How to Grow Chicory from Seeds : Planting Guide & Easy Care Tips

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Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a hearty plant that’s a culinary delight and a stunning addition to your garden with its bright blue flowers. It’s a perennial herb that’s been cultivated since ancient times and is valued for its leaves and roots that can be used in a variety of dishes.

Chicory is a fantastic choice for its ease of growth and minimal maintenance. So let’s roll up our sleeves and learn how to grow chicory from seeds – it’s easier than you might think, and the rewards are plentiful.

Chicory root contains essential oils similar to those found in plants in the related genus Tanacetum. In alternative medicine, chicory has been listed as one of the 38 plants used to prepare Bach flower remedies.


Key Takeaways

  • Chicory is a cool-weather plant that can be started indoors or directly sown outside.
  • It’s important to choose a sunny location with fertile, well-draining soil.
  • There are different chicory varieties, including endive and radicchio, each with unique flavors.
  • Regular watering and attention to pests and diseases are key to healthy chicory plants.
  • Harvesting usually involves pulling the entire plant, including the root, when the leaves are the desired size.

Chicory, A Hidden Gem in Your Garden


What Makes Chicory Special

Chicory is special for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins and minerals. Secondly, it’s a versatile plant in the kitchen – the leaves, buds, and roots can all be used in different ways. Finally, chicory is beneficial for your garden’s ecosystem as its flowers attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

The Best Varieties for Home Gardens

While chicory comes in various forms, the most popular varieties for home gardens are radicchio, known for its red and white leaves, and endive, which offers a slightly bitter but delightful flavor. There’s also the root chicory, grown mainly for its roots, which can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute. Each variety has its own growing conditions and flavor profile, so choose one that suits your taste and garden space.

Importance of growing chicory from seeds

Growing chicory from seeds is rewarding because it allows you to observe the full cycle of plant growth. Starting from seeds is also cost-effective, and you get a wider variety of chicory to choose from compared to what’s typically available as plants at garden centers.

Understanding Chicory Seeds

Characteristics Description
Stem Tough, grooved, and more or less hairy when flowering. Can grow up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall.
Leaves Stalked, lanceolate, and unlobed. Range from 7.5–32 centimeters (3–12+1⁄2 inches) in length (smallest near the top) and 2–8 cm (3⁄4–3+1⁄4 in) wide.
Flower Heads Typically 3–5 cm (1+1⁄4–2 in) wide, usually light blue or lavender, occasionally white or pink.
Involucral bracts Two rows, with the inner row longer and erect, and the outer row shorter and spreading.
Flowering Period Flowers from March until October.
Seed Has small scales at the tip.

Chicory seeds are small and hardy, capable of germinating in cooler temperatures, which makes them ideal for early spring planting. They’re also non-GMO and can be saved from year to year if you allow some of your chicory plants to flower and set seed.

Characteristics of chicory seeds

Chicory seeds are small, brown, and have a slightly oblong shape. They’re quite durable and can be stored for several years if kept in a cool, dry place. When it comes time to plant, they don’t require any special treatment – simple sowing is all it takes to get them growing.

Different varieties of chicory seeds

As mentioned, there are several types of chicory to consider. For example, ‘Palla Rossa’ and ‘Treviso’ are two popular radicchio varieties, while ‘Belgian Endive’ is a commonly grown endive. Each variety will bring a unique flavor and texture to your dishes.

Selecting high-quality seeds

To ensure a successful chicory crop, start with high-quality seeds from a reputable supplier. Look for seeds that are labeled as non-GMO and organic if that’s important to you. It’s also wise to check the seed packet for information on germination rates and shelf life.

Preparing for Planting

Before you plant your chicory seeds, you’ll need to do a bit of prep work. This includes selecting the right location, preparing the soil, and gathering your gardening tools.

Choosing a suitable location

Chicory loves the sun but can tolerate partial shade. It’s crucial to choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day. The more sunlight your chicory gets, the better it will grow.

Soil requirements for chicory

Chicory isn’t too fussy about soil, but it does best in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. You’ll want to work in compost or aged manure before planting to give your chicory the best start. The ideal soil pH for chicory is between 6.5 and 7.0.

  • Test your soil pH with a simple test kit from your local garden center.
  • Amend your soil with lime if it’s too acidic or sulfur if it’s too alkaline.

Gathering the right tools and materials beforehand will make the planting process smoother. You’ll need a trowel, gardening gloves, compost, mulch, and of course, your chicory seeds. If you’re starting seeds indoors, add seed trays or pots and some quality seed-starting mix to your list.

Gathering necessary tools and materials

Having everything at hand before you begin will save time and help you focus on the task at hand. Make sure you have:

  • A trowel for digging planting holes.
  • Gardening gloves to keep your hands clean and protected.
  • Compost or aged manure to enrich the soil.
  • Mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Chicory seeds or seedlings if you’re transplanting.

Now that you’re equipped with the basics, let’s move on to the exciting part – planting your chicory seeds! Stay tuned for the next section where we’ll delve into when and how to plant, followed by the care your chicory will need to thrive. Remember, with a little patience and care, you’ll soon be enjoying the unique flavors of homegrown chicory right from your own backyard.

Sowing seeds in containers or directly in the ground

Once you’ve got your chicory seeds and your garden bed or containers prepared, it’s time to plant. You can start seeds indoors about five to six weeks before the last expected frost, or directly sow them into the garden two to three weeks before the last frost date. Planting seeds 1/4 inch deep and spacing them about 6 inches apart in rows set 2 feet apart will give your chicory the room it needs to grow.

For those who prefer container gardening, make sure your pots are at least 8 inches deep to accommodate the chicory’s taproot. Use a high-quality potting mix and ensure there are drainage holes at the bottom of your container. Sow a few seeds per pot and thin out the weakest seedlings after germination.

Caring for Chicory Seedlings

After planting, the next step is to nurture those tiny seedlings into robust plants. Caring for chicory isn’t complicated, but it does require some attention, especially when the plants are young and establishing themselves.

Watering considerations

Chicory seedlings need to be kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water them gently to prevent washing away the soil covering the seeds. Once they’ve sprouted, aim for about 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental watering. A simple trick is to push your finger into the soil near the plant; if it’s dry an inch below the surface, it’s time to water.

Providing sufficient sunlight is crucial for your chicory. Seedlings should be exposed to full sun for at least six hours a day. If you’ve started your seeds indoors, make sure to harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over a week before transplanting them into the garden.

Fertilizing young plants

Chicory isn’t a heavy feeder, but it does appreciate a boost. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied at planting and then again mid-season will help your chicory grow strong and healthy. Always follow the instructions on your fertilizer package to avoid overfeeding, which can lead to lush leaves but poor root development.

Calming Chicory Growth

As your chicory plants grow, you’ll need to manage their development to ensure a bountiful harvest. This includes thinning the seedlings, managing pests and diseases, and keeping on top of weeding and mulching.

Thinning seedlings as needed

Thinning is the process of removing some plants to allow the remaining ones enough space to grow. This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s essential for preventing overcrowding, which can lead to disease and poor yields. When your chicory seedlings are a few inches tall, thin them so they’re spaced about 6 inches apart.

Addressing common pests and diseases early can save your chicory crop. Keep an eye out for signs of pests like aphids or slugs, and diseases such as root rot or powdery mildew. Removing affected plants and using organic pest control methods can help keep your garden healthy.

Mulching and weeding strategies

Mulch your chicory plants with organic material like straw or shredded leaves to retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds. Weeding is also crucial as chicory doesn’t like competition. Regularly check your garden beds and remove any intruders that could be stealing nutrients from your chicory. For more detailed guidance, consider reading about how to grow Chicory which includes tips on mulching and weeding.

Harvesting Chicory

The moment of truth – harvesting your chicory! This is when you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor, both literally and figuratively.

Determining when chicory is ready for harvest

Chicory leaves are ready to harvest when they’re about 4 to 6 inches tall. If you’re growing chicory for the roots, you’ll wait until the end of the growing season, once the leaves have died back. The roots can then be dug up, cleaned, and either used fresh or stored for later use.

Harvesting techniques for leaves and roots differ slightly. For leaves, you can either pick them individually or cut the entire plant at the base. If you’re harvesting the roots, use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plant and gently lift the root out of the ground.

Proper storage methods for harvested chicory

After harvesting, you’ll want to store your chicory correctly to maintain its freshness. Leaves can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag. For roots, store them in a cool, dark place like a cellar or a refrigerator. They can last several months if kept dry and well-ventilated. For more detailed information, refer to the Gardener’s Path guide on how to grow Chicory.

In conclusion, growing chicory from seeds is a rewarding endeavor that adds diversity to your garden and your kitchen. With these easy care tips and a bit of patience, you’ll be well on your way to a successful chicory crop. Remember to enjoy the process as much as the harvest – after all, gardening is about the journey as much as the destination.

Practical Tips and Troubleshooting

As you nurture your chicory from seed to salad bowl, you’ll pick up a few tricks along the way. Let me share some practical tips to enhance your chicory cultivation and help you troubleshoot common issues that might crop up.

Most importantly, remember that gardening is a learning process. Each plant teaches us something new, and chicory is no exception. It’s resilient, but like any plant, it has its preferences and needs.

Tips for successful chicory cultivation

Here are some key tips to ensure your chicory thrives:

  • Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during dry spells, to encourage even growth.
  • Thin out seedlings early to avoid overcrowding and to promote strong, healthy plants.
  • Use floating row covers to protect young plants from pests and extreme temperatures.

Common issues encountered and solutions

Despite your best efforts, you might encounter a few challenges. Here’s how to handle them:

Aphids and slugs can be a nuisance, but they can be managed with organic insecticidal soaps or by encouraging natural predators like ladybugs into your garden. If you notice yellowing leaves or stunted growth, it might be a sign of nutrient deficiency. A balanced fertilizer can usually fix this.

  • For aphids, a strong stream of water or insecticidal soap can help control them.
  • Slugs can be deterred with diatomaceous earth or traps.
  • Yellow leaves might indicate a need for nitrogen – consider a fish emulsion or compost tea.

Root rot is another concern, often due to waterlogged soil. Ensure good drainage and don’t overwater.

Long-term maintenance of chicory plants

Chicory is relatively low-maintenance once established. However, if you want to keep it coming back year after year, here’s what to do:

Allow some of your chicory plants to flower and go to seed. Not only will you have seeds for next season, but the flowers will also attract beneficial insects. Cut back the plants in fall after harvesting to keep the area tidy and reduce the chance of disease.

And there you have it – with these tips and solutions, your chicory should flourish, providing you with a delightful harvest that’s as good for your garden as it is for your table.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Let’s clear up some common questions about growing chicory from seeds to help you become even more confident in your gardening endeavors.

Can Chicory Survive Frost?

Yes, chicory can handle a light frost. In fact, a touch of frost can sweeten the leaves. However, protect your plants from heavy frosts with mulch or a frost cloth to prevent damage.

How Long Does Chicory Take to Grow?

Chicory typically takes about 85 to 100 days from seed to harvest. However, some varieties might be ready to pick a bit sooner, especially if you’re harvesting young leaves for salads.

Does Chicory Need Full Sun?

Chicory grows best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Ideally, aim for at least 6 hours of sunlight daily for robust growth.

Is Chicory a Perennial or Annual Plant?

Chicory is a perennial plant, which means it can live for several years. However, it’s often grown as an annual, especially in colder climates where it may not survive the winter.

Can You Grow Chicory Indoors?

Yes, you can start chicory seeds indoors to get a head start on the growing season. However, they will eventually need to be transplanted outdoors as they require sunlight and space to develop fully.


Now that you’re armed with the knowledge and tips for growing chicory from seeds, you’re well on your way to adding this flavorful and colorful plant to your garden. Chicory’s versatility in the kitchen and its aesthetic appeal in the garden make it a dual-purpose plant that’s as enjoyable to grow as it is to consume.

Recap of key points

  • Chicory is a cool-weather plant that’s easy to grow from seeds.
  • Choose a sunny location with fertile, well-draining soil for best results.
  • Water consistently, thin seedlings, and watch for pests and diseases.
  • Harvest when leaves are 4 to 6 inches tall or when roots are fully developed.

With patience and care, you’ll be rewarded with a bounty of chicory that can enhance your meals and your health. So why not get started today? Your garden and your taste buds will thank you!

Encouragement for readers to try their hand at chicory cultivation

If you’ve been thinking about growing chicory, let this be the nudge you need. It’s a forgiving plant that offers a unique flavor profile and a host of benefits. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of enjoying a meal that includes ingredients you’ve grown yourself. So grab some seeds, prepare your soil, and get ready to watch your chicory grow!

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