Chamomile is a unique herb; it is as pretty as it is useful. Unbeknownst to most gardeners, there are two types of common chamomile: German and Roman. Both are native to Europe and both have medicinal qualities, often being incorporated into herbal remedies, beverages, and skincare interchangeably. Both boast fragrant, daisy-like flowers with white petals surrounding a yellow center.
Both varietals of chamomile grow quickly (reaching full bloom within about 10 weeks), and are best planted in the spring, either via seed or young plants. Roman chamomile is often used as a ground cover or creeping plant to soften the edges of a stone wall or walkway, while its German counterpart is more commonly used for making tea.
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|Common Name||Chamomile, German chamomile, Roman chamomile, Barnyard daisy|
|Botanical Names||Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile|
|Plant Type||German chamomile is an annual flower; Roman chamomile is a perennial|
|Mature Size||8–24 in. tall, 8–12 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Not too rich, organic soil|
|Flower Color||White petals with a yellow center|
|Hardiness Zones||2a-9a (USDA)|
German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is an annual plant, however, it self-seeds so readily, you may think it's a perennial just like Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Both are easy to care for in a garden and require very few extras to thrive. German chamomile produces more abundant flowers, while Roman chamomile takes the medal for more fragrant blooms.
Chamomile isn't typically great as a bedding plant—it tends to be too floppy and insignificant when paired with more formal and imposing plants. However, it can be used for underplanting in an herb or vegetable garden, to soften rock wall edges, and is a good candidate for containers.
Harvest the chamomile flowers when they are fully open. They can be used fresh or dried. When dried, store the flowers and leaves in a cool, dark environment in an air-tight container (or frozen). If you find that the leaves make your tea too bitter, just harvest the flowers.
Both Roman and German chamomile grow well in either full sun or partial shade. The plants will flower best in full sun, but in hot climates, a bit of partial shade is a better choice (especially during the hot afternoon hours) to avoid burning the delicate blooms. More sun typically leads to faster growth, but this plant grows rapidly by nature.
Both versions of chamomile will flower best if grown in rich, organic soil. They can survive in poorer mixtures, but it will often cause their stems to be floppier. Chamomile is not particular about its soil pH, preferring a neutral range of between 5.6 to 7.5.
Water young chamomile plants about an inch per week. As they age and become established, the plants are drought tolerant. It's best to allow plants to dry out between moderate waterings. However, in extremely hot climates, chamomile will appreciate a bit more moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
Chamomile is capable of thriving in any summer weather under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers a moderate temperature range between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it's drought-tolerant, it does thrive in excessively humid areas.
Chamomile does not need fertilizer; it grows quickly without any particular need for feeding.
How to Grow Chamomile From Seed
Chamomile is easy to start from seed. Start seeds indoors about six weeks before the last expected frost. Chamomile seeds need light to germinate, so scatter the seeds and press them firmly onto the soil, but do not cover the seeds with soil. Water regularly, and they should germinate in seven to 14 days. You can also direct-seed chamomile outdoors, though you’ll get better germination if you do this in the fall and let the seed stratify over winter for a spring crop.
Most insects stay clear of chamomile. Chamomile is used as a cucumber pest deterrent. However, aphids and thrips can sometimes be a problem. Both can be washed off the plant or treated with insecticidal soap.
How to Get Chamomile to Bloom
Chamomile blooms are small with yellow centers and white petals; they look like miniature daisies. The flowers have a sweet, herbaceous aroma, and bloom in the spring and summer. The best way to get your chamomile to bloom is by providing it direct, full-sun—it may not bloom if it's shaded. Other than that, this plant is super-easy: no deadheading or fertilizer needed.
Common Problems With Chamomile
Chamomile is an easy-to-grow herb, both inside and out, and experiences very few problems. But occasionally, it needs a little TLC.
Brown Spots on the Leaves
This can be a sign of several fungal plant diseases, like botrytis blight. It's remedied by treating your plant with some fungicidal oil.
Leaves Turn Brown and Fall Off
If this happens to your chamomile, it may be getting too much water. Cut back on the water and see if this makes a difference.
Are all parts of the chamomile plant edible?
The leaves and flowers of the chamomile plant are edible in fresh or dried form. The stem is not aromatic and is not palatable.
What does chamomile tea taste like?
Some say it tastes similar to apples, which makes sense because the word chamomile comes from the Greek "kamai-melon," which is loosely translated as "ground apple."
Can chamomile grow indoors?
Yes. Grown in pots, both types of chamomile will grow indoors. It's a fragrant addition to your home.