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How to Grow Chamomile

Discover how easy it is to grow chamomile. Before you know it, you'll be harvesting and brewing your own, homegrown chamomile tea.

Chamomile in the gardenMy Chamomile Garden in June

What Kind of Chamomile to Grow

For newbie herbal tea gardeners, l recommend growing German Chamomile rather than the Roman variety (also known as "English Chamomile").

Why? Because German Chamomile:

  1. germinates quickly and easily from seed;
     
  2. grows virtually anywhere with very little care; and
     
  3. produces waaaaay more flowers (i.e., more tea)  than the Roman variety.

One small packet of German Chamomile seeds is all you'll need for a bountiful harvest of chamomile tea!

where to grow Chamomile

Chamomile prefers a location that's reasonably sunny with average garden soil. At least 6 hours a day of direct (but not scorching) sunlight is good.   

If you're in an area where the mid-summer sun is like a blast furnace, go with a location that gets sun until noon or 1 p.m., then part-shade in the afternoon.  

Another option is to grow your chamomile in moveable planters. Container gardening gives you total control over your soil quality and sun exposure.   

Chamomile plant growing in container on deckChamomile in a Planter on My Deck

how to Plant Chamomile

Prepare Your Soil. Make sure your soil is loose, rock and weed-free, and reasonably level. 

Handle your seeds with care. Chamomile seeds are tiny. A gust of wind can blow them right out of your hand. (Yep, I learned that the hard way!)  

Chamomile seeds in gardenSuper-Closeup of Chamomile Seeds in Garden Soil
(See the 2 Seeds in the Green Box? Tiny!)

Slowly sprinkle a light dusting of seeds directly onto the soil. 

If a big glob of seeds falls in one spot, that's okay. Just take your finger and gently move the seeds around until they're as evenly distributed as you can get them.

It's not a big deal if some of your seeds germinate too closely together. You'll be "thinning the herd" soon, anyway.

Firm Your Seeds In. Once your seeds are scattered across the soil, press them down ever so gently  with your fingers.

Firm the seeds onto the soil, but don't bury them! Chamomile seeds need direct exposure to sunlight the germinate well.  

Mist Your Seeds.
Now, mist the planted area until it's evenly damp. Don't soak, just mist!

Mark Your Location. Place a garden marker in the soil to remind yourself what's planted there. (This step is optional, but highly recommended.)

Water and Wait. For the next week or so, make sure the planted area stays evenly moist. And be patient! If Mother Nature cooperates with nice warm weather, in about 10 days you'll begin to see little seedlings popping up.

Newly sprouted chamomileTiny Chamomile Seedling
A Few Days After Sprouting

Helpful Hint: In cold-winter regions, you can sow your chamomile seeds in late fall, after all chance of warm weather has passed.

The seeds will stay dormant all winter, then begin sprouting in early spring. It's a great way to get a head start for next year! 

Thinning Your Seedlings

As much as it might break your heart to remove any precious little sprouts from their bed, it must be done. For the best flowering (i.e., lots of tea), these babies need plenty of air circulation and room to grow. 

So suck it up. Be strong. Do what you have to do!

Over-crowded container of chamomile plantsI Shoulda Thinned These Seedlings Two Weeks Ago!

Carefully remove the smaller, weaker-looking seedlings, leaving each remaining seedling with at least 4 square inches (10 sq. cm) of space all to itself.

As you're thinning, be sure not to disturb the delicate roots of nearby "keeper" seedlings. 

I use a small pair of cuticle scissors to snip the "go-ers" at dirt level, rather than pull them out of the soil. Scissors are a less traumatic removal method - for all involved ;-)

Thinning chamomile seedlingsLove The Cuticle Scissors For Thinning Tiny Seedlings!

Transplanting Chamomile Seedlings

Some herb gardeners will tell you that chamomile doesn't like to be transplanted. Nonsense! I've never had a problem doing it.

The best time to transplant chamomile seedlings is when they're 2 - 3 inches (5 - 8 cm) tall. Once the plant gets taller and starts to produce buds, it's totally focused on flowering. At that point, leave it alone to do its thing!!! 

Budding ChamomileBuds Forming On Young Chamomile Plant

Here's my [nearly] foolproof method for transplanting chamomile:

  • First, get your plant's new location ready. If you're transplanting to a container, fill the container with pre-moistened potting mix. For transplanting into the garden, make sure the soil is loose, well-draining, and weed-free.    

  • Then, very  carefully dig up the seedling you want to move.  To keep its delicate root system intact, dig up a good-sized gob of dirt along with the roots. 

Helpful Hint: When I'm transplanting small seedlings, I use an old kitchen tablespoon as a tiny, makeshift trowel.  

Moving a small seedling
  • Now, settle your seedling into its new home, and gently tuck new soil around the little "root ball".

    Be sure to set your transplant at the same depth in its new home as it was in its prior location.

  •  Finally, lightly water your transplanted chamomile plant, and give it a kiss for luck! 

    (Okay, the kiss is optional. But it can't hurt ;-)  

Caring for Your Chamomile Plants

When I say these plants pretty much take care of themselves, I'm not kidding. In all my years of growing this herb, I've found only one thing that'll do it in: Overwatering.   

watering

Chamomile plants only need a moderate amount of moisture to keep them growing strong. 

After your seedlings have established themselves in your garden or container, give them a nice, deep drink of water once a week - less often during rainy spells. 

fertilizing

Very little, if any, fertilizing is necessary.  A little compost scratched into your garden soil in the spring should be enough to keep your plants fed.  

For container-grown chamomile, add a small dose of organic liquid fertilizer to your watering can each time you water.  

*Note:  I use Neptune's Harvest Organic Fish & Seaweed liquid fertilizer, mixed with water at 1/2 the recommended strength.

pruning

No pruning is necessary. Just harvest fresh blossoms every few days. That'll encourage repeat flowering.

invasiveness

Is chamomile invasive? Yes and no. It depends on how you tend to your plants.

German chamomile spreads by re-seeding itself. The cure for unwanted re-seeding is to harvest the flowers while they're fresh, before they go to seed. More tea, less re-seeding. It's all good!!  



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