Chicory (Cichorium intybus L.)

Common Name:


Scientific Name:

Cichorium intybus L.


Common names include coffeeweed, succory, blue sailors, radicchio, Belgian endive, and Italian dandelion.







Time of introduction:

First introduced in the U.S. in the late 1700s. The improved cultivar 'Puna', developed in New Zealand, was introduced in the U.S. in 1988 by USDA-ARS scientists in Pennsylvania.


Chicory is a biennial/perennial forb that was introduced to the US in the late 1700s. Its succulent leaves are valued for forage and its prominent tap roots are sometimes harvested for their fructo-oligosaccharide content or for use as a coffee additive. Chicory is well adapted to temperate environments and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. It performs best on moderately drained, deep soils with medium to high fertility. The persistence of chicory is similar to that of alfalfa. Good stands can last for five years or more with good management. Chicory performs well not only by itself, but also in mixtures with other cool-season forages. When induced to flower, it "bolts" and produces stems with sparse foliage and purple-blue flowers.

Life cycle (annual/biennial/perennial):

Biennial that often behaves as a short-lived perennial.

Growth habit & Regrowth type:

Rosette growth habit during late autumn and winter, producing succulent leaves in spring and summer, then flowering stems are produced once induced to flower. Develops forage suitable for grazing in 80-100 days.

Invasive potential:

Medium to high. Wild form of chicory is a common roadside weed and is considered noxious and/or invasive in some states. Improper defoliation management, however, can quickly weaken stands.


Although technically a biennial, it often functions as a perennial with persistence similar to that of alfalfa. Well-managed stands last for 5 years or more.


Image Gallery: The OSU Forage Information System contains an Image Gallery that includes Chicory photographs and drawings useful in identification. The URL for the gallery is:

The direct URL for Chicory is:

Inflorescence: Chicory has a rosette growth habit during the cool season and, once established, produces many flowering stems in late spring and early summer. Grows 24-48" tall (60-120 cm). (Chicory infloresence)

Flower: Blue to purple flower heads occur at the apex and upper leaf axils of the stem. (Chicory flowers)

Seed: Chicory seed is small (426,000 seed/lb; 937,200 seed/kg). Each seed is 0.08-0.11 inches (2-3 mm) long, obovate, light brown and darker mottled, and finely granular. (Chicory seed image)

Stem: Upright stems are smooth and branched. (Chicory stem image)

Leaf: Basal leaves are large and lobed, while leaves growing on flowering stems are smaller and less lobed. (Chicory leaves)

Root: The taproot system is large and deep. (Chicory root image)

Physiology and growth period:

Grows from May - October in many adapted regions with good summer heat tolerance.


Chicory is a biennial requiring long days (>14 hrs of daylight) followed by a cold period to form reproductive buds for flowering. Although chicory flowers are perfect, they do not self-pollinate. Insects are used for cross pollination; typically honey bees.

Quality/anti-quality factors:

Produces excellent quality forage that is relished by livestock and wildlife.

Antiquality components include sesquiterpene lactones; compounds that taint milk flavor. Thus, new varieties are being developed with low levels of these compounds.



Suitability zones:

Chicory is widely adapted throughout the U.S., Northern Europe, and New Zealand.



Quantitiative Table:

Max Temp (C)
Min Temp (C)
Precip (mm)
Soil pH Soil Drainage
Soil Salinity
Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High Low High
Well Adapted 27 34 -20 0 650 9999 6.0 7.5 MWD WD 0 2
Moderate 23 36 -25 10 300 9999 5.5 7.75 SPD WD 0 6
Marginal 20 38 -30 14 100 9999 5.0 8.25 SPD ED 0 8

Climate: Chicory is broadly adapted to temperate environments, producing active growth in the spring, summer, and early fall prior to frost. At mid-temperate latitudes, it is capable of producing vigorous summer growth, wheras at lower temperate latitudes, forage chicory undergoes summer dormancy followed by active growth in late summer and early fall. Once well established, it has moderate drought tolerance.

Soils: Chicory is adapted to a wide range of soil conditions, including acid soils, but grows best on moderately or well-drained soils. For best growth, it requires medium to high soil fertility and a pH above 5.5.

Grazing Management: Correct grazing management is essential to maximize stand life (5-7 years) and maintain forage quality. Spring seeded chicory can be grazed after 80 to 100 days depending on climatic conditions, when it has reached 18-20 inches (45-50 cm) in height. Depending on time of year, a rest period of 25 to 30 days between grazings is best for chicory persistence and performance. A stubble height of 1.5 to 2 inches (4-5 cm) should remain after grazing.

After the seeding year, chicory will grow vigorously and attempt to produce stems in the late spring and early summer. Stubble heights greater than 1.5 inches or rest periods longer than 25 days can allow stems to bolt (period of rapid stem growth). Once chicory stems have bolted, the production potential of chicory will be reduced for the remainder of the grazing season or until the stems are mowed. Grazing practices which do not allow the chicory flower stems to exceed 6 inches (15 cm) in late May, before they are grazed, and grazing to a 1.5 inch (4.0 cm) stubble height will reduce the amount of stem bolting.

Turf Management: Not used as a turf species.

Pests: Diseases: Mildew and rusts can lead to reductions in dry matter yield. Powdered sulfur has been used as a preventative treatment. A variety of fungal diseases are reported, but no fungicides are registered for use on chicory in the US.

Pests: Insects: Several soil insects are reported, but no insecticides are registered for use in the US.

Pests: Nematodes: None reported.


'Puna' was the first improved variety of chicory sold in the U.S. It was developed in New Zealand under grazing conditions and is very productive. 'Forage Feast' is a variety bred in France following screening in the USA. It is less prone to bolting than 'Puna', providing more late summer forage. 'Choice' is a new chicory variety developed and released by AgResearch Grasslands in New Zealand.


Vendor section not to be used in "Beneficial Species White Papers."

Forage Information System Database of Vendors (type in chicory in the search text box)

Barenbrug -
AgResearchGrasslands -


Chicory seed is very small, so good seed bed preparation is important. A moist, fine, firm seedbed is best. Spring seedings may be started when soil temperature is about 50 F (10 C) and should be completed 6 weeks before high summer temperatures. Summer seedings should likewise be timed 6 weeks before hard freeze (26 F; -3.3 C). Cool temperatures and shortening day lengths in the fall impede chicory stand development.

Seed may be either drilled or broadcast. Drilling is preferred because it provides a more uniform depth of planting. Plant chicory seeds 0.25 to 0.50 inch (0.60-1.30 cm) deep. If chicory is to be broadcast seeded, cultipack the seedbed before and after seeding. This will ensure that the seeds are not planted too deep and that there is good seed-to-soil contact.

Seeding rate:

Seeding rates for pure stands of chicory are 4.0-5.0 lb/a (4.5-5.6 kg/ha). For mixtures, 2.0-3.0 lb/a (2.2-3.4 kg/ha) of chicory seed and two-thirds of the usual seeding rate for the other component is recommended.

Seeding depth:

Chicory should be planted at a depth of 0.25-0.50 inches (0.60-1.30 cm).

Fertilization and liming:

Fertility needs at seeding should be determined by soil test. Chicory will remain productive at soil pH levels below 5.0, however, it is recommended that soil pH be above 5.5 at seeding to optimize plant establishment. Phosphorus and potassium levels should be in the moderate to optimum range at seeding. Apply nitrogen fertilizer at 35 lb/a (39 kg/ha) at seeding to stimulate chicory establishment. In the absence of a soil test, assuming a medium-fertility soil, plow down phosphorus 60 lb/a (68 kg/ha) at seeding. If chicory is seeded with a legume, reduce the nitrogen application at seeding.

Chicory requires a high level of fertility for sustained production. It is very responsive to N fertilization. If chicory is grown without a legume, apply 100 to 150 lb N per acre (112-169 kg/ha) in split applications of 50 lb per acre (56 kg/ha) in early spring when the chicory becomes green and a similar amount in early summer and in early fall. Yield responses to N fertilizer have been reported up to 200 lb N per acre (225 kg/ha). However, as N rate increases, so does stem growth. Therefore, the yield increase from N fertilization must be weighed against the ability to keep chicory grazed so that stems do not bolt. If chicory is planted with alfalfa or another legume, restrict annual N applications to limit the effect N has on reducing nitrogen fixation of the legume.


Chicory is most often used for forage as an addition to pasture mixes. It was initially introduced to the US for using its dried, ground roots as a coffee substitute or additive. Roots have a high concentration of inulin, a polysaccharide alternative to sucrose. Commercial applications for fructose-based products ("fructo-oligosaccharides"; FOS) include 'low-fat, reduced-calorie' products. Dandelion-like shoots are sometimes used for salad.

Seed crop:

Seed production is mostly in New Zealand, France, Belgium, and Holland.


Established forage chicory stands have quality potentials and yields comparable to, or better than, most other forage crops. Protein levels range from 10 to 32 percent, depending on plant maturity. Also, the digestibility and the mineral content of chicory leaves reportedly can be as high or higher than those of alfalfa.

The digestibility of chicory leaves is generally between 90 and 95 percent. The flower stems are substantially less digestible than the leaves. This is an additional reason to manage chicory pastures so that stems do not develop fully. Forage yields of 6 tons per acre (13,500 kg/ha) have been obtained from pure chicory stands in Pennsylvania trials.

Animal performance on forage chicory has been exceptional. In West Virginia trials, forage chicory pastures produced lamb gains of 820 pounds per acre (920 kg/ha). Studies in New Zealand have reported animal gains of 0.6 pounds (270 g) per day for lambs and 2 pounds (0.9 kg) per day for Friesian bulls. Chicory contains relatively high levels of minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, and sodium) which are essential for proper animal nutrition.

Erosion Control/Conservation:

Chicory can be used as a part of a mixture for absorbing excess nutrients applied to land from confinement-fed livestock operations.

Wildlife habitat and feed:

Chicory is readily consumed by many wild game animals including deer, elk, turkey, and quail.


Not used as a turf species.

Economic value:


Primarily foreign production.


As a small component of dairy-based pasture systems.

Soil and water conservation:

Seldom used, but could play a larger role in mixed species bioremediation systems.


Not used as a turf species.


  1. Ball, D. 1997. Forage Chicory. Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. Auburn University, AL. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  2. Belesky, D.P. Forage Management Chicory. The Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center. Beaver, WV. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  3. Byrne, D.V. 2001. Project Applications. Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  4. Cofer, C.M. Chicory [Online]. Mississippi State University. Florence, MS. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  5. Hall, M.H. 1994. Species: Chicory. Agronomy Facts 45. Penn State University Extension Service. University Park, PA. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  6. Grieve, M. 2004. Chicory. [Online]. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  7. McGregor, S.E. USDA. Originally published in 1976. Common Vegetables for Seed and Fruit: Chicory. Bee Culture. Chapter 6. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  8. Rumball, W., R.G. Keogh, J.E. Miller, and R.B. Claydon. 2003. Cultivar release 'Choice' forage chicory (Cichorium intybus L.). New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research. The Royal Society of New Zealand. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).
  9. Smith, D.H., and M. Collins. 2003. Forages: An Introduction To Grassland Agriculture (6th Edition): Forbs. Vol. 1. 10:230-232.
  10. USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 [Online]. National Plant Data Center. Baton Rouge, LA. Available at (verified 15 July 2004).


David B. Hannaway and Daniel Myers, Oregon State University

Document creation:

24 June 2004

Last update:

13 August 2004


Marvin Hall, Penn State University (Not yet contacted)
David Belesky, USDA - ARS, Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center (Not yet contacted)

Review date: