The chamomile flower is one of the most popular and well-known flowers out there thanks to their fragrance and their medicinal properties. Surely, you have heard of chamomile tea, right? The tea is actually made from the dried chamomile flower! This flower is native to the northern parts of Africa, Europe, and some parts of Asia, but you can certainly grow them in other areas. These flowers are very fragrant, too, and make a perfect option for your garden. Here’s what you can learn:
- The history of chamomile
- Chamomile varieties
- Growing chamomile
- Pests and diseases
The History of Chamomile
Chamomile has been cultivated since ancient times, and even the Greeks, Romans, and Ancient Egyptians used the herb for things like inflammation, pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, and menstrual disorders.
Today, we use the flower in much the same way, using the crushed leaves and flowers in tea to help calm us, relieve pain, and much more.
There are two main types of chamomile: German (matricaria recutita) and Roman (chamaemelum nobile).
German chamomile is an annual plant that can grow well in Zones 4 to 9. This is a tall plant, and it is usually cultivated to make essential oils and to use the flowers in tea. It gets to about 2 feet tall, and it is a self-seeder, which means it acts similarly to a perennial. The German chamomile flower can grow in most types of soil, but they require sun and the right temperature. The roots are short, so these flowers are sensitive to too much water during the first stages of growth. Once it has established itself, it’s tolerant to dry conditions, though they like about an inch of rain each week.
The Roman chamomile, a cousin to the German variety, is a perennial that grows close to the ground. It spreads easily; so easily that it can quickly take control of your garden if you don’t keep it in check. But, if you are looking for some beautiful, fragrant groundcover, this could be perfect for you. Though you can use the leaves and flowers for tea, this variety is usually grown as ground cover. They can be grown in a container or can be used to minimize the growth of weeds in vegetable gardens. The Roman variety doesn’t produce as many blooms as the German one, but it is tougher.
Both types of chamomile have similar growing requirements. They like full sun, but they can tolerate a bit of shade. They don’t like temperatures that get too hot, like over 100 degrees F, and they nicely compliment other plants in the garden. You can also grow both of these varieties in containers, though you may need to stake the German chamomile, just because it gets so tall.
Wherever you plant chamomile, you should do it in well-drained soil, and water them regularly. Since chamomile is so fragrant, it serves as a natural way to rid your garden of many types of insects, which also help the other plants in your yard.
You can grow chamomile from seeds directly in the ground, but most people have better luck transplanting established plants. Keep in mind, that if you are going to grow your chamomile from seed, that you should make sure it comes from a reputable source.
Start the seeds indoors, about six to eight weeks before the final normal frost date. You should make sure the seeds have warmth and light, and all you really have to do is place them on top of some type of commercial seed starting soil.
As with most seeds, you should plant a few of them in each cell of your seed tray, and when the seedlings grow to about 1-2 inches, you should cut back any weak seedlings, so that only the strongest are put into your garden.
These seedlings love a nice, sunny windowsill, but can also grow under grow lights. However, make sure they only get about 16 hours of light a day when inside; you should turn the lights off about 8 hours a day to simulate the night. When choosing a light, natural is best, but if you can’t do that, you should use a fluorescent light. Also, you should rotate the seedlings every couple of days so that they grow straight up, not towards the light source.
When your chamomile seedlings are about three months old, you should fertilize them once. That’s about all you have to do because these plants honestly do just fine on their own, and almost seem to thrive when living with the neglectful gardener.
Once you have transplanted the chamomile into your garden, you won’t have to do much. You can give the flowers a small boost of fertilizer near the end of spring, and then feed the plants on occasion during the growing season. If you are going to use fertilizer, choose one that is higher in nitrogen. Since the chamomile flower has a weak root system, this plant doesn’t get much use from a fertilizer high in phosphorus.
Pest and Disease
The chamomile flower is pretty tough, but it can attract pests and develop diseases. It can also be a source of allergies for some people, especially if you have ragweed allergies or if you are allergic to chrysanthemums.
Aphids, mealybugs, and thrips might find their way to your chamomile flowers, and the most common disease is powdery mildew. Bit, this is only a worry if the weather is hot and humid for many days in a row.
Finally, chamomile tea. Once your flowers have started to wilt, you can deadhead them and allow them to thoroughly dry, which takes about a week. If you can’t wait, you can also use fresh chamomile flowers for tea, but you need a lot more of them to get the right flavor.
To make tea, simply take the dried (or fresh) flowers and measure out about 2 tablespoons of dried flowers (4 tablespoons of fresh) and allow them to steep for about five minutes in 8-oz of hot water. Drain the dried flowers out, and then you can enjoy your hot, delicious, and calming cup of chamomile tea.