HomeGrowing TipsCommon Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Chives

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Chives

Growing chives is a great way to add flavorful onion undertones to your cooking. With their grassy leaves and edible lavender blooms, chives are a favorite herb for home gardens. They are also one of the easiest herbs to grow even for beginners. However, there are some common mistakes that can prevent your chives from thriving. Avoid these errors for the healthiest, most productive plants.

Mistake #1 – Using the Wrong Soil for Growing Chives

Using the Wrong Soil for Growing Chives

Chives need nutrient-rich, well-drained soil to grow their best. Heavy clay or sandy soils that lack organic matter often lead to poor growth. Be sure to test and amend your soil according to this herb growing guide for ideal chive growing conditions.

Ideal Soil Conditions for Chives

  • Chives prefer soil with a neutral pH around 6.5-7.0. Acidic soils below pH 6 can cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • The soil should be loose, crumbly, and rich in organic matter from compost, manure or peat moss.
  • Chives need good drainage. Make sure the soil is not waterlogged.

Before planting, test your soil and amend it with compost or other organic material to create ideal growing conditions.

Mistake #2 – Not Providing Enough Sunlight

Not Providing Enough Sunlight

Growing chives requires full sun to partial shade. With too little sunlight, the plants will become leggy and weak with poor production. If gardening in a small space, pay close attention to sunlight levels for growing chives successfully.

Sunlight Requirements for Chives

  • For best growth, plant chives in a location receiving at least 6 hours of direct sun daily.
  • Areas with morning sun are ideal. Afternoon shade in hot climates can prevent bolting.
  • Dappled shade under trees is suitable but avoid dense shade.

When choosing where to grow chives, ensure the site gets sufficient sunlight. The morning sun is best to prevent afternoon heat stress.

Mistake #3 – Overwatering


Too much moisture is another common mistake when growing chives. Overwatering leads to root rot and invites diseases. Refer to this guide on watering indoor plants properly to avoid overwatering.

Proper Watering Techniques for Chives

  • Water chives regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but not saturated. Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Avoid getting water on the foliage, which can cause leaf spot diseases. Water at the base.
  • Improve drainage by planting in raised beds or on slopes. Heavy clay soils may need amendments like sand or perlite.
  • Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Avoid overwatering by watering thoroughly only after the topsoil becomes slightly dry. Improve drainage in heavy soils.

Mistake #4 – Harvesting Improperly

Harvesting Improperly

Harvesting chives incorrectly can damage the plants. Follow proper cutting techniques for ongoing harvests.

When and How to Harvest Chives

  • Begin harvesting chive leaves after plants are established, typically after 6-8 weeks of growth.
  • Snip leaves 1-2 inches from the soil, taking no more than one-third of the plant at a time.
  • Use sharp, clean shears or scissors to avoid ripping or crushing stems.
  • Harvest as needed through summer. Cutting stimulates new growth.
  • In autumn, cut plants back to 2 inches for winter dormancy.

For continuous harvests, cut chive leaves carefully with clean tools, removing no more than one-third of growth at a time.

Mistake #5 – Not Dividing Plants

Not Dividing Plants

Allowing chives to become overcrowded inhibits growth. Dividing them regularly maintains vigor.

Signs Chives Need Dividing and How to Divide Them

  • Divide congested clumps every 2-3 years in spring or fall. Signs plants need dividing include reduced growth and lower yields.
  • Dig up the entire clump and separate into divisions with a knife or garden fork. Replant divisions 8-12 inches apart.
  • Water transplants well until established. Cut half the foliage after replanting to reduce stress.

Dividing overgrown chives reinvigorates the plants, restoring fullness and productivity.

Mistake #6 – Letting Flowers Develop

Letting Flowers Develop

Although the light purple chive blooms are edible, allowing the plants to flower decreases leaf production.

Why to Remove Chive Flowers

  • Chives bloom in late spring on tall, central stalks. Flowering diverts energy from leaf growth, reducing yields.
  • Pinch or cut off flower stalks as they emerge to encourage more abundant foliage.
  • If flowers do bloom, harvest them for a mild, oniony flavor. Then cut the stalks back to the base.

Pinching off flowers as they form prevents the drop in leaf production that accompanies flowering.


Avoiding common errors like poor soil, insufficient sunlight, overwatering, improper harvesting, and inadequate dividing will keep your chive plants healthy and productive. Provide this flavorful herb with the right growing conditions, and you will enjoy an abundant harvest. Chives are a garden favorite for their ease of care and lasting quality when planted right.


How long do chives live?

Chives are a perennial herb that can live for many years when properly cared for. Individual plants typically thrive for 5 years or longer.

Should chives be cut to the ground in winter?

Yes, cutting chives back to about 2 inches above the ground in late fall prepares them for winter dormancy and promotes new growth in spring.

How much sunlight is needed when growing chives per day?

Chives grow best with 6-8 hours of full sunlight daily. The morning sun is ideal, with some afternoon shade in hot climates.

Do chives come back every year?

Yes, chives are a perennial herb in most climates and will resprout year after year if grown in the proper conditions. Established plants grow rapidly in spring.

When should I harvest chives?

Begin harvesting chive leaves once plants are about 6-8 weeks old by cutting leaves 1-2 inches above the soil line. Continue harvesting as needed, removing no more than one-third of growth at a time.



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