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9 Surprising Reasons Chives Turn Yellow and What to Do to Rescue Them


Ever had one of those days where your chives decide to throw a temper tantrum and go all yellow on you? Yep, that was me—staring at my poor, droopy herbs like they’d just watched a sad movie marathon and still haven’t moved on from the heartache. 

I started to ask myself: what could be the reasons chives turn yellow and what to do when that happens? It was a problem that needed to be solved, ASAP!

Naturally, I hit up the internet for answers. But oh boy, talk about a wild goose chase! Every site had a different theory like they were arguing over who forgot to water the plants.

After diving deep into herb lore (I practically felt like a wizard), I finally cracked the case. Turns out, there’s a whole bouquet of reasons why chives can turn yellow. And lucky you, I’ve sifted through the garden gossip to bring you the real deal.

So, if you’re in herb crisis mode like I was, scrolling through frustratingly incomplete advice, hang tight! Here’s your ultimate survival guide to why your chives are staging a yellow revolt and how to bring them back from the brink.

1. Nitrogen Deficiency

Image by Gardener’s Path

When your chive leaves start looking more yellow than green, especially the older leaves, it’s often a sign that these guys are craving nitrogen. Nitrogen is like fuel for plants, helping them grow lush and green. 

Solution: Fertilize with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. 

Nitrogen helps in producing chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color. So, more nitrogen means greener, happier chives.

After applying the nitrogen-rich fertilizer, you should start seeing the younger leaves perk up and turn a healthier shade of green within a couple of weeks. Older leaves might stay yellow, but new growth should come in nice and green.

How to Apply Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizers

  1. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
  2. Follow the package instructions.
  3. Apply around the base of your chive plants.
  4. Lightly water after application.

2. Potassium Deficiency

Image by Dengarden

If your chive leaves are turning yellow, especially with brown edges creeping in, it could be a sign that they’re low on potassium. Potassium is crucial for plant health, helping them regulate water and nutrient movement. 

Without enough potassium, your chives might not be able to fend off stressors like heat or pests as well.

Solution: Give your chives a potassium-rich fertilizer. 

Potassium helps strengthen cell walls and improves overall plant resilience, making them better equipped to handle whatever the garden throws at them. 

Within a few weeks, you should notice the new growth looking healthier, with fewer yellowing leaves and stronger stems.

How to Apply Potassium-Rich Fertilizers

  1. Use potassium-rich fertilizer as directed.
  2. Follow package instructions for mixing and applying.
  3. Apply evenly around the chive plants’ base.
  4. Lightly water to help nutrients absorb.

3. Overwatering

Image by Gardener’s Path

If your chives are looking a bit yellow and sad, it might be because you’re drowning them with love. Overwatering is a common culprit when it comes to yellowing leaves. 

When the soil stays too wet for too long, it can suffocate the roots and prevent them from getting the oxygen they need to thrive.

Solution: Adjust your watering schedule. 

Allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings is key. This helps prevent waterlogged conditions that can lead to root rot and yellowing leaves.

Chives, like most plants, need a balance of moisture and air around their roots. Allowing the soil to dry out a bit between waterings ensures that the roots can breathe and absorb nutrients effectively. 

It may take a week or two for the plants to show improvement.

How to Treat Overwatered Chives

  1. Check soil moisture by feeling the top inch. Hold off if damp
  2. .Water deeply but less often. Aim for dry topsoil.
  3. Ensure good drainage in well-draining soil or pots with holes.
  4. Adjust watering based on weather: more in heat, less in rain.

4. Underwatering

Image by Epic Gardening

If your chive leaves are turning yellow and feeling dry to the touch, they might be telling you they’re thirsty. Underwatering happens when plants don’t get enough water, causing stress and yellowing leaves as a cry for help.

Solution: Increase your watering frequency. 

Keeping the soil consistently moist helps them thrive and maintain their vibrant green color. 

Chives, like many herbs, prefer soil that’s evenly moist but not waterlogged. Giving them regular water ensures they have the hydration needed for healthy growth and leaf color.

Once you start watering more regularly, you should see new growth coming in healthier and greener. The existing yellowed leaves may not fully recover but new growth should be robust.

How to Treat Underwatered Chives

  1. Check soil moisture by feeling the top inch. Water if dry.
  2. Water deeply at the base for root moisture.
  3. Avoid shallow watering; moisten the soil to roots.
  4. Adjust the frequency based on weather and plant needs.

5. Soil pH Imbalance


Image by Plantura Magazin

If your chive leaves are yellowing, the pH balance of your soil might be out of whack. Chives prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.0-7.0). 

When the pH swings too far in either direction, it can affect nutrient availability and lead to yellowing leaves.

Solution: Adjust the soil pH using amendments.

Soil amendments like lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower pH (depending on your soil test results) are effective at balancing soil pH. This helps create an environment where chives can access nutrients more effectively.

Chives, like most plants, have specific pH preferences for optimal nutrient uptake. Balancing the pH ensures that essential nutrients are available in the soil, promoting healthy green foliage.

It may take a few weeks for the soil pH adjustments to take effect and for chives to show improvement. New growth should start to appear healthier and greener as the pH balance stabilizes.

How to Balance Soil pH

  1. Test soil pH.
  2. Apply lime for acidic soil (pH < 6.0), or sulfur for alkaline soil (pH > 7.0).
  3. Mix around chive plants as directed.
  4. Lightly water to integrate.

6. Fungal Infections

Image by University of Minnesota Extension

If you notice yellow spots or patches on your chive leaves, especially during damp or humid weather, fungal infections might be to blame. Fungi love moist conditions and can quickly spread if not addressed, causing yellowing and weakening of the plant.

Solution: Combat and treat fungal infections with fungicidal treatments. 

Fungicides contain active ingredients that target fungal pathogens, stopping their growth and protecting plants from further damage. This helps chives recover and regain their healthy green color.

Plus, these treatments help eliminate fungal spores and protect new growth from infection.

Improvement should be visible within a few weeks as new growth appears healthy and unaffected by fungal infections. Existing yellowed leaves may not recover fully but should stop spreading.

How to Treat Chives with Fungal Infections

  1. Identify fungal infection type.
  2. Use fungicides for herbs or edible plants.
  3. Mix and apply per instructions.
  4. Apply evenly to all affected parts.
  5. Repeat per label for full eradication.

7. Viral Infections

Image by Gardener’s Path

When your chive plants show stunted growth, distorted leaves, and yellowing that doesn’t seem to improve with standard care, viral infections might be at play. 

Viruses can weaken plants and reduce their ability to absorb nutrients, leading to persistent yellowing and poor growth.

Solution: Remove infected chive plants.  

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for viral infections in plants. Removing infected chive plants may halt the spread of the virus, but any already affected plants will likely continue to show symptoms. 

New plantings in the same area should be monitored closely for signs of infection.

How to Resolve Chives with Viral Infections

  1. Identify viral infection symptoms.
  2. Dig up infected plants with roots.
  3. Bag and dispose of in the trash (not compost).Disinfect tools between uses.
  4. Rotate crops to prevent reinfection.

8. Pests 

Image by Greenlife Crop Protection Africa

If you spot tiny bugs crawling on your chive leaves or notice leaves turning yellow and distorted, pests could be the culprits. Aphids, thrips, and onion maggots are common pests that feed on chive plants, causing stress and yellowing leaves.

Solution: Use effective pest control methods like insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Insecticidal soap and neem oil work by suffocating and repelling pests while being safe for beneficial insects. This helps restore chive health and prevent future infestations.

You should see a reduction in pest activity within a few days to a week after treatment. Chive leaves may begin to recover their healthy green color as new growth emerges.

How to Treat Chives with Pests

  1. Identify the type of pests.
  2. Mix soap or neem per instructions.
  3. Spray thoroughly on affected plants.
  4. Repeat per label instructions.
  5. Monitor regularly and treat promptly.

9. Genetic Variation

Image by Specialty Produce

Your chives might just be pulling a fast one on you—they could be Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum), with that perky yellow-green color that’s their trademark. 

Solution: Provide proper care.

There’s nothing you can do when your chive is genetically meant to produce yellow leaves. 

All you need to do is nail those perfect growing conditions, pamper them like they’re your favorite houseplant, and tackle issues like nutrient shortages, overwatering, pests, diseases, or even pH problems. 

How to Prevent Chives from Yellowing

Image by Food Gardening Network – Mequoda

Maintaining healthy chives starts with proactive care and regular monitoring. Just follow these tips to prevent yellowing and ensure robust growth.

Proper Watering

Water chives deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings to prevent waterlogged conditions.

Well-Prepared Soil

Plant chives in well-draining soil or containers with good drainage to avoid root rot and fungal infections.

Correct Fertilization

Apply balanced fertilizer according to chive needs and soil test results to ensure adequate nutrition without overfeeding.

Pest and Disease Management

Monitor for pests and diseases regularly. Use preventive treatments like neem oil for pests and fungicides for fungal infections as needed.

Crop Rotation

Rotate chives and other herbs to different garden beds each season to reduce pest buildup and soil nutrient depletion.

Companion Planting

Plant chives alongside pest-repelling herbs like basil or marigolds to deter pests naturally.

Can yellowed chives still be used?

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Yellowed chives can still be used in cooking. While they may not look as fresh as green chives, their flavor can still pack a punch in dishes like soups, salads, and sauces. 

Just trim away any excessively yellow or wilted parts and focus on using the greener sections for the best flavor. Yellowed chives are perfectly safe to eat and can add a mild oniony taste to your favorite recipes.

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