Top Problems Growing Chives and How to Fix It
Although it can be great to plant and grow your own herbs or produce, it can be equally frustrating when these don’t grow as expected for seemingly mysterious reasons. Luckily, your plant will usually give you a sign that something is wrong so you can step in.
The top problems growing chives are black bugs, chives that aren’t germinating, drooping chives, discolored leaves, and chives that don’t grow (straight). The main solutions are to give your chives less water, clean soil, and pots and to keep a close eye on their health.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn the following about growing chives:
- What the causes are and what to do when your chive isn’t germinating
- What those black bugs are on your chive plant, and what you can do about them
- Repotting chive seedlings
- Why your chive plant is drooping and what to do about it
- Why your chive plant is turning yellow/brown and what to do about it
- Why your chives are not flowering
- What the cause could be for a dying chive plant, and what you can do
- Why your chive seeds are falling over
Chives Not Germinating
The best way to ensure that your chives will germinate is to grow them inside or at least start the growing process inside to ensure germination. Indoors can control the temperature, and the amount of moisture the seeds receive, which are both important if you want those chives to germinate.
Step-by-Step Plan for Successful Germination
Follow the steps below:
1. Fill a flat with moist soil for potting; make sure it’s about 2 inches deep. To catch the draining moisture, place a tray underneath the flat.
2. Take the chive seeds and place them on top of the soil in a row, making sure that there is about a 1-inch distance between the seeds and about 2 inches between the rows.
3. Push the seeds slightly into the soil and cover with just enough soil to nearly cover them up.
4. Use a spray bottle filled with only water to water the seeds through misting. Cover the flat with a plastic bag to ensure that the moisture is locked so they won’t need any more watering until after sprouting.
5. The perfect germinating temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit so make sure that you place the flat in a room where this temperature can be maintained.
6. After about one week, the seeds should sprout. Take off the plastic bag, and if this is indeed the case, take the flat and put it in a spot where it catches the sunlight.
7. After another four to six weeks, it is time to take the chives outside where they can continue to grow.
Chive Plant Black Bugs
The black bugs that you see on your chive plant are called thrips. These insects live off the fluids that are inside plants; they suck the nutrients out. When there are enough of these annoying black bugs on your chive plant (or any plant for that matter), it could quickly die.
These tiny insects can also be white sometimes since there is a variation of thrips out there. Because thrips are tiny, they can get by undetected for quite a while, and by the time you realize you have a problem on your hands, it might be too late. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common issue since the insect can enter your house reasonably easily.
How Can You Spot Thrips?
As we said, it can be quite challenging to see the actual insect crawling over your chive plant. However, there are some other tell-tale signs that you’ve got thrips around:
- Small silver/yellow patches on the leaves
- Small black feces left by the thrips
Preventing these annoying little creatures from destroying your chive plant is more ideal than dealing with them after they’ve already done some or a lot of damage. As mentioned, thrips can enter your home reasonably easily.
They are often brought into a home via other plants or soil. To ensure they’re not hiding in the soil you just bought, you can sterilize the soil to get rid of any possible thrips. There is a lot of information to be found online about how to sterilize your soil.
What to Do About Thrips
First of all, chives are quite resistant against viruses, so any virus that thrips might be carrying with them (and they do), luckily don’t necessarily do much damage to your chive. Despite the low virus risk, thrips still do a lot of harm to your chive plant so getting rid of them is still essential. You can take the following steps to eradicate thrips from your (chive) plant:
- Plant-Insect Traps. The most effective way to get rid of these black bugs for a low price, and it’s chemical-free.
- Shake them out. Gently shake the chive plant back and forth so the thrips will fall out. This isn’t a 100% guarantee that all of the thrips are going to be gone.
- Insecticides. Make sure you use an organic one since it’s better for the environment and your own health. This is usually not a one-time solution; there is most likely going to be some sort of plan you need to follow for a while to ensure complete termination. However, if you do, it usually works well to get rid of all of the insects.
- Replace the soil. Some thrips hide in the soil, so even if you have successfully exterminated the bugs from your plant, there might still be some left in the soil. Before putting in new soil, thoroughly clean the pot, you’re using.
- Organic Neem Oil. This is another good natural option since neem oil comes from the neem tree. It does not just repel thrips but all sorts of insects that you don’t want near your plant.
If your plant is too far gone to save, you might have to replace it. If this is the case, it is very important that you don’t use the soil from your previous plant. If you do, the thrips might hide in the soil and attack the next plant you put in there. Throw out this soil and clean the pot thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any thrips left.
Repotting Chive Seedlings
How to Sow Chive Seeds Indoors
If you’re growing your chives indoors, it’s probably either because you don’t have an outdoor space for it or you’re living in a cold environment. It’s important not to leave your chives outside when it’s below 0. If you have a garden and where you live has a mild climate, you can directly plant the chives outside. If you’re planning to repot chive seeds indoors, they have to sow for 8 to 10 weeks before they can go outside.
Chive Plant Drooping/Not Standing Up
A drooping chive plant isn’t uncommon. Luckily, even if your chive plant is near-death, as long as it has a little bit of life left in it, it can be relatively easy to revive it. In order to do this, the reason for drooping must be established first. There could be several reasons why your chive is drooping, and we’re going to explain all possibilities for you one-by-one below:
- Too much water. This is a very common cause of droopy chives. Especially beginner plant owners struggle with this. Some plants are more forgiving than others; unfortunately, chives aren’t very forgiving when they get overwatered. Even overwatering your chive plant once could mean the end of its life—more about overwatering a little further along in the article.
- Lack of light. Chive plants need about six to eight hours of light daily in order to thrive. Whether it is natural light or sunlight doesn’t matter.
- Climate. Unlike many other plants, chives do better in a cool climate. Their ideal temperature is between 40 to 85 Fahrenheit.
- Bugs. Chives are not easily hurt by viruses and are also quite resistant to insects, except to thrips (extensively discussed previously) and union maggots. In order to exterminate union maggots, you should repot the chive plant and replace the soil.
Chive Turning Yellow/Brown
Lack of Space
If your chive plant doesn’t have enough room to grow, some leaves can start to turn yellow. If the leaves have turned completely yellow, it’s time to cut these leaves off because they will not recover. When your plant is relatively old, it can also happen that some leaves turn yellow.
The title of this paragraph already says it: when your chives are deficient in nutrients, their leaves could turn brown-yellow. Make sure that you’re not overwatering your plant, it gets enough (sun)light, and it doesn’t have any thrips.
Why Overwatering Is Bad
Like we mentioned in the previous section about drooping chives, overwatering is very common, especially amongst beginning plant owners. It makes sense that you want to take care of your plant as well as you can, so you want to make sure that you are giving it all it needs.
Unfortunately, too much water is quite the opposite of what it needs. If a plant receives too much water, the roots won’t be able to absorb all of it, and the soil will stay moist. Moist soil is an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
How to Not Overwater Your Chive (and Other Plants)
There isn’t one specific answer to how often your chive should be watered since there are many different aspects to consider, such as hours of light a day, type of soil, temperature, and type of container. The best thing you can do is to feel with your finger or use a toothpick to determine if your chive needs more water or not.
If a little bit of soil sticks to your finger, but it’s not wet, it is the best moment to water your chive. If no soil sticks to your finger and the soil feels dry, the plant needs water. If the soil is super wet, it means you’ve overwatered it. Instead of your finger, you can also use a toothpick instead.
Another cause of yellow turning leaves is the thrips we wrote about earlier in the article. These insects suck out all of the nutrients and moisture out of your (chive) plant, which will quickly lead to a plant with trouble growing, a damaged plant, or a plant that even dies. If you notice that some leaves are getting yellow patches on them, it might be a sign that you are dealing with thrips.
When you’re dealing with a young plant, sometimes the damping-off disease can occur and can be identified by leaves that turn greyish-green to brown. We’ll talk more about this disease and how to prevent it further along in the article.
Chives Not Flowering
Normally, chive plants should flower after about three months. However, it depends on the circumstances that the chives are growing in, such as climate, hours of light (sun or artificial), and soil quality. Your chive will be growing slower and will have fewer flowers when these conditions are not ideal.
Chive Plant Dying
There could be many reasons why your chive plant seems to be dying. We’re going to discuss the possible reasons below:
- Too much water. I’ve already written about this previously in the article. Too much water can kill your chive fast. Overwatering your plant is worse than underwatering it.
- Not enough light. Besides the germination process, where chives need darkness, chives need lots of light—ideally, six to eight hours a day, but definitely no less than six. When your chives are planted outside, this should generally not be an issue, but you have to make sure that they are placed near a light source when you are growing them inside.
- Insects. This one has also been discussed earlier in this article, but it is a very common reason that chives could be doing poorly. Thrips are often the cause of a chive plant’s demise because they suck out the nutrients of the plant.
- Diseases. Like I said before, chives are not very sensitive when it comes to suffering from viruses. However, there are exceptions where your chive can get sick. These diseases are pink root rot (the roots won’t be able to absorb nutrients), damping-off disease (fungal disease, more about this next section of the article), and downy mildew (kill leaves).
Chive Seedlings Falling Over
Below is the reason why your chive seedlings are falling over, and this is how you can fix it.
- Cause: Damping-Off Disease. This disease mainly affects your chive plant when it’s still germinating and can be recognized by falling over seedlings. You can also identify the disease by looking at a white fuzzy mold on the soil and the stems of the freshly germinated seeds.
- How to fix it: The best thing to do is to try to prevent this disease from destroying your chives. You can avoid the damping-off disease by using new soil every time, making sure the pots you’re using are super clean and have good drainage. To be sure of clean soil, you can sterilize it before using it; the same goes for pots. You can soak the pots in bleach for 30 minutes to ensure it’s proper sterile.
Chive Plant Not Growing (Straight)
If your chive plant isn’t growing, it often has curled leaves that may show discoloration. It’s possible that if your chive suddenly stops growing, there was already something wrong with the seedlings from the start. However, it can also be that your chive has thrips that are sucking out the nutrients the plant needs to grow. Other reasons could be: overwatering, not enough light, too hot or diseases.
Chives Not Thriving
In this article, we’ve already mentioned a whole bunch of reasons that might cause your chive plant to be unhappy. Any of these reasons could be why your chives aren’t doing as good as they could.
However, if you do not see any essentially important issues with your chive plant, but it’s just simply not thriving as much as you think it should, the following points are worth considering (again) because they might just be standing in your chive’s way to great success:
- Don’t overwater your plant.
- Make sure your plant gets enough light.
- Use sterilized soil and sterilized pots.
- Indoor is better than outdoor (especially in the beginning).
Not knowing what’s wrong with your plant can be frustrating when you’re doing the best you can to grow it successfully. Luckily, chive plants aren’t hard to take care of, and they’re pretty resilient against viruses. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a close eye on them to ensure its health.
Here’s a recap:
- Don’t overwater your chive plant as this might have serious consequences.
- Keeping thrips away from your chives is essential; prevention is always better.
- Ensure your chive plant receives enough light, at least six hours a day.
- Keep an eye on your chives to ensure they’re healthy.
Chives are low maintenance plants that are perennial in nature. Their onion-flavored leaves are milder compared to green, yellow, and red onions making them an excellent addition to any dish as a garnish.
If you are having problems growing chives, it is time to look at factors that affect the health of these plants, including nutrient deficiency, waterlogged soil, pests, and diseases. To increase your yield, you also need to resolve issues like providing the right amount of light and removal of weeds.
However, these are not the only factors to consider when looking for a healthy crop. Keep reading for more information on the above problems as well as additional essential steps to incorporate in your chive garden.
Insufficient Light Curtailing Photosynthesis
Chives need plenty of light to thrive. If you are planting them in an outdoor garden, this is no problem. But chives that are grown indoors need a spot where they receive at least six hours of sunshine daily. To ensure that they have enough sunlight, it is enough to plant them in early spring. During this season, most locations receive for 12 hours, which is more than sufficient for chives.
However, when the seedlings are germinating, they need darkness. Late winter is an ideal time to sow the seeds indoors and leave them to germinate for 14 days. After this period, you can expose the seedlings to bright light and let them grow to about four to six inches high. At this point, they are ready to be transplanted into the main garden where there is access to plenty of sunshine.
The sunlight is crucial to ensure the plants make adequate food for themselves. Without it, you will notice the chives are not germinating.
Waterlogged Soil That Retains Too Much Water
The soil that you use for growing chives matters. These plants require fertile soil with excellent drainage. Loam soil is the best option because it has moderate drainage, and it remains moist for a while before drying out. Because it allows water to drain through, it prevents diseases like pink root rot.
Loam soil is a combination of clay, sand, and silt. The sandy particles allow water and air to pass through down to the roots, while the clay particles provide the right amount of water retention to keep the soil moist. The silt offers a balance between the two other soils helping to sustain plant life. Did you know that clay soil contains the most nutrients among all the three soils?
Loam soil composition:
- Sand: Less than 50%
- Clay: Less than 27%
- Silt: Between 30% and 50%
On the other hand, do not underwater chives as they grow best when frequently watered. As long as the soil drains the water sufficiently, have no fear watering your chives.
Pest and Diseases
Gardeners love chives because they are not high maintenance plants when it comes to pests and diseases.
The primary diseases you have to look out for include:
The damping-off disease is a fungal disease that manifests as white, fuzzy mold on the stems of chives. The same fuzzy mold occurs on the soil around it. With time the stems blacken and fall over as the plant dies. This happens mainly to young plants that are still germinating. The disease also affects the seeds before they germinate, killing them off. If your chive seedlings are falling over, check them for the damping-off disease.
The fungi that cause damping-off disease are soil-borne. Commercial farmers treat their soil before they plant, but if you are growing your chives for personal use, you can just strive to starve the disease of the conditions it needs to thrive. These include:
- Growing your seedlings in a cool, well-ventilated indoor area
- Thinning your seeds to prevent the build-up of humidity
- Avoid overwatering
- Treating small infections with home remedies like chamomile and garlic
In order not to lose your entire new crop, consider repotting chive seedlings in healthy soil.
Pink Root Rot
Pink root rot is characterized by light pink roots that turn red then purple as the disease progresses. The roots then become water-soaked and acquire a transparent look. Since the roots are affected, they are unable to take in nutrients that the plant needs. As a result, gardeners will notice that the chive plant is not growing, and eventually, it will die.
This fungus can also lay dormant in the soil for several years, especially in areas that have typically grown onions before. You can treat the soil using natural methods like soil solarization. This process uses the sun’s energy to kill the fungal pathogens that continue to live in the soil.
- Clear the area to be treated.
- Water the soil deeply until it is all thoroughly drenched.
- Cover the area with plastic, specifically clear plastic. This type of plastic lets in a lot of heat.
- Tuck the edges of the plastic into the soil at the ends to make sure that the heat is trapped in.
- Let the plastic stay in place in the hottest summer months for at least four weeks.
The heat from the sun causes the water in the soil to become hot and steam up, but since the plastic traps the steam, it doesn’t escape. Instead, it continually kills the fungi and pathogens in the soil.
You will notice water droplets on the underside of the plastic each morning, which will disappear as the day progresses, and the heat turns them into steam. This treatment works effectively on heavy soils like loam soil because it contains all the three soil types. It can hold sufficient amounts of water without becoming waterlogged.
This disease is characterized by powdery and downy mildew on the leaves of the chives. The powdery mildew is on the top part of the leaves, while the downy mildew occurs on the underside. As the mildew progressively spreads its spores, it turns black and then kills leaves.
After planting a crop of chives, make sure that you plant non-allium crops for 3-4 years to mitigate this fungus. Alternatively, you can plant downy mildew resistant varieties of chives. You can also apply a fungicide.
The pests that affect chives include:
Black aphids love chives growing in a warm, humid environment. In colder temperatures, this pest is not as much of a menace. The natural way of dealing with aphids is by hosing them off using a strong jet of water. You can also use some liquid soap to wash them off the leaves of the chives. The aphids feed on the soft stems and roots, causing damage to the plant. If you notice that your chive plant has black moving spots, investigate it for black aphids.
Thrips are small green insects that look like small sewing needles. They love to feed on plants and are troublesome for chive growers. These pests are also known as thunder flies. They suck the juices out of the plants, which contributes to the chives not growing.
You can tell that you have a thrips infestation because it is accompanied by flecks of excrement (frass). The excrement is black and varnish-like. Thrips can move for long distances, just floating through the air.
Although thrips feeding on your chives ruins the aesthetics of the plant, they do not kill off the plant entirely.
Nutrient Deficiency in the Plant
When plants are nutrient deficient, they will experience either of these five conditions:
- Stunted growth
This deficiency is characterized by chives turning yellow. The yellowing is a result of a lack of chlorophyll. When the roots are damaged, or the soil doesn’t have sufficient nutrients, the plant is unable to sustain the production of chlorophyll.
Plants that are unable to produce chlorophyll cannot make enough food for the plant. As a result of lacking the green matter, you will find the chive plant dying. Deficiency in manganese, iron, and zinc causes the plant to become yellow.
Necrosis refers to the death of living tissue. The tissues in the plant die off, leaving the chive plant. In a case where a chive plant is grown in soil with the wrong PH or depleted nutrients, the crop will first look bright green in color before becoming necrotic as it grows older.
Lack of magnesium, iron, and nitrogen causes plants to die at a slow rate. Typically necrosis in chives is seen on the leaves first.
Nutrient deficiency can cause the leaves of the chive plant to discolor. Green-yellow color signifies a deficiency in nitrogen, while phosphorus-deficient plants have a deep green almost black, but they are stunted. Also, the lack of phosphorus causes the chives to get a purplish-reddish color.
Potassium deficiency manifests as yellowing on the leaves accompanied by black and brown spots. In severe potassium deficiency, the leaves will curl as they become yellow.
A chive plant wilting with yellow leaves that turn bronze brown with time is a sign of chlorine deficiency. Plants that have boron deficiency will have yellow spots on leaves that curl into themselves.
Stunted shrubs of chives will typically have shriveled bulbs. Most plants that experience stunted growth probably germinated from seedlings that were unhealthy from the start. Also, when the plants lack adequate nutrients to grow, they cannot produce foliage or establish a robust root system. This leaves it unproductive and stunted.
Types of Chives
There are four types of chives that are typically popular with gardeners.
This is the most common variety of chives grown all over the world. It has small bulbs that come in clusters, and they produce bluish-green leaves that are slender and tubular. They grow to a height of up to 15 inches. You can also eat the flavorful flowers of common chives, which can be white, purple, pink, or red.
Garlic chives are also called Chinese chives. They look like common chives but with flatter greener leaves. This variety of chives grows to a height of about 20 inches, and they also have a distinct but mild garlicky flavor. The flowers on garlic chives are white as well, but they are larger.
Giant Siberian Chives
The giant Siberian chives grow naturally in the wild, especially in Northeastern and central Asia. They grow to a height of 24 inches, extending to even 3 feet when they have flowers. This particular variety can handle all types of soils, including sandy soil, but it cannot tolerate standing water.
The characteristic feature on a garlic Siberian chive plant is the large purple flowers. The stems remain green-blue, and they are wonderfully fragrant throughout the season.
Siberian Garlic Chives
Also known as blue chives because of the color of the flowers on them, these chives feature nodding, flat leaves.
The star-shaped flowers give the plants a height of up to two feet. The chives feature large, broad leaves, and they have an interesting onion and garlic flavor.
How to Grow Chives in the Garden
If you intend to plant chives in the garden, it is essential to set out divisions in the plot at least four weeks before you see the last frost. This environment allows the seeds to germinate within two to three weeks during this period. Because there is no sun, the lack of light facilitates a healthy crop of seedlings to be transplanted at the beginning of spring.
When transplanting the plants into the garden, place them at a depth of ¼ to ½ an inch deep. Space the plant at least eight inches from each other because as they grow, they will fill out the space around them. This spacing also gives the chive plant flower adequate space to branch out.
Before you plant chives, you should add organic compost to the soil to provide adequate nutrients to the plants. Also, make sure that you use all-purpose fertilizer like the Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food. The fertilizer application should be light, and it must be worked into the soil. Apply fertilizer during the springtime for optimal results.
How to Grow Chives in a Pot
Chives do well in four-inch pots, to begin with, but you need to repot them into at least six-inch containers after a while. The container used should have holes at the bottom that offer excellent drainage.
Choose a high-quality pot mix when it comes to the soil you use. You should plant the chives at the same depth that they were planted in the nursery. However, make sure that you leave a half an inch between the rim of the pot and the surface of the soil.
You can start harvesting potted plants once they reach six inches. When you plant the chives make sure that each plant has enough space to accommodate the size of the plant as it grows. The ideal approach for potted chives is to plant three to four pots. As you harvest from one pot, the other two are continually growing, ready to be harvested the next time.
When harvesting the potted chives, make sure that you only take two inches off the stem. This allows the blades to grow back rapidly.
A distinct advantage of planting chives in a pot is that the plant offers your space an excellent aesthetic. This is especially attractive when you let the plants go to flower since chives produce beautiful purple, white or pink flowers depending on the variety.
However, the soil in the pot tends to dry faster than the one in the outdoor garden. You need to ensure that the soil is continuously moist but not waterlogged. People in urban areas who love herbs appreciate the easy maintenance of potted chive plants.
Best Practices When Growing Chives
To maintain a healthy crop of chives whether in the garden or the pot, make sure you maintain best practices like
Application of mulch around the plants retains more water in the soil, keeping it moist.
Planning the Space
Planning for how to use the area you have available is crucial to successful plant growth. Don’t cram too many plants in a small space.
Fencing the area around the garden keeps the site safe from rodents and even humans.
Allowing Beneficial Bugs
Bugs like ladybugs and lady beetles help to naturally get rid of pests like aphids that damage the plants.
Growing chives can be extremely rewarding. They provide you with a harvest every so often in the summer months and even through winter in milder climates. The chive plant that’s experiencing problems growing is most likely:
- Over or under watered
- Deprived of nutrients
- Receiving inadequate light
- Choked by weeds competing for nutrients in the same soil
- Plagued by disease or pest
Gardeners need to regularly check on their chives to catch these problems early on. The good news is that your chive plants will give you a sign that something is amiss by discoloration, falling over, necrosis, or not growing straight.
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