Chamomile Plant Profile

The German Variety Is Used for Making Medicinal Tea

German chamomile in bloom

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The two most popularly grown chamomile varieties are German chamomile and Roman chamomile. Roman chamomile is often used as a groundcover or creeping plant used to soften the edges of a stone wall or walkway. The German chamomile is the annual herb used for making tea. German chamomile is a delicate looking plant that is surprisingly tough. It has an almost wildflower look about it. The fragrant flowers are daisy-like with white petals surrounding a yellow disk. The stems are not particularly strong and bend and flop as the plant grows taller.

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 inches
Sun Exposure  Full Sun
Soil Type  Not too rich, organic soil
Soil pH 5.6–7.5
Bloom Time  Spring and summer
Flower Color White petals with yellow center
Hardiness Zones  3–9
Native Area Central and southern Europe

How to Grow Chamomile

German chamomile

German chamomile is an annual plant, however, it self-seeds so readily, you might think it's a perennial. German chamomile is easy to start from seed. Start seeds indoors, about six weeks before the last expected frost. Chamomile seed needs light to germinate, so simply scatter the seed and press firmly onto the soil, but do not cover the seed with soil. Seeds should germinate in seven to fourteen days.

You can also direct-seed German chamomile outdoors. You’ll get better germination if you do this in the fall and let the seed stratify over winter, for a spring crop.

Roman chamomile

Roman chamomile is a perennial that is often used for ground cover. Unlike German chamomile, it does not produce many blooms; it does, however, provide a lovely aroma. Roman chamomile is easily grown from seed; if you allow your plants to go to seed at the end of the season, it will self-seed providing even more ground cover the following year. Water lightly.

Light

German chamomile

German chamomile will grow in either full sun or partial shade. The plants flower best in full sun, but in hot climates, partial shade is a better choice. German chamomile tends to be a low growing, creeping plant that reaches a height of eight to 24 inches.

Flowers generally appear in late spring, but if you are pruning the plants or harvesting leaves, blooming can be later. 

Roman chamomile

Roman chamomile requires full to partial sun. More sun leads to faster growth, but as this plant grows rapidly by nature, this may not be an issue.

Soil

German chamomile

Chamomile will flower best if grown in full sun and not too rich, organic soil. It will survive in poorer soils, but the stems will be that much floppier. Chamomile is not particular about soil pH, preferring a neutral range of between 5.6 and 7.5.

Roman chamomile

Like German chamomile, Roman chamomile prefers not too rich, organic soil. It does best with neutral pH (between 5.6 and 7.5).

Water

German chamomile

Chamomile does not require a great deal of water. It's best to allow your plants to dry out somewhat between moderate waterings.

Roman chamomile

Regular water will keep the plants in bloom longer, but chamomile plants are very drought tolerant, once established. In extremely hot climates, chamomile will appreciate being kept watered and getting some afternoon shade.

Temperature and Humidity

Chamomile is capable of thriving in any summer weather under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it is drought tolerant, it does not require special humidity considerations.

Fertilizer

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.

Harvest

German chamomile

Both the flowers and the leaves of the German chamomile plant are used for making tea. 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.

Roman chamomile

Both the flowers and the leaves of the Roman chamomile plant can be harvested for various uses. The aromatic flowers are edible and can be used to make tea while the flowers and leaves together may be used in potpourri. Flowerheads can also be used to make an extract which can help alleviate digestive issues.

Varieties of Chamomile

  • German chamomile (Matricaria recutita): German chamomile is the best-known and most common form of the plant.
  • Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile): An alternative plant, Roman chamomile is a perennial plant often used as a groundcover and between stones and pavers (Zones 3–9).

Common Pests

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.

Design Suggestions for Chamomile Plants

Chamomile isn't great as a bedding plant. It tends to be too floppy and insignificant when paired with more formal and imposing plants. It can be used for underplanting in the herb or vegetable garden and is a good candidate for pots, where it’s easily accessible.