If you enjoy ending your day with a soothing cup of chamomile tea to help you relax, you'll love the convenience of homegrown chamomile. Easy to grow, harvest, and use, chamomile looks lovely planted among veggies in the garden, tucked into raised beds filled with herbs, or added to a pretty container on your patio or balcony. Not only does chamomile add beauty and sweet fragrance to the garden, but it's also a terrific companion plant, beckoning beneficial insects (think pollinators) to visit your garden. Companion planting gurus swear that chamomile helps repel some pests with its fragrance, too. In other words, the benefits of chamomile go way beyond tea.
In fact, ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans sang the praises of chamomile, using it as an herbal remedy for ailments ranging from inflammation to insomnia. Most popularly, though, dried, crushed chamomile flowers and leaves have, for many years, been used to brew tea that aids sleep, relieves anxiety, and calms stomach upsets.
So, why wait? Make this your year to grow chamomile! Just follow this guide.
Quick Guide to Growing Chamomile
Purchase Bonnie Plants chamomile from your favorite retailer. You can find a retailer in your area here.
- Wait until after the last spring frost to add chamomile to your garden. It grows well in raised beds, containers, and in-ground gardens.
- Space chamomile plants 8 inches apart in full sun for best flowering. In hot climates, an area with partial afternoon shade is ideal.
- Mix compost or other organic matter into the soil when planting.
- Water immediately after planting, then give plants 1 inch of water per week until well-established.
- Mix a continuous-release fertilizer into the soil at planting time and replenish as directed during the growing season.
- Spread mulch (such as chopped leaves or straw) around the plants to help keep the soil moist.
- Add a support, like bamboo sticks with twine around the plant, if the chamomile gets top-heavy and floppy.
- Harvest flowers with pruning sheets after blooming, when petals begin bending backwards.
- Use chamomile fresh or dry. Dry flowers and leaves completely on a screen, out of direct sunlight.
- Store dried chamomile in an airtight jar in a dark, dry place, like a pantry.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Chamomile, as you might guess from its pretty white flowers with yellow centers, is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). When you look for chamomile, you'll find two types: Roman, which is a low-growing perennial used primarily as a ground cover; and common chamomile (aka German chamomile), the more upright annual that's most popular in teas and herb gardens. While the flowers and leaves of both varieties are edible, Roman chamomile tends to taste bitter, which is why we recommend growing sweet-tasting common chamomile. With its hint of apple flavor, it's a tasty edible flower for teas and culinary use.
Choose chamomile from Bonnie Plants. With more than 100 years of experience producing healthy, strong plants for home gardeners, you can be sure your plant is vigorous and ready for its new home in your garden. (Did you know that we grow in more than 70 greenhouses throughout the country? That means our plants don't have to travel far to reach your local retail location, so they experience less transport stress.)
Chamomile blooms best in a location with full sun, but it will grow in partial shade, too. In fact, in hot Southern climates, chamomile benefits from a bit of afternoon shade, which will help keep the blooms from drooping.
Before planting chamomile, prepare your garden bed by adding compost or other organic material to the soil, especially if your soil is primarily clay or sand. Chamomile prefers rich soil with a pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.5. To give your chamomile a great start, add aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All-Purpose In-Ground Soil to your garden bed. Organic matter like this helps the soil retain moisture while also improving drainage, which is especially important with clay soil.
Chamomile grows beautifully in raised beds and containers, too, but each requires a different, lighter soil. When planting in pots, fill them with a light, premium potting mix like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which contains nutrient-rich compost. For raised beds, use Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ Raised Bed Mix, which provides excellent drainage and important nutrients to promote strong root development and plant growth.
Once you've improved the soil, it's time to plant! Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the plant's root ball. Remove the chamomile plant from its pot, gently loosening the roots. Place the plant in the hole with the top of the root ball level with the surrounding soil. Fill in the rest of the hole with more soil, pressing firmly but gently around the base of the plant. Water thoroughly to settle the plant and remove air pockets in the soil. Chamomile's shallow roots benefit from a layer of mulch around the plant's base to help prevent weeds and retain soil moisture. If adding several chamomile plants, space them about 8 to 12 inches apart for good air circulation.
Chamomile needs about an inch of water per week when young. Once established, it's fairly drought tolerant—let it dry out between waterings, but make sure to water during extremely dry periods. The best way to know if you need to water the chamomile is to stick your index finger into the soil about an inch down near the base of the plant. If it's moist—no need to water. If it's dry, time to give it a drink!
Because chamomile stems, which grow about 2 feet high, can get floppy in poor, nutrient-deprived soil, make sure to feed your plant regularly. In garden beds, use a continuous-release fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules beginning a month after planting and continuing throughout the growing season (see label directions). Simply pull back the mulch, scatter the fertilizer around the base of the plant, and replace the mulch before watering well. For a convenient way to feed container-grown chamomile, use a water-soluble fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition every week or two throughout the growing season.
Chamomile grows easily—in fact, the annual version self-seeds so prolifically that in some areas, it may be considered a pest. (Check with your area's Extension Service if you have any questions.) If you find your bed becomes overrun with chamomile seedlings, simply pull them out or snip the seedlings to ground-level. Or, if you have space, plant your chamomile in a sunny area and let it spread—your friends and neighbors will be happy to share in your bounty!
Chamomile can get a little top heavy as the season goes on, so a support—like a peony ring or bamboo stakes with twine—can help keep it upright and looking lovely.
Powdery mildew can appear during long periods of hot, damp weather. Space plants so they enjoy good airflow to help deter the disease. At first signs of it, remove diseased leaves and discard them (don't compost them!).
Generally, few pests bother chamomile. If aphids become a problem, spray them off the plant with water or treat it with insecticidal soap if there's a serious infestation.
Harvest and Storage
Harvesting chamomile is simple, as it's considered a "cut-and-come-again" herb. Harvest flowers after they fully open, when the petals begin arching backwards toward the underside of the bloom. Snip the flowers with pruning shears, catching them in a bowl for an easy harvest. Leaves can be harvested anytime, but never take more than 1/3 of the plant. The plant will continue to bloom all season long until frost, giving you 3 or 4 good-sized harvests. When temperatures begin to fall and frost is in the forecast, it's time for a final harvest. Cut the remaining flowers and leaves and bring them inside.
Place the flowers and leaves on a screen or parchment paper in a cool space out of direct sun, allowing them to dry thoroughly, which usually takes about two weeks. Cover with a lightweight, breathable cloth (like cheesecloth) to keep dust away. Stir the flowers and leaves occasionally to make sure they dry completely. You'll know your harvest is dry and ready to store when the flowers easily crumble when crushed.
Dried chamomile keeps beautifully in glass mason jars. Add the date to the lid of the jar for future reference, and store the jar in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or cupboard.
How to Use Chamomile
While chamomile is most famous for its use in tea to help ease stress, relieve stomach upset, and to boost the immune system, it's also an excellent addition to baths. Add a cup of fresh or dried flowers for a soothing, aromatic soak that can help relieve itchy and inflamed skin conditions like eczema, sunburns, and rashes. Chamomile is also used as a hair rinse, not only to improve shine but also to help relieve dandruff.
Fresh chamomile flowers also make a lovely addition to culinary creations, adding sweetness to salads and acting as a pretty, fresh decoration for cakes. A few stems of chamomile also look lovely in homegrown bouquets!
Flowers can be used fresh or dried to make chamomile tea—but double the amount of chamomile if using fresh flowers. Chamomile tea is gentle enough to make into popsicles to soothe a child's sore throat, too. (If your child has any allergies, consult your doctor first. Also, chamomile is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.)
How to make chamomile tea:
- Use 1 tbsp. dried chamomile flowers per 8 oz. cup of water
- Place crushed chamomile flowers in a tea infuser
- Pour boiling water over the flowers
- Steep for 5 minutes
- Remove the infuser
- Add ice for chamomile iced tea