A lovely annual plant with very cheerful aromatic white daisy flowers. It is easy to grow and maintain preferring well drained soils preferably sandy. It can grow on poor soil and needs little extra care, tolerates mild to medium acid soils (up to 4.8). Deer normally don't eat it. Flowers are fairly long lasting giving a good showing in any garden. Flowers used in tea and herbal medicines.
This plant is well known for its flowers used as a herb in chamomile teas and other herbal medicines. However only the flowers of this plant have the characteristic odor and are used in teas etc the foliage does not smell. For most herbal preparations this plant is not considered as true chamomile but known as scented mayweed or wild chamomile. For those wishing to grow chamomile for herbal purposed the perennial a Anthemis nobilis also known as Chamaemelum nobile should be considered.
An annual plant growing to two feet (60cm) in height and about 12" (38cm) wide. The stems are much branched with sparse finely divided leaves of mid to dark green. Each branch holds a solitary terminal flower which have hollow conical receptacles with small white petals surrounding it forming a daisy like flower. The plant flowers profusely beginning around June to July, the plants produce a prolific number of flowers that continue until around mid August when the seeds begin to ripen.
Chamomile seeds need light to germinate so never cover the seed. It can be grown by broadcast seeding in the area chosen for it then lightly tamped down with a hoe or spade. Sow seed from August onwards or in very early spring, before the leaves have broken on the trees. With this method much weeding will be necessary since the seedlings grow slowly at first but finally hit a growth spurt when less care is needed. However weeding will still be needed as they never beat out the weeds.. Space plants at about 10 - 12 inches apart.
The seeds can also be sown indoors in later winter for early planting outside. Ensure that each plant is transplanted early to its own pot for growing on as larger plants do not transplant well bare rooted. Make sure transplants have a good root system before planting out. Unless all flower heads are collected German chamomile will reseed itself, since the seeds are small they can travel quite a way across the garden and reseed anywhere.
All chamomiles prefer a sunny location full sun is ideal but it can tolerate some morning or afternoon shade. IT needs a well drained soil and prefers sandy soils best. Do not plant in waterlogged or heavy clay soils without serious soil amendment. It can easily grow on soils with fairly high acidity up to 4.8. However the soil can be quite poor chamomiles need very little in the way of extra fertilizer. Once established German chamomile needs little attention.
German chamomile is by far the easiest to harvest since the plants are taller and they produce many more flowers than true or roman chamomile, however the flowers are smaller so you need more of them. Flowers should be snipped from the plant when they are in full bloom. They can then either be sun dried or dried in a dehydrator. Be aware that if you are intending to grow for use a herbal tea you need a LOT of plants to produce only a small amount of flowers for tea. Dried flowers are small and take up little space. If you drink a lot of herbal tea you will need quite a large chamomile bed to sustain you.
There are many plants that look similar to chamomile. If harvesting in the wild (or from migrating seeds in your garden) make sure that the plant you have really is chamomile. Few others have the same distinctive aroma and the leaves are characteristic but the flowers can be very similar in many species some of which can be dangerous if taken in larger doses so always make sure you have the correct plant.