Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a delicate yet hardy, fragrant perennial herb that has been used for centuries in everything from herbal remedies to teas and cosmetics. This pretty little plant is easy to grow and is a beautiful addition to any garden. It is a member of the daisy family, and its flowers resemble sweet miniature daisies.
Gardeners around the globe love chamomile not only for its pretty appearance and usefulness but also for its ability to keep pests out of the vegetable patch. Using chamomile as a companion plant in any home garden is a fantastic way to naturally keep your garden pest free. A bonus is that this plant is so easy to grow and care for that anyone can do it.
In this post, we will take a look at the different types of chamomile, how to grow and care for chamomile, best harvesting practices, and how to use chamomile for home remedies, fun crafts, and more.
Popular Types of Chamomile
The three most popular types of chamomile plants: are German chamomile, Roman chamomile, and Egyptian chamomile.
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a re-seeding annual plant that can grow up to 24 inches tall in USDA growing zones 5-8. It has hairy leaves and small daisy-like flowers with white petals and yellow centers. German chamomile is native to Europe and Asia but is now grown worldwide. This chamomile is brewed into a tea that is popular for its calming effect and ability to aid digestion.
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobilis) is a perennial plant in USDA growing zones 4-9 and reaches only about 12 inches tall. It has fine hairs on its leaves and small, white flowers with yellow centers. Unlike German chamomile, Roman chamomile is native to North Africa and Europe. Roman chamomile tea is commonly enjoyed before bedtime because of its potent sedative properties.
You can check this article for the differences between roman vs german chamomile.
Egyptian chamomile (Chamaemelum aprehendens) is another type of perennial plant that grows close to the ground (about 6 inches tall). It has long, narrow leaves and small white flowers with yellow centers. As its name suggests, Egyptian chamomiles are native to Egypt. Still, they can now be found in other parts of Africa and Europe. This variety of chamomile contains more oil than the others, which makes it more potent. Thus, Egyptian chamomiles are primarily used in essential oils rather than tea.
Growing Chamomile – Starting Chamomile From Seeds
Many plants are fussy and difficult to start from seed, but thankfully, chamomile is not one of them. It is super easy to start from seed. It reseeds easily, which means you have the beautiful plant back year after year without additional effort.
Chamomile likes full sun but tolerates and appreciates partial shade in hot regions. When choosing a spot to plant your chamomile, make sure it is in well-drained, rich soil with a pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.5. Chamomile will not do well in soggy conditions. Mix in sand or organic matter such as sawdust, bark mulch, rotted manure, or peat moss to improve drainage if your soil is heavy or clay-like.
Direct seed chamomile in the spring once the risk of frost has passed or start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in your area.
For starting indoors, sow seeds thinly on top of a lightweight potting soil, tap down lightly, and water well. Do not cover seeds with soil. Cover the seedling tray with plastic to mimic a greenhouse and keep the seeds warm and moist. Transplant seedlings into outdoor gardens or containers once the threat of frost has passed. Space plants 8 to 12 inches apart.
Chamomile seeds are tiny, so it’s best to mix them with sand before scattering them on the ground when direct sowing. After scattering, gently press the seeds gently into the soil surface. Do not cover with soil. Once seedlings emerge – usually in 2-3 weeks – thin them, so they are spaced 8-12 inches apart.
Chamomile does not require a lot of water. Still, it is essential to keep the soil moist—especially during hot, dry weather. Water your chamomile plants at ground level, so the leaves do not get wet and develop fungal diseases. Because this attractive herb is drought tolerant, you can let the soil dry out somewhat between watering. Just ensure it does not get too dry, or your plants will start to wilt.
Growing Chamomile – Starting Chamomile From Division or Cuttings
Chamomile can be started from plant divisions or cuttings. The most important thing to remember when using divisions or cuttings is to divide and cut in the spring once all threats of frost have passed.
Propagating From Division
Divide plants by digging up an established plant and dividing it into 2-3 sections with a sharp and clean knife or spade. Each section should have 2-3 sets of leaves. Replant divisions immediately at the same depth they were growing previously and water well.
Propagating From Cuttings
With just a little time and patience, you can easily propagate chamomile from cuttings.
Start by locating 4-6 inches of stem from a healthy chamomile plant in the spring. Ideally, you want to take your cuttings from new growth that hasn’t flowered yet. Before cutting, water your chosen chamomile plant well and let the water soak in overnight
- Dig around the stem at the base to reveal the underground portion of the stem that is slightly white with small root hairs.
- Use a sharp and clean knife to sever the stem two inches below the ground.
- Wrap the cutting in a piece of moistened paper towel to keep it fresh until ready to root.
- Fill a clean four-inch pot with a potting mixture including three parts potting soil and one part perlite. Pour water into the mixture and gently press down the mixture. Let the water sit for 10 minutes
- Create a two-inch deep hole in the center of the soil and insert the cutting into the hole – pushing the soil up against it to hold it upright.
- Place the pot in a lightly shaded greenhouse or a cold frame and keep watered.
- New growth should appear in six to eight weeks.
- Transplant once the plant shows signs of steady growth.
Where to Grow Chamomile Plants
Chamomile plants are not fussy about where they are grown. They are happy in raised beds, ground-level gardens, and containers – especially if grown as an annual. Always provide plenty of organic matter and well-draining soil for healthy growth no matter where you plant.
Feeding Chamomile Plants
Chamomile is not a heavy feeder but will reward you with consistent growth and flowers if you adopt a consistent feeding schedule. Fertilize plants in early spring with a slow-release organic fertilizer or compost side dress plants annually with well-aged compost or manure tea. To encourage bushier growth and more flowers, pinch back young plants when they reach 6 inches tall—repeat this every few weeks until mid-summer, then allow plants to flower uninterrupted until fall.
Pests and Diseases
A lovely thing about chamomile is that it is generally pest and disease-resistant. However, root rot may develop if planted in poorly draining soils or overwatered.
Powdery mildew can be a problem in humid climates. To prevent mildew from forming, space plants adequately. This promotes good air circulation. Water only at the base of plants so that leaves stay dry. Do not water late in the day, so leaves have time to dry off before nightfall when humidity levels are typically higher.
Aphids, caterpillars, slugs, and snails may also feed on chamomile. Remove these pests by handpicking them off plants or spraying them with an organic insecticidal soap solution if infestations are severe enough to warrant chemical intervention.
To prevent pests and diseases from becoming a problem in the first place, practice good gardening habits. This includes keeping gardens clean of debris where pests can hide and rotating crops yearly, so pathogens do not have a chance to build up in soils over time.
Best Harvesting Practices
You can begin harvesting chamomile flowers when they are in full bloom—generally 3-4 weeks after planting. When harvesting fresh flowers for teas or remedies, cut them in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the sun gets too hot.
Harvesting chamomile flowers is super easy. Simply pinch the stem just below the flower head with one hand. Put your forefinger and middle finger of the other hand just under the flower head in between the flower head and your pinched fingers and pop the flower head off. Harvest all blooming flowers but leave buds behind. Alternatively, you can snip the bloom off the stem using clean and sharp garden scissors.
Chamomile is considered a “cut and come again” plant which means it will reflower during the growing season after being harvested. The more you harvest this beauty, the more it will flower.
At the end of the season, on your last harvest, cut some of the stems along with the flower. This prepares perennial growing chamomile plants for winter and allows you to hang dry your final harvest.
Dry final harvested flowers by them by hanging them upside down in bundles in a dark, well-ventilated room out of direct sunlight. Once completely dry, store them in an airtight container away from light and heat sources.
Dry cut flowers on a screen in a single layer and allow them to dry in a warm and dark place for about two weeks. You can also use a dehydrator to speed up the process. Lay flowers in a single layer on a lined dehydrator sheet and dry at 95 – 115 degrees F for four hours.
Collecting Chamomile Seeds
If you wish to harvest chamomile seeds, leave a few plants at the end of the growing season. As the bloom dries out, the petals will lay open towards the stem or even fall off. The center of the boom will turn brown and become flaky to the touch. These flakes are the seeds. To gather, place a paper bag under the bloom and gently flake away the seeds, allowing them to fall into the bag. Chamomile seeds need a period of cold stratification to grow well. Store seeds in the freezer until ready to plant for best results.
Try This Dried Flower Tip.
Dried flower heads of both types of chamomiles can be tossed on the ground as a fragrant, nectar-rich mulch around other plants that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, including members of the mint family such as lavender (Lavandula), rosemary (Rosmarinus), and thyme (Thymus). You can also let some flower heads go to seed; self-sown seedlings often pop up where they’re least expected—in cracks in paving or along paths—the following spring. Just be sure not to leave too many around if you want to avoid rampant self-sowing.
Companion Planting With Chamomile
So, why plant chamomile with other plants? Chamomile has a number of properties that make it an ideal candidate for companion planting. For example, chamomile releases a substance called coumarin into the air when crushed, which acts as a natural insect repellent. Additionally, chamomile releases ethanol, which can help to promote root growth in neighboring plants. Chamomile also contains essential oils that can improve the flavor and smell of surrounding fruits and veggies.
If you’re interested in getting started with companion planting, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. First, choosing plants that will thrive in similar conditions is essential. This means considering things like light requirements, water needs, and soil type. Additionally, you’ll want to choose plants that won’t crowd each other out as they grow. Finally, do your research so you know which plants will complement each other—and which ones will compete for resources.
Not sure what to plant with your chamomile? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Try planting chamomile with cabbage or tomatoes for natural pest control.
- Plant chamomile alongside carrots or beets to improve their flavor.
- Chamomile also goes well with herbs like basil and oregano.
- If you’re looking for something a little bit different, consider pairing chamomile with marigolds—the two plants together can create a beautiful display in your garden!
Best Ways to Use Chamomile Flowers
Chamomile blooms are as useful as they are beautiful. Dried flowers contain many types of terpenoids and flavonoids, which contribute to the plant’s medicinal properties. Herbalists and natural practitioners use chamomile in various preparations to remedy ailments such as hay fever, inflammation, insomnia, wounds, muscle spasms, headaches, pain, ulcers, and hemorrhoids.
Home use varies from medicinal teas and tinctures to fun and natural craft and wellness projects.
Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea made from the dried flowers of the chamomile plant. Chamomile tea has many benefits, including relaxation, anxiety relief, and stomach upset relief.
To make chamomile tea, steep a teaspoon of dried flowers in 8 ounces of boiling water for five minutes. Enjoy this delicious and soothing tea, hot or cold. You can also sweeten it with raw, local honey if desired.
Older children and adults can drink up to four cups of chamomile tea per day. For infants and young children, 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb can be steeped in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes to make a weaker tea.
Herbal tinctures are a fantastic way to quickly enjoy all the therapeutic benefits. Rub a little of this tincture on your infant’s gums to soothe teething pain. Adults take a teaspoon each evening to promote deep sleep, reduce inflammation and ease pain.
- A clean quart jar with a lid
- 5-6 cups of vodka
- 1 ounce of organic chamomile flowers
Fill a clean jar with organic chamomile flowers and cover with vodka. Place the lid on the jar and gently shake.
Store the jar in a cool and dry place and shake daily for the best results. After about four to six weeks, strain the tincture and begin using it. Store in a cool and dry place for about four months.
Chamomile Anxiety Sachet
Chamomile is known for its sedative and calming properties. Place fresh or dried chamomile flowers in a sachet and inhale when anxious or overwhelmed.
Chamomile Soothing Skin Bath
If you’re looking for a way to relax and ease muscle tension, try taking a chamomile bath. Add a cup of dried chamomile flowers to a bathtub filled with warm water. Soak in the tub for 20 minutes, then rinse with cool water. You can also add a few drops of chamomile essential oil to your bath for an extra-relaxing experience.
A word of caution – people allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to chamomile. If you’re not sure if you’re allergic to chamomile, test it first by applying a small amount of diluted oil to the inside of your elbow.
Chamomile Facial Steam
A facial steam is a gentle natural way to deep clean your pores and improves circulation. To make a chamomile facial steam, bring a quart of water to a boil, then remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of dried chamomile blossoms. Begin with a clean face and no makeup. Place your head about 10 inches above the pot, drape a towel over your head to trap the steam, and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes. Rinse your face with cool water when you’re finished steaming. Follow your facial steam with a light layer of your favorite moisturizing oil.
Chamomile Garden Insecticide
Not only are chamomile plants pest repellents, but you can also make a natural insecticide to use on all garden plants. To make the insecticide, steep a cup of dried chamomile flowers in 2 cups of boiling water for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and then add one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and apply to infested plants early in the morning. The chamomile spray will kill the insects and repel future insects from coming to the area.
Chamomile plants make a beautiful and hardy groundcover. Plants have shallow roots and spread quickly, making them ideal for filling in empty spaces in the garden. Chamomile also has a pleasant scent and releases essential oils when crushed, making it an aromatic addition to any garden. When planting chamomile, space plants 12 inches apart, so they have room to spread out. Although chamomile plants prefer full sun, they will tolerate some shade, especially in very hot regions.
Chamomile Flower Crown
These pretty chamomile flower crowns are fit for any springtime event, from festivals and concerts to picnics and parties. They’re easy to make and only take about 15 minutes from start to finish. Whip up a batch for yourself or with friends, and enjoy the warmer weather in style!
- Fresh flowers of your choice ( try to use locally sourced and in-season blooms for the best results)
- Floral wire
- Ruler or tape measure
- Green florist tape
To make, measure out a length of floral wire that will comfortably go around your head. Cut the wire with scissors, then twist the two ends together to create a circle.
Next, start adding in your flowers one by one. For each blossom, cut off the stem at an angle so it can lay flat against the wire base. Attach the flowers to the wire by wrapping the stem around the base and tucking it underneath. Continue adding flowers until you are happy with the fullness and coverage of your crown.
Once the flowers are in place, take a step back and assess your handiwork. If there are any gaps or thin spots, add in a few more blossoms until you are satisfied with the result.
To finish, wrap green floral tape around the entire circumference of the wire base, covering up any sharp ends and securing all of the stems in place. Voila! You now have a beautiful flower crown to wear and enjoy.
Chamomile Sun Catcher
This pretty sun catcher is a great way to enjoy the beauty of chamomile flowers all summer long.
- 1 Mason jar lid
- 1/4 cup of chamomile flowers
- 2 tablespoons of clear drying glue
- A piece of string or ribbon
Glue the chamomile flowers around the outer edge of the Mason jar lid. Allow the glue to dry completely, then cut a piece of string or ribbon and tie it around the center of the lid. Hang your sun catcher in a sunny spot and enjoy!
Chamomile Flower Wreath
This wreath is perfect for summertime entertaining!
- A wire wreath frame
- A bunch of fresh chamomile flowers
- Floral wire
To make, start by trimming the stems off your chamomile flowers, so they’re about 6 inches long. Next, attach the flowers to the wire frame using the floral wire. Continue until the entire frame is covered. Hang your wreath on your front door or porch and enjoy.
Chamomile Flower Candles
These candles are not only lovely, but they smell wonderful too!
- A block of beeswax (can be found at most craft stores)
- A double boiler
- A mold of your choice (silicone molds work well)
- Dried chamomile flowers
To make, melt the beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in dried chamomile flowers. Pour mixture into molds and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, your candles are ready to use. Enjoy their calming scent while relaxing in a warm bath or reading your favorite book.
As you have read, chamomile is a versatile, easy-to-grow, and care-for herb with many uses. Whether you are a seasoned or novice gardener, chamomile is a plant that brings much value to the home garden.