Chamomile plants are appreciated because of their fragrant leaves and daisy-like blooms. Beyond its beauty, chamomile has many benefits too, including essential chamazulene oil, known for anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. With a rich history and background, chamomile is now a staple for soothing tea. In this article, you will learn how to grow a chamomile plant, especially in terms of growing, sowing, harvesting, and how to make chamomile tea.
Table of Contents
Key Info about Chamomile
Chamomile is widely known because of its tea, but did you know that there loads of other factors to consider about chamomile too:
- Common names: Chamomile, German chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Barnyard daisy
- Scientific name: Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile
- Plant family: Asteraceae
- Type of plant: Annual, perennial
- Size: 8-24 inches tall; 8-12 inches wide
- Sun: Full
- Soil: Well-drained
- pH: Neutral
- Blossom: Summer
- Flower colour: White
- Native continent: Europe
Knowing these factors will help you to better understand chamomile plants and the correct growing conditions for them going forward.
When to Grow Chamomile
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How to Grow Chamomile
As mentioned, there are different forms of Chamomile, mainly German or Roman. Either way, these varieties thrive in similar conditions. Introduce these hardy perennials to well-drained soil and allow them access to full sun to partial shade. Once they begin to grow, they will exhibit impressive drought tolerance, and will only need watering during prolonged dry spells.
Where to Grow Chamomile
Choose the ideal spot for your chamomile in your garden. For both varieties, consider planting them at the front or middle of your garden border, depending on the specific type you’re growing. Alternatively, chamomile can be grown in pots or specialised herb gardens, which will offer flexibility in your garden layout.
How to Plant Chamomile
Growing chamomile from seed is rather easy and straightforward. When growing chamomile outdoors, sow the seeds directly in a prepared seedbed during autumn or indoors starting from March.
Scatter the seeds evenly over moist, peat-free seed compost, ensuring they receive adequate light for germination. You can either cover them lightly with vermiculite or leave them uncovered. Transplant indoor-grown seedlings into individual pots and allow them to acclimate before planting them outdoors once the threat of frost has passed.
The common varieties of chamomile varieties can be cultivated through seeding, whether indoors or outdoors. Notably, named common chamomile varieties are available exclusively as young plants. Regardless of the variety, these plants thrive in sunny locations and well-draining soil.
Chamomile tends to grow fast, and in no time will produce colourful blooms in your garden in as soon as ten weeks. However, be sure to prioritise protection of seedlings and young plants from potential threats like slugs and snails. You can protect the plants from pests and birds using fruit cages and allow your seeds to flourish.
When growing chamomile indoors, sow the seeds in spring and gently cover them with a thin layer of vermiculite. Once your chamomile seedlings are stable enough to handle, transplant them into separate pots. Ensure they receive plenty of sunlight and regularly water them in a warm, well-lit location.
For outdoor planting, sow chamomile seeds into warm soil from mid-spring onwards. Scatter the seeds on the surface, as they require light to germinate successfully. Protect these seedlings from pests such as slugs and snails, providing consistent watering until they establish strong roots. If necessary, thin the plants to maintain a spacing of 15–30cm (6-12in) between them.
How to Care for Chamomile
Caring for chamomile plants is simple, making them an excellent addition to your garden. Here’s a breakdown to keep your chamomile thriving:
Regularly water potted chamomile plants, ensuring that they are well-drained as this will prevent waterlogged compost. Full grown plants generally need watering only during dry spells.
Trim chamomile plants regularly to maintain bushy growth and prevent them from becoming leggy. This simple step keeps your chamomile healthy and aesthetically pleasing.
Chamomile Companion Plants
Chamomile thrives in vegetable gardens, meaning that you can pair it with companion vegetables such as potatoes, leeks, kohlrabi, and various cabbages. It also pairs well with nasturtium, offering protection against fungi and pests. However, avoid planting chamomile alongside peppermint, as their chemical benefactors can hinder each other’s growth.
As mentioned, chamomile prefers rich, organic soil. While it can survive in poorer soil, this may result in more delicate stems. Chamomile isn’t overly picky about soil pH, preferring a neutral range between 5.6 to 7.5.
Both varieties of chamomile, Roman and German, thrive in either full sun or partial shade. Full sun allows for better flowering, but in hot climates, providing some afternoon shade can protect the delicate blooms from scorching.
Chamomile typically grows and flowers well without the need for additional fertilisation.
Keep seedlings and young chamomile plants free of weeds to minimise competition and help them establish themselves. Follow our guide for further advice on how to get rid of weeds in a polytunnel.
Temperature and Humidity
Chamomile is adaptable to various summer temperatures but prefers moderate conditions between 60 to 68° F (15°C to 20°C). Chamomile is not well-suited for excessively humid environments due to its drought-tolerant nature.
Chamomile generally doesn’t require fertiliser; it naturally thrives and grows without the need for additional nutrients.
To prevent common chamomile from becoming leggy, trim it back multiple times during the growing season. This practice allows for a more compact, dense, and bushy appearance.
If you’re growing a chamomile lawn, the non-flowering ‘Treneague’ variety stays naturally low to the ground and doesn’t require regular trimming. However, if you’re growing flowering chamomile as a lawn, trim it back in late summer to remove spent blooms and taller stems.
You can collect seeds from common and German chamomile for new plant growth. Additionally, they may self-seed, allowing you to transplant seedlings in late spring or early summer to preferred locations. Note that German chamomile is an annual, meaning that it will begin dying off once it sets seed.
Varieties like ‘Treneague’ and ‘Flore Pleno‘ cannot be grown from seed but can be propagated by dividing established mats in either autumn or spring, helping you expand your chamomile lawn or fill any gaps.
If your chamomile plants become leggy or spindly midseason, cut the stems down about 4 inches from the soil line, using sterilised pruners. Trimming after the first flower harvest encourages new growth and more flower production. Harvest fresh flowers as they bloom for use in tea or deadhead faded blooms to promote new buds to grow.
Potting and Repotting Chamomile
Chamomile can be grown in containers with a depth of at least 6 inches, provided they have enough drainage holes. Use well-draining potting soil enriched with fertiliser, ensuring it’s pre-moistened for optimal growth.
When transplanting chamomile, check that the plant is measured around 2 to 3 inches in height. Older seedlings do not transition well, and avoid transplanting during the active flowering phase.
If you live in an area that is vulnerable to frost, make sure to protect your chamomile plants properly. Potted German chamomile plants should be moved indoors during winter to safeguard them against freezing temperatures.
Roman chamomile, (hardiness zone 4), can withstand colder conditions but requires protection from harsh, drying winds. Planting it near a wall can serve as an effective windbreak. If Roman chamomile is potted, wrapping the pot with jute can prevent the soil within from freezing.
How to Harvest Chamomile
Harvest chamomile flowers as needed, and frequent picking stimulates the growth of more flowers. If you do not intend to use your chamomile straightaway, drying the flowers is a better option. Lay them out on a tray or similar surface in a warm, dry spot, away from direct sunlight, for a week or two. Once dried, store them in an airtight jar in a cool, dark location, such as in a cupboard.
Problems When Growing Chamomile
Whilst chamomile is a rather easy plant to grow, provided that it has plenty of sunlight and soil, it is still partial to certain problems, such as the following:
- Waterlogging: Soil or potting compost that becomes waterlogged can lead to plant rot, particularly in winter. Ensure proper drainage to prevent this issue.
- Drying Out: Chamomile dislikes drying out in the summer, so consistent watering is essential during dry spells.
- Pests: Watch out for slugs, snails, and aphids, especially when the plants are young. Protective measures such as physical removal or pinching affected shoots can help.
- Chamomile Lawns: If your chamomile plant is walked on excessively, this can lead to it having problems such as extreme soil conditions (either too dry or too damp), or deprived of sufficient sunlight. Prevent weeds gathering in these gaps, which can mar the lawn’s appearance and shade out low-growing chamomile plants. Purchase new plants in spring or divide thriving clumps to fill gaps and extend your lawn.
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How to Make Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is renowned for its easy digestion and health benefits as well as its calming properties. Crafted using freshly harvested or dried chamomile flowers, it’s easy to make too:
- For fresh flowers, harvest a handful, rinse, and pat them dry.
- To avoid the presence of flower bits in your tea, use a tea infuser or an empty tea bag. Place the flowers inside and steep in hot water for about five minutes.
- Remove the infuser or bag, and your fragrant chamomile tea is ready to enjoy.
Advice on Buying Chamomile
When purchasing chamomile, consider using either German and Roman varieties, as they differ in height and growth characteristics.
Always read the instructions on the packet, and monitor your pot-grown plants for any signs of pests or disease.
You can purchase Chamomile plants from various garden centres, including ones available online:
Did you know that chamomile also makes for a great houseplant? Check out the best house plants for scent and wellbeing.
Growing Chamomile in a Polytunnel
You can grow chamomile in a polytunnel. This is best done by sowing the seeds during the autumn, as this will allow them to crop early in the following spring. Follow the advice above for further details about growing chamomile in general, and this can be applied for your domestic polytunnel practices.
Grow Your Own Chamomile Plant
In summary, growing a chamomile plant is relatively easy and just as rewarding. No matter whether you choose to grow a German or Roman chamomile plant, these hardy perennials require minimal care once established. With this in mind, when harvesting your chamomile to use as tea, you may find that it will taste better than if bought from the shop.
Be sure to grow your own chamomile now, and come back to use and let us know your thoughts on how good your own chamomile tea tastes!
We have also recently produced a featured article about what is winnowing, if you are interested in how winnow seeds work.
Is chamomile easy to grow?
Yes, chamomile is relatively easy to grow. It’s a hardy plant that requires minimal care, making it suitable for both novice and experienced gardeners.
Does chamomile come back every year?
There are two main types of chamomile: Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Roman chamomile is a perennial, meaning it comes back every year, while German chamomile is an annual, so it needs to be replanted each year.
Can you grow chamomile in the UK?
Yes, chamomile can be successfully grown in the UK. The temperate climate of the UK is suitable for both Roman and German chamomile varieties.
Where does chamomile grow best?
Chamomile thrives in full sun to partial shade. It prefers well-draining soil with a pH level of 5.6 to 7.5. While it can tolerate dry conditions once established, it’s best to keep the soil moderately moist during its initial growth phase.
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Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK