How To Grow Chamomile?
There are two types of chamomile typically grown as medicinal herbs or for making tea. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) both produce daisy-like blooms used for tea. Both provide the same health benefits and emit a sweet apple fragrance, but the growing habits of the plants differ.
What’s the Difference Between German and Roman Chamomile?
Roman Chamomile: Roman chamomile plant, also referred to as English or Russian chamomile, is a low-growing perennial plant that seldom reaches a height of more than 12 inches. It typically grows to a height of 3 to 4 inches and makes an excellent ground cover. Roman chamomile foliage dies off when cold weather arrives, but the plant regrows from the roots in the spring when warm weather returns. It produces tiny ½- to 1-inch blooms atop feathery, fern-like foliage. Blooms appear singly atop a short stem. It is hardy in USDA Plant hardiness zones 6 through 9.
German Chamomile: German chamomile is an annual plant that self seeds. This means new chamomile plants will likely spring up when the weather warms, but they will not be in the same location as the parent plant. Growing chamomile in a planter or other container will prevent it from spreading to other areas of the garden. The foliage is less fern-like and the blooms are larger, reaching a size of 1 to 2 inches. German chamomile tends to grow tall and sprawling, reaching heights of 2 to 3 feet, with clusters of small white flowers.
Can You Plant Chamomile From Seed?
Yes. You can plant the seeds directly in the soil in your herb garden or flowerbed in the spring after the danger of frost has passed, but starting with seedlings produces larger plants that bloom earlier in the summer. If you choose to start your chamomile form seed, consider planting the seeds in pots or flats inside six weeks before the last expected frost in your area. Otherwise, buy seedlings at your nursery and transplant them to the garden when the weather warms. You can also scatter seeds on the soil in August for the next season’s plants.
Where Should You Grow Chamomile?
Like most herbs, chamomile requires little care once it is established, but there are some things you should consider.
- Select an area that receives full sun or partial shade. A location that offers some afternoon shade is desired as chamomile can suffer from the direct rays of the sun at midday, especially in warm, dry climates.
- Choose an area with well-drained soil. While chamomile tolerates poor soil with average pH, it will not tolerate soggy roots.
- Plant German chamomile at the middle or back of flower and herb beds. Roman chamomile can be used for a border or planted in the fronts of beds.
Does Chamomile Require Any Special Care?
Chamomile is an easy-to-care for herb and requires little care. It prefers 1 to 2 inches of rain a week and may benefit from supplemental watering during dry spells, but it tolerates drought well. Like most herbs, it does not require fertilizer during the year. In fact, too much fertilizer may reduce the amount of essential oils in the flowers, reducing its fragrance and hindering its health benefits. Fertilize your chamomile sparingly. Harvesting the flower heads regularly sends the plant the message that it has not produced enough blooms to form seeds and forces it to continue blooming.
How Do You Control Insects on Chamomile?
Chamomile is relatively pest-free, but may attract aphids. If you notice aphids on your Chamomile plants, add a few drops of dish detergent to a buck of water and wash them with the sudsy water. You can also try a strong spray from your hose to wash them away. Neem oil or other organic pesticide can be used, but the best defense against aphids is beneficial insects, like lady bugs. If you must use commercial insecticides, observe all safety precautions and always wait the recommended time before harvesting the flowers. Wash the flowers thoroughly before using them in tea or drying them for storage to remove any traces of pesticides.