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I recently bought chives from a fruit and vegetables store that had them imported from somewhere in Europe. It wasn't exposed to sunlight at the place. I brought it home, cleaned it up, repotted into a bigger pot with healthy soil. 5 days in, almost all the chives are limp and fallen down. Today, I bought rosemary and I was wondering if I should directly put it outside as I did with the chives or if I should keep it indoors for a while. Also, what can I do to my chives to help it; should I cut the ones falling down?

I also later intend to bring them indoors during winter, is there a specific process for that as well?

  • Where do you live and what has the weather been like recently? What kind of winters do you typically have? – Niall C. Sep 25 '14 at 19:31
  • In Lebanon, its been full sun for days and some wind. Winters temperature goes down to an average 10-12C, sometimes 8C. Lots of rain – Jeff Sep 25 '14 at 19:33
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The little starts you buy at the grocery store have recently undergone a huge amount of stress, and wilting after being brought home is relatively common. They are usually grown fast in a greenhouse, sometimes with supplementary CO2 to promote fast growth. They are then packed and shipped (ground or air and ground) for hours, sometimes over a day. This causes a huge amount of stress, and they are often kept metabolically slowed by refrigeration. Once they finally are through shipping, they are watered and placed in the store, where the lighting is lower than ideal, and often they are damaged somewhat by the output of ethylene from ripening fruits nearby. As a whole, the entire process is extremely stressful. The plants usually have to be replaced in less than 5 days.

The above is to explain part of why the chives are not adapting well. But to answer your question: When you are adapting any plant to a new environment, it is best done in a number of progressing steps, over a short period of time. This is called hardening off. For the new rosemary plant, I'd put it in a new pot, only slightly larger than what it's in now, with fresh potting mix without fertilizer. Keep it moist, and put it in a shady, protected area outdoors to start out. If you are expecting a big temperature drop, you can move it into the coolest part of your house or garage for a short time.

Each day, sit it in the area where you want it to stay later, in a fully sunny location, and leave it for a couple hours. Sit it out a little longer each day so that in a week or week and a half, the plant will be used to the sun and can stay there permanently. Once you see any new growth showing at the apex, you can begin fertilizing with a half strength soluble balanced fertilizer every other week, for a few weeks. The plant will eventually have to go dormant for winter, and you shouldn't promote new growth at that time. The goal is to have the plant grow some roots and become adapted before winter. If the plant puts on a good bit of growth, plant it in a garden bed or large pot before winter. Planting directly in the ground is preferable, as it's more natural, and in a large pot you must be much more careful about watering, etc, as large planters that aren't populated with plant roots tend to retain water longer, and there are other issues involved.

As for the chives, Now that they're repotted, I'd keep the mix moist and wait it out. It may be that they are already going dormant for the winter (mine have been over the past couple weeks), and there is nothing to worry about. Don't cut them unless they go entirely yellow, a sign of going dormant.

About overwintering indoors, these are temperate perennials, and will do very poorly indoors, especially overwinter. I would keep them in the ground, or large planters outdoors.

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    Excellent answer j.musser! Large planters, however should be planted with large plants. And pots, planters always subject the roots to cold. Definitely just plant these guys in the ground and mulch. – stormy Sep 25 '14 at 21:04
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    Thanks for the great answer! I will try it out with the Rosemary. Also, I just noticed that a few flower sprouts are growing in the chives. Is that a good sign? – Jeff Sep 26 '14 at 14:30
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    @Jeff sorry I took so long. Flower buds on the chives isn't necessarily a good sign, and it means the plants aren't actually going dormant. I would cut out the buds carefully, as they will drain energy from the plant. – J. Musser Sep 29 '14 at 21:57
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Plant your rosemary outside. It does horribly inside. There should be enough time for it to acclimate and put down some roots before it freezes. Don't fertilize it with a product high in nitrogen! Make sure the first number is lower than the last two. NPK, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium; you'll see 3 numbers on the package. The first number should be lower than the second two such as 5-10-10 or 3-4-7.

Best time to plant new plants is in the fall. They can grow roots, store food for the winter and then they go dormant (depending on where you live). While they are sleeping the roots still grow so when spring comes you'll see a very healthy plant.

Plant your outdoor plants in raised beds, done simply by fluffing up the soil or double digging. In this manner the roots will be protected from drowning in too much water. Make a trench along the perimeter of the bed so that water can collect and be drained away where you want the water to go. Mulch with decomposed organic mulch to discourage weeds, feed your soil (organisms) and protect the roots of your new plants even more.

  • You might have used too big of a pot if your chives start was small! Too much water for a small plant to process without drowning... – stormy Sep 25 '14 at 19:48
  • Yup, these herbs won't be good houseplants. – J. Musser Sep 25 '14 at 19:54
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The temperatures you describe for where you are are absolutely fine for both plants - rosemary is hardy in the UK where winter temps may go to -10 deg C, so even a pot, where you are, there won't be an issue.

Chives, of course, disappear in the winter if it gets cold enough, so you might want to consider moving those inside, or snipping and freezing some in small foil packets for use in winter, although given your winter temperatures, the leaves may remain on the plant anyway.

Agree with J. Musser's description for 'hardening off', though in this case, its more acclimatizing to the sun and heat! One query though in reference to the chives - you say you 'cleaned it up' - what exactly does that mean?

  • I cut off some broken chives, leaving one inch from down. – Jeff Sep 26 '14 at 11:46
  • @Jeff - I understand that to mean you simply trimmed back some damaged green growth, without disturbing the root ball - which is fine, I just wondered if you'd pulled the root ball about for some reason, which would have been another possible cause of its problems now. – Bamboo Sep 27 '14 at 13:14

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