Chamomile tea is a popular herbal drink made from the flowers of this fully hardy perennial. The feathery green leaves are highly fragrant when touched or crushed, and in small amounts can be finely chopped to flavour cream sauces.
It is often planted en-masse to create a scented chamomile lawn – non-flowering cultivars of this herb are ideal for this purpose, while those that bear white daisy-like flowers above plants in summer are best for culinary use.
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Named cultivars do not come true from seed, so buy ready-grown plants for planting in spring. Roman chamomile can be started from seed. Sow seeds in late spring onto the surface of pots and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Place in a heated propagator to germinate. When seedlings are large enough to handle, prick out into individual pots.
Plant well-rooted seedlings or bought plants into light, well-drained soil in a sunny position. Alternatively grow in pots of soil-based compost or multipurpose potting media including peat free.
If you are planning on creating a chamomile lawn or seat, space plants 10cm (4in) apart, making sure the site is well prepared and weed free. Keep weed free until established by hand weeding.
Water plants regularly, especially those in pots, in periods of drought over summer. Chamomile can become leggy unless it is clipped regularly during the growing season to ensure growth remains compact, dense and bushy.
If growing plants in pots, raise up on pot feet to prevent excessive moisture rotting plants over winter.
Occasional rolling and treading of lawns will help to maintain an even surface.
Plants of Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’ can be increased by division in autumn.
Gather newly opened flowers throughout summer. Regular picking will encourage further flowers.
The flowers can be used fresh for making tea, or dried for later use.
To dry the 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.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.