How to plant and grow chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) or “common chicory” is a perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, sometimes white or pink.
Many varieties of chicory are cultivated for salad leaves, or roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and food additive.
Chicory is also grown as a forage crop for livestock.
Scientific name: Cichorium intybus, Cichorium intybus
Plant type: Vegetables
Height: 50cm - 1.5m
Spread: 50cm - 1.5m
Flower color: Blue, Pink, White
Sunlight: Full Sun
Soil: Chalk, Loam, Sand
Moisture: Well drained
Garden type: Coastal, Informal Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Rock & Gravel Garden
Planting type: Flower borders and bedding, Low Maintenance
It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in Europe where it is, and is now common in North America, Australia and China, where it has become widely naturalized.
“Chicory” is also the common name in the United States for curly endive (Cichorium endivia). These two closely related species are often confused.
Common chicory is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor’s buttons and wild endive.
Common names for varieties of var. foliosum include endive, radicchio, radichetta, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive, sugarloaf and witloof (or witlof).
The ideal temperature for growing chicory is between 12°C and 22°C, although there are cultivars that tolerate lower temperatures and others that tolerate slightly higher temperatures.
Temperatures above 25°C generally induce the plant to produce smaller leaves and to flower early.
Chicory can grow in direct sunlight or in partial shade, as long as there is good light.
The leaves of plants grown under direct sunlight and high temperatures usually become bitter.
Plants need well-drained, fertile soil that is rich in organic matter. The ideal soil pH ranges from 5.5 to 7. It is not necessary for the soil to be particularly rich in nitrogen.
Chicory must be watered frequently so that the soil does not dry out.
The seeds can be planted in sowing trays or modules, and the transplant can be done when the seedlings have 4 to 6 leaves, preferably on cloudy days or in the late afternoon, especially if the temperature is high. The seedling can wilt and die if the transplant occurs when the weather is hot and dry.
The seeds can also be sown directly at the definitive location of the garden in regions with a mild climate. Subsequently, some seedlings can be transplanted or harvested so that the spacing is adequate for the plants to develop.
The recommended spacing depends on the variety cultivated and the conditions of cultivation, ranging from 20 to 30 cm between the planting lines and 15 to 30 cm between the plants.
Chicory can also be grown in medium or large pots and planters.
Remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients.
A practice that can be performed that aims to make chicory less bitter, lighter and more tender, consists of depriving the plants of light before harvest, for approximately 15 days.
There are several methods for this, such as gathering and tying the outer leaves in order to deprive the young leaves of light, placing an object (for example a plate or pot) on the center of each plant, or cultivating in a pot and cutting all the leaves of the plant, allowing the plant to regrow in a dark place until harvest time.
Harvesting can take place 50 to 100 days after sowing, depending on the cultivar planted and the cultivation conditions. Cultivars that have loose leaves can be harvested individually only when necessary. Plants that are fully cut in the crop can sprout and provide new crops.