Chamomile is easy to grow and makes an attractive addition to a herb collection, either in the ground or in containers, and can also be used in borders and wildflower plantings.
Month by Month
Both perennial common chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and annual German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) are easy to grow from seed in spring and both produce aromatic flowers that can be used to make tea. They are ideal for herb gardens, veg plots, borders and wildflower areas, and also for containers. While common chamomile can also be used to make a chamomile lawn, a dwarf variety (see below) is a more suitable option.
If you want a chamomile lawn that flowers, then consider low-growing ‘Flore Pleno’ with white pompom flowers. Dwarf varieties are also great in herb gardens, containers, rock gardens and as border edgings, and can be grown in gaps in paving or in gravel areas, in even the smallest plots. However the best type of chamomile to grow as an lawn is the non-flowering, ornamental cultivar, ‘Treneague’.
To help you choose what to grow, visit the herb collections at the RHS gardens, where you can explore a wide range of herbs, including chamomile. You can see how they’re grown, compare the different types and pick up inspiration and tips.
What and where to buy
Chamomile seeds are widely available in garden centres and from online seed suppliers. Both perennial common chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and annual German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) are sold as 'chamomile', so check the description and botanical name carefully to make sure you get the type you want. Young common chamomile plants are also available in spring and summer from many gardening retailers.
Look for the dwarf variety Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’, the best choice if you want to make a chamomile lawn and don't need flowers for teas etc. This can only be bought as plants, as it doesn’t flower or produce seeds. Trays of plug plants may be available for planting larger areas. If you do want flowers, the compact, double-flowered Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ can be grown as a lawn and, similarly, is only available as plants. These varieties are usually stocked by larger plant retailers and herb nurseries.
Both common and German chamomile (see above) are easy to grow from seed, indoors or outside, but named varieties of common chamomile are only available as young plants. They all like plenty of sun and light soil that drains freely but doesn’t dry out totally or get waterlogged.
Chamomile grows quickly and should start flowering in as little as ten weeks. But do take care to protect seedlings and young plants from slugs and snails.
Sow chamomile seeds in spring and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite.
When chamomile seedlings are large enough to handle, move them into individual pots. Keep in a warm bright spot and water regularly.
The young plants can be transplanted outside in late spring or early summer – see Planting, below.
Sow chamomile seeds into warm soil from mid-spring onwards. Sow on the surface, as the seeds need light to germinate.
Protect the seedlings from slugs and snails, water regularly until well rooted and thin them to 15–30cm (6-12in) apart if necessary.
Young chamomile plants – either grown from seed or bought in pots or as plug plants – can be transplanted into the garden in spring and early summer.
Harden off first to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions.
Choose a sunny growing site with light, well-drained soil, or a large container filled with soil-based or multi-purpose peat-free compost. Containers should be at least 30cm (1ft) wide, so they don’t dry out too rapidly, but they will still need watering regularly.
Remember the best lawns are created using the non flowering dwarf variety ‘Treneague’ as it forms a dense fluffy fragrant carpet that doesn’t need clipping. But it won't give you flowers for tea!
A chamomile lawn or chamomile seat needs a little more upkeep – weed regularly to keep it looking neat and ensure the plants grow strongly without competition. No clipping is needed if you use the dwarf non-flowering variety ‘Treneague’. Chamomile lawns are not as robust as grass lawns and won’t tolerate regular foot traffic, so only use lightly, otherwise the plants may die off.
Water chamomile seedlings and young plants regularly until well rooted. Then water during dry spells in summer, giving the ground a good soaking. See our video guide to watering efficiently.
Plants in containers can dry out more quickly than those in the ground and may need watering several times a week in summer. Allow the water to drain away afterwards, to prevent waterlogging.
Chamomile should grow and flower well without feeding, even in poor soil.
Keep seedlings and young plants weed-free to reduce competition and help them get well established.
With a chamomile lawn, weed regularly by hand, as the low-growing chamomile plants can quickly become swamped by more vigorous weeds.
Common chamomile can become leggy over time, so clip plants back several times through the growing season to keep them compact, dense and bushy.
With a chamomile lawn, the dwarf non-flowering variety ‘Treneague’ doesn’t need clipping as it stays naturally low to the ground. If flowering chamomile is grown as a lawn, clip it back in late summer with shears to remove the spent blooms and any taller stems.
You can collect seeds of common and German chamomile to grow new plants – see our guide to collecting seeds. Both of these may also self-seed, in which case you can simply dig up any seedlings in late spring or early summer and move them to your preferred growing site. German chamomile is an annual, so plants die off once they’ve set seed.
The varieties ‘Treneague’ and ‘Flore Pleno’ can’t be grown from seed, but you can make new plants by dividing established mats in autumn or spring. This is a useful way to extend a chamomile lawn and fill any gaps that may develop.
Pick newly opened chamomile flowers throughout the summer. Regular harvesting and deadheading will encourage further flowers.
The flowers can be used fresh for making tea or dried for later use. Dried flowers can also be used in pot pourri and herbal pillows.
To dry chamomile flowers, spread them out on a tray in a single layer and place somewhere warm and dry, out of sunlight, for a week or two. Once fully dried, store in an air-tight jar in a cool, dark place.
Once established, chamomile is generally healthy and trouble-free when grown in a sunny spot with suitably free-draining soil. Waterlogged soil or potting compost, especially in winter, can cause plants to rot. Chamomile also dislikes drying out in summer.
Slugs and snails can cause problems, so take steps to protect your plants, especially when young. Aphids may also be attracted to soft young growth – you can wash them off or pinch out affect shoots if you wish.
Chamomile lawns can become gappy if walked on too much, if the soil dries out or is too damp, or if plants don’t get enough sun. Make sure weeds don’t get established in any gaps, as they will spoil the look of the lawn and shade out the low-growing chamomile plants. Buy new plants to fill any gaps in spring or divide thriving clumps to produce new plants to fill bare patches or extend the lawn.
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