Herb Garden
Published November 18, 2022 by Nicole Burke

How to Grow Chamomile from Seed in an Organic Herb Garden

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chamomile plant

Grow Your Own Chamomile Herb

Chamomile, a member of the Aster family, has cute daisy-like flowers with white petals and yellow centers that give any garden a cottage feel. It's low-maintenance and easily self-seeds for the next growing season. I like to harvest a lot of leaves in the fall, dry them, and brew them to make cozy teas for the winter to help me relax.

The Aster, or daisy, family gives us many of the herbs we grow for their flowers and use in teas, tinctures, infused oils, and herbal remedies. Besides chamomile, there's echinacea, calendula, marigolds, feverfew, and even dandelions.

Many of these herbs that are so good for you are also good for your garden space. Chamomile, for instance, releases chemicals that encourage other plants around them to grow faster and taste better. That's reason enough for me to include it in my herb and vegetable gardens!

chamomile growing in raised bed

Is Chamomile a Perennial?

The answer to this depends on which type of chamomile you're growing.

German Chamomile

German chamomile, which produces abundant flowers, is an annual plant that's likely to self-seed and return on its own the next year. This variety grows taller but is a bit less hardy. German chamomile is the more common variety to grow in herb gardens and use for teas, and this is the variety I prefer to grow.

Roman Chamomile

Roman chamomile, which produces larger, more fragrant blooms, is a perennial that will return from its roots in the spring. This variety grows low and spreads out more, making it a popular ground cover. Roman chamomile blooms taste bitter, which is why it's not used as often for culinary purposes.

Both types are equally easy to care for in the garden.

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When to Grow Chamomile Herb at Home

Chamomile grows best in the cool season, so the typical spring and fall conditions.

Wait until your final frost date in the spring to plant chamomile in your garden. Harvest blooms throughout the summer and into the fall.

Cover your plants in the fall to protect them from early cold snaps. Chamomile plants can survive a little frost but not a heavy freeze. You can always pot up your German chamomile plants and move them indoors for winter if you live in a colder climate. Roman chamomile is a perennial down to zone 4 but benefits from covers to protect it from frost and wind.

chamomile herb

Where to Grow Chamomile

Chamomile can grow in raised beds, containers, and even in-ground pollinator gardens, though it tends to get extra floppy growing in soil that's too heavy in clay and light on nutrients.

I love to plant chamomile on the edges of a raised bed so that the flowers can drape over the sides and produce blooms for me as long as possible.

It's best to plant chamomile in full sun for maximum blooms, though it can tolerate partial shade. If you live in a hotter climate, find a spot for your chamomile herb where it will get some afternoon shade to keep the blooms from drooping.

Growing Chamomile in Pots

Chamomile roots don't need to dig down deep, which makes chamomile a great container plant. Look for a pot or container at least 6 inches deep and add a drainage hole if there's not one already there. Make sure you use a light, organic potting mix and add compost for extra nutrients.

Chamomile can be grown easily indoors year round or during cold winters. Place it by a south- or west-facing window that gets 4 to 6 hours of bright sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet. (Learn more about indoor herb gardening.)

is chamomile a perennial?

How to Grow Chamomile Plants from Seed

Chamomile does really well from seed.

Since this is a flowering herb and since plants take a while to reach their flowering stage, I recommend starting chamomile by seed indoors about 6 weeks before your last frost. Transfer seedlings outdoors after a period of hardening off once conditions are ideal. This way, you prolong the time you can enjoy the flowers in your garden.

If you prefer to sow seeds outdoors, wait until all chance of frost has passed.

Add a 1- to 2-inch layer of fresh compost to the planting area before sowing chamomile seeds or transplanting seedlings. Chamomile plants can quickly become quite large, taking up as much as one square foot in the herb garden, so space your seeds or seedlings at least 8 inches apart or come back and thin seedlings later.

Give your seeds or transplants a nice watering in and continue giving the plants at least 1 inch of water a week until they're established.

My Favorite Sources for Chamomile Seeds

I always recommend looking for locally sourced, non-GMO seeds so you know those seeds will do well in your area. But for convenience's sake, here are some of my favorite online sources for seeds:

chamomile seeds

How to Care for Chamomile Plants

Chamomile is pretty low-maintenance, but follow these tending tips to maximize your blooms.

Water

Once they're established, chamomile plants are pretty drought tolerant. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. Check the moisture level by sticking your finger about 1 inch down into the soil—if there's any moisture, don't water just yet.

Support

Chamomile plants can get a little top-heavy. If your plant is flopping over and casting shade on other plants, use stakes and twine to hold it up. I like to let my plants drape over the sides of the bed.

Prune

Prune away any diseased leaves and leaves that are growing too close to other plants to maintain good airflow, as powdery mildew can become an issue during hot, damp weather. Prune leggy stems down to about 4 inches above the soil. Harvest flowers frequently or deadhead fading flowers to encourage new buds.

Defend

Chamomile is not often affected by pests. In fact, some gardeners say the strong scent repels pests like cabbage moths and cabbage worms, making it an ideal companion plant for brassicas. If you notice aphids on the leaves, give the plant a hard spray down with a soaker hose. Fortunately, the fragrance of chamomile blooms attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and hover flies, which can also take care of those aphids for you.

Feed

I typically don't feel the need to fertilize chamomile plants if they're set up in good soil to begin with. If your plant is ever struggling, add some fresh compost around the base.

How to Harvest Chamomile Flowers

Chamomile, like other herbs, is a cut-and-come-again plant, meaning you can harvest continuously throughout the flowering season. Most plants should begin blooming within about 10 weeks from being planted.

The optimal time to harvest chamomile flowers is once the bud has opened and the petals begin arching backward. Once the flower has dried and gone to seed, it’s a little late, though you could still pull off some petals and use them to make a tea (you might sacrifice a bit of flavor).

The best time of day to harvest is in the morning.

When you're ready to harvest the blooms from chamomile, go to the base of the stem and cut with clean pruners. Those stems are not going to grow new blooms, so it's best to take the bloom with its entire stem.

Leave the plant to continue to flower and form more delicious blooms for you to enjoy later. 

Harvesting regularly tells your plant to keep producing blooms. If you're expecting a frost, do a final chamomile harvest and cut the remaining blooms.

Bring your flower heads inside to wash carefully and dry.

Keep blooms indoors in water, or pluck the flower head from the stem for use in the kitchen. You can compost the rest. 

Master the art of growing your own herbs

Ditch the overpriced grocery store herbs! Join Gardenary 365 to access our popular online gardening course, Herb Garden Guide. Learn how to set up your own herb garden and plant, tend, and harvest enough organic herbs for a year-round supply.

How to Save Chamomile Seeds

To harvest German chamomile seeds for the next growing season, wait for the flowers to dry on the stem and then cut them. Shake the seeds loose and store them in a paper seed packet in a cool, dry place. It's best to use them within three to four years.

How to Dry Chamomile Flowers

I put my flowers in a dehydrator, but if you don’t have one, you can also lay your petals on parchment paper on a flat tray to do it the natural way in a cool, dry place. It takes a couple of weeks for the petals to dry naturally. Stir the flowers occasionally to ensure all sides are drying.

Before you toss your petals in a jar or a container, make sure they’re completely dried out. You don’t want to end up with mold or mildew. You'll know your flowers are dried when they crumble easily between your fingers.

Keep your dried chamomile in a closed glass jar (preferably colored glass, but mason jars work fine too). Store the jar in a cool, dark place like a pantry or cupboard.

chamomile flower

How to Make Your Own Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea has a slight apple flavor and has long been used to help people sleep. (Since there are no extensive studies on the effects of chamomile tea while pregnant, talk to your doctor or skip this tea if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.)

You can use dried or fresh chamomile flowers to make tea. Dried herbs tend to have more flavor than fresh, so double the amount of fresh chamomile flowers. Chamomile leaves are edible too, but I prefer the flavor of the flowers.

Steps to make chamomile loose leaf tea

  • Use 1 Tablespoon dried chamomile blooms per 8 ounces of water
  • Place chamomile blooms in a tea infuser
  • Pour boiling water over the blooms
  • Steep for 5 minutes for a light and less bitter tea; steep for 10 to 15 minutes for a stronger tea if taking medicinally
  • Remove the tea infuser
  • Add ice if desired for iced chamomile tea
  • Enjoy!
chamomile loose leaf tea

Chamomile Tea Benefits

Chamomile has been frequently used as a medicinal herb to treat everything from insomnia to inflammation since the times of the Ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. You probably think of chamomile tea as a late-night drink people turn to for help sleeping. While chamomile has long been used as a sleep aid, it has so many more benefits.

This cheerful little herb has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. It has been shown to reduce cold symptoms like sore throats and hoarse voices, as well as alleviate gastrointestinal conditions. For thousands of years now, people have turned to chamomile tea to relieve upset stomachs.

Chamomile contains flavonoids, which are naturally occurring plant pigments often found in the most nutritious fruits and veggies, and are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke in research.

Chamomile tea has also long been considered an effective home remedy for reducing anxiety. A 2016 study found a significant reduction in symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder after participants were given 1500mg of chamomile extract daily for 12 weeks. Though chamomile extract is stronger than a typical cup of tea, I have personally found relief by mindfully sipping on chamomile tea each night.

chamomile tea

Other Ways to Use Chamomile at Home

Chamomile has so many benefits that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways beyond tea.

If your child is having trouble sleeping or suffering from a sore throat or upset stomach, turn chamomile tea into frozen popsicles if they're not big on drinking teas.

If you're a bath-taker, toss a cup of fresh or dried blooms in your tub for a soothing soak for eczema, sunburn, or rash relief.

For shinier, dandruff-free hair, make a chamomile hair rinse.

Because the leaves and flowers of chamomile are edible, you can toss them in salads for a little sweetness or use them as edible cake decor.

Hypersensitivity to chamomile is rare, but if you suffer from ragweed allergies (a plant in the same family as chamomile) and notice a skin rash after handling chamomile blooms, avoid using them internally or externally.

chamomile leaves

It's Chamomile Growing Time!

I hope you find this herb as delightful to grow as I do.

Thanks for bringing back the herb garden with me, one chamomile plant at a time.

Master the art of growing your own herbs

Ditch the overpriced grocery store herbs! Join Gardenary 365 to access our popular online gardening course, Herb Garden Guide. Learn how to set up your own herb garden and plant, tend, and harvest enough organic herbs for a year-round supply.

How to Grow Chamomile in an Organic Herb Garden

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