very cold hardy (zone 2) and a true perennial, coming back faithfully for many years. Plus it will grow in sun or shade (sun is best, though) and tolerates dry situations as well as damp ones and just about any soil, from clay to sand and from alcaline to acid. In addition, it’s very attractive, with a long-lasting flowers for nearly a month in early summer, and that makes it an excellent ornamental. The leaves are edible, of course … but the flowers too.

Indoors It Needs a Cold Treatment

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Pale and struggling, this overcrowded pot of supermarket chives didn’t get its cold treatment. Photo: tesco.com

Garden centers and supermarkets often offer pots of chives in the fall for indoor growing over the winter, but when you bring them home, they rarely do more than sulk and look unhappy. That’s because chives require a cold winter in order to really thrive. If you insist on cultivating it indoors over the winter, make sure undergoes at least a good frost or two before you bring it inside. It will then react as if it had been through winter and begin a new season of growth right away.

Of course, you still need to give it a bright, sunny spot to grow in (indoors, it needs full sun) and regular watering over the winter, but otherwise, once it’s gone through its short winter, you’ll find it no more difficult to grow indoors than it was outdoors, although blooms are sparse to absent indoors.

If there is no frost where you live, trying sticking your potted chives in the fridge for a week: that will convince it the time has come to put up new growth.20170930B tesco.com

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Chives Like It Cold!

  1. I know that you are up north. I am in southern Alabama, and I have found that my herbs (chives and even basil) can not tolerate the full blare of afternoon sun in the summer. Just FYI 🙂

    • Thanks for the info! I have no local experience of heat anything close to what you have. Chives, by the way, grows wild right up into Greenland, so you can imagine it’s happier with cold than heat!

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