While other plants contain the word “chamomile” in their names, the two types of true, edible chamomile most commonly used in food and medicine are German and Roman. Both of these types possess green stems, with beautiful, little white flowers that give off an “apple-like” scent, and are commonly used in teas and herbal remedies. Grown in many climates, chamomile will thrive in most gardens but is happiest in temperatures between 45–80°F. This pungent plant is also a great garden companion, bringing beneficial insects to your herbaceous ‘hood.
Roman, or English, chamomile is grown as a perennial and is predominantly found in the northwestern regions of Europe and North America. Unlike its German cousin, Roman chamomile tends to grow closer to the ground in a more sprawling manner and is sometimes called “low chamomile” and “ground apple.” Although not as popular as German chamomile in cooking, the Roman variety is frequently used in holistic medicine as a treatment for upset stomachs and for soothing various skin disorders.
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 1/2″, thin to 6″
Space Between Rows: 6″
Germination Soil Temperature: 70 °F
Days for Germination: 10–21
Sow Indoors: 8 to 10 weeks before average last frost.
Sow Outdoors: 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost or as soon as soil can be worked. Can also be sown in late fall when soil is too cold for seeds to germinate (seeds benefit from cold exposure).
Although this herb will grow well in most climates, it prefers cooler growing conditions ranging between 45–80˚F. If you live in a tropical or subtropical climate, avoid growing your chamomile during the summer season. In cooler climates, start seeds indoors before the onset of spring to give plants a head start.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Will grow well under standard T5 fluorescent or HID grow lamps. Keep lights approximately 2 to 4′ above the plants to avoid burning. Plants require approximately 12 to 14 hours of light per day.
Soil: Prefers sandy soil but will grow well in almost any soil type. A pH of 7.0 to 7.5 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in soilless potting mixes of vermiculite, perlite, rockwool, or coco coir.
Hydroponics: Will thrive in a hydroponic system; however, keep in mind that chamomile does not do well in stagnant waters. For best results, try a mineral wool medium.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in an aeroponic system.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water. Chamomile is quite drought-resistant once it has reached maturity and only requires periodic watering, except in crazy hot weather.
Nutrients: Easy to care for, chamomile does not require intensive fertilization. If you are experiencing stunted growth in your plants or have poor soil, apply a standard nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium mix for added pep.
Foliar: Although not required, application of foliar sprays containing zinc and/or iron can help plants increase their essential oil content.
Companions: Gets along with all other plants but is most stoked around members of the cabbage family, mint, and onions.
Harvest: Should be picked once flowers have opened fully either by clipping the stem or trimming the flowers off the top of the stalks. Chamomile may be harvested multiple times throughout the flowering season, so be careful not to over-harvest the flowers in any one trimming.
Storage: Does best dried either in the sun or in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. Can be dried by creating small bundles and hanging upside down.
Etymology: Although commonly referred to as Roman chamomile, it’s likely that its other name, English chamomile, is more apt, as it’s believed to have originated in this region of the globe, not making its way to Rome until the 16th century.
Preserve: Often kept in air-tight containers in a dark, dry place, you can also add cut flowers to vodka for a chamomile-infused liquor.
Prepare: After drying, place in cheese cloth or tea bag for a calming brew. Chamomile can also be added fresh or dried to any dish you choose.
Nutritional: Contains significant levels of manganese.
Medicinal: Roman chamomile has a long history as a medicinal herb and has been used to treat many ailments. Some cultures view chamomile as a veritable “cure-all.” While its ability to cure everything is questionable, evidence does show that chamomile can be effective in reducing anxiety, assisting with sleep disorders, calming upset stomachs, and soothing hemorrhoids. Try adding chamomile to your humidifier in the winter for a calming post-work nap.
Warnings: While most individuals do not experience any negative side-effects from chamomile, it is a relative of ragweed and can cause an allergic reaction in those sensitive to the plant. Some sources have suggested that chamomile may also cause adverse effects in pregnant women, so consult your physician prior to consuming chamomile if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
Tummy in turmoil? Try this soothing and tasty Homemade Chamomile Tea.