Chive Seed Planting: Tips For Growing Chives From Seed

By: Amy Grant

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) make a wonderful addition to the herb garden. In gardens throughout France, the herb is almost obligatory since it is one of the ‘fines herbes’ traditionally combined with chervil, parsley and tarragon to flavor chicken, fish, vegetables, soups, omelets and salads. So, how to grow chives from seed? Let’s find out.

Chive Seed Propagation

Chives are grown primarily for their culinary uses, but the herb may also be grown for its lovely, light purple flowers and flourishes in containers as well as in the garden proper. A member of the onion or Amaryllidaceae family along with garlic and leeks, chives are native to northern Europe, Greece and Italy. This hardy, drought tolerant perennial grows to between 8-20 inches high in clumps via underground bulbs. Chives have hollow, round leaves much like onions, although smaller.

I propagate my chives by dividing my massive decade-old chive plant but growing chives from seed is the common method for starting this herb; unless you live next door to me, in which case, please, come get one!

“How To” Guide to Chive Seed Planting

Growing chives from seed is a simple process, as seed germinates easily, albeit slowly. Sow seed ½ inch deep in flats of peat-based soilless mix. Keep the flat consistently moist and in temps of between 60-70 degrees F. (15-21 C.). At four to six weeks and once all danger of frost has passed, the chive seedling can be transplanted outside.

Planting chive seeds can also occur directly outside in the garden once the soil has warmed. Space plants 4-15 inches apart in rows 20 or more inches apart. As mentioned, propagation can be from chive seed, transplants or division. Divide the plants every two to three years, separating new plants into clumps of about five bulbs each.

When planting chive seeds, the soil should be rich, moist and high in organic matter with a soil pH of between 6 and 8. Prior to planting the seedlings, amend the soil with 4-6 inches of composted organic matter and apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of all purpose fertilizer per square foot of planting area. Work this in down to 6-8 inches of soil.

Chives thrive in full sun, but will do well in partial shade. Fertilize the plants a few times during the growing season with bone meal and manure or a well-balanced commercial fertilizer. Side dress with 10-15 pounds of nitrogen two times during the growing season and keep the herb consistently moist and the area weeded.

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How to Get Chives to Germinate

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Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) provide a mild onion flavor when used as an herb, and double as an attractive perennial garden flower. The grasslike plants produce purple orb-shaped flowers in summer, and these are also edible. Chives grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 11, tolerating both warm temperatures and frost. You can plant them year-round in mild climates or germinate them four weeks before the last spring frost in cooler regions. Starting the seeds indoors gives you the best chance of successful germination because you can manage the moisture and temperature for the developing seedlings.

Fill a 2-inch deep seed-starting flat with moist potting soil. Set the flat on top of a tray to catch moisture that drains.

Sprinkle the chive seeds on the soil surface in rows. Sow approximately three seeds per inch in each row, and space the rows 2 inches apart in the flat.

Press on the seeds lightly so they are in full contact with the soil. Sprinkle a 1/8-inch layer of soil on top the seeds so they are just covered.

Mist the potting soil with water from a spray bottle. Cover the flat with a plastic bag to retain the moisture during germination so the chives won't require watering until after they sprout.

Set the flat in a location with a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Chives germinate most readily when the soil remains between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the bag once the seeds sprout, which usually takes about seven days. Move the flat to a sunny location and transplant the chives outdoors when they are four to six weeks old.


Cut leaves for salads, potatoes, soups.

Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day shade means little or no direct sun.

Days To Maturity The average number of days from when the plant is actively growing in the garden to the expected time of harvest.

Life Cycle This refers to whether a plant is an annual, biennial or perennial. Annuals complete their life cycles in one year biennials produce foliage the first year and bloom and go to seed the second year perennials can live for more than two years.

Height The typical height of this product at maturity.

Spread The width of the plant at maturity.

Additional Uses Additional ways in which the product may be used in the garden.

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Chives may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost or sown directly in the garden.

Sowing Seed Indoors:

  • Sow chives seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the average last frost date in spring using a seed starting kit.
  • Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in seed starting formula
  • Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F
  • Seedlings will emerge in 7-14 days
  • As soon as the seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill, or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
  • Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

Sowing Directly in the Garden:

  • Direct sow in average soil in full sun after all danger of frost. In frost free areas sow from fall to early spring.
  • Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil then level and smooth.
  • Sow seeds evenly and cover with ¼ inches of fine soil.
  • Firm the soil lightly and keep evenly moist.
  • Seedlings will emerge in 7-14 days.
  • Thin to 3 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches tall.

Planting in the Garden:

  • Select a location in full sun where water drains quickly after a rainfall.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
  • Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball, if tight, with your hands to encourage good root development.
  • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker.
  • Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
  • Do not allow plants to dry out, but never let the soil stay wet.

2. Plant garlic chives from transplants or seeds

For a quicker harvest, plant garlic chives from transplants or divisions. Space plants about 12 inches apart.

For square foot gardening, allow 1 garlic chive plant per square foot.

Plants grown from seeds will grow into a thick planting in about 3 years. It’s best not to harvest from seed-grown chives until the second year.

  • Start garlic chive seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost. Garlic chive seed germination can be spotty sow seeds thickly and thin to 3-4 seedlings. Plant seedlings outside about 6 inches apart.
  • To plant garlic chives from seeds outside, sow seeds ¼” deep. Plant several seeds every 6 inches. Thin to 2-3 plants in each grouping.

Sowing chive seeds indoors is the easiest way to grow them from seed, and indoor propagation is advisable if you live in an area that has the slightest chance of a late cold snap. Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch down in a peat mix, and keep the mixture consistently moist but not wet. Soil temperature should approximate an indoor environment, between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready, plant chive seedlings outside 6 to 12 inches apart in ground enriched with compost, not fertilizer.

Chives self-seed if conditions are conducive and you do not trim the flower heads once they wither. If you want them to self-seed, simply leave the heads on until the seeds fall out to prevent self-seeding, trim them off as soon as the blooms fade. You can also purchase rooted chives at a nursery.

Watch the video: Plant: Chives, How to grow Chives, Chives in containers, How long do they last?

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