Chamomile is a unique herb, as beautiful as it is useful. Unbeknownst to most gardeners, there are actually two types of common chamomile, German and Roman. Both are native to Europe and have medicinal qualities, often being incorporated into herbal remedies 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.
|Botanical Names||Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile|
|Common Name||German chamomile, Roman chamomile|
|Plant Type||German chamomile is an annual flower, while 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|
|Soil pH||5.6 to 7.5|
|Hardiness Zones||2–9 (USDA)|
German chamomile is an annual plant, however, it self-seeds so readily, you may think it's a perennial just like Roman chamomile. Both are easy to care for in a garden environment and require very few extras in order to thrive. Between the two, German chamomile produces more abundant flowers, while Roman chamomile takes the medal for more fragrant blooms.
Both varietals can be used fresh off the plant or dried in a cool dark environment and saved in an air-tight container (or frozen) until you're ready to use them. Chamomile typically isn't 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 and is a good candidate for pots where it’s easily accessible.
Harvest the chamomile flowers when they are fully open. They can be used fresh or dried and stored for later use. If you find the leaves make your tea a bit too bitter, leave them out and just harvest the flowers. Flower heads can also be used to make an extract which can help alleviate digestive issues.
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 as this plant grows rapidly by nature, this may not be an issue.
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 much floppier. Additionally, chamomile is not particular about its soil pH, preferring a neutral range of between 5.6 and 7.5.
Chamomile does not require a great deal of water. Regular water will keep the plants in bloom longer, but chamomile plants are very drought tolerant once established. It's best to allow your plants to dry out somewhat 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. That being said, it prefers a moderate temperature range between 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it's drought-tolerant, it does not require special humidity considerations.
Chamomile does not need fertilizer; in fact, it is actually considered to be an invasive weed in some locations because it grows so quickly without any particular need for feeding.
How to Grow Chamomile From Seed
Chamomile is easy to start from seed. Plant to start seeds indoors, about six weeks before the last expected frost. Chamomile seeds need light to germinate, so scatter the seed and press them firmly onto the soil, but do not cover the seeds with soil. Water them regularly, and they should germinate in seven to fourteen 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. In fact, it 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.