Chamomile is a unique herb; it is as pretty 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 both 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.
|Common Name||Chamomile, German chamomile, Roman chamomile|
|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||2–9 (USA)|
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 when 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 that 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 to 7.5.
If yours is a young plant, water chamomile about an inch per week. As it ages, 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 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it's drought-tolerant, it does not require special humidity considerations.
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. Plan 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 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. 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.
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 a number of 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?
Yes, both the leaves and flowers are safe to eat or brew as tea.
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.