Chamomile Seed Info: How And When To Plant Chamomile Seeds
By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
Chamomiles are cheery little plants. Sweetly scented like fresh apples, chamomile plants are used as ornamental flowerbed borders, planted in cottage and herb gardens, or grown as a pollinator friendly, low maintenance lawn substitute. They are also used as a defense against pests and disease in the vegetable garden. Chamomile plants may range in height from 6-18 inches (15-46 cm.) with an equal spread, depending upon type. All chamomile types produce an abundance of seed that will quickly self-sow wherever it lands in warm, loose soil. Continue reading to learn more about growing chamomile from seed.
How to Grow Chamomile from Seed
There are two different species of plants commonly known as chamomile.
- Chamaemelum mobile, also commonly known as English, Russian, or Roman chamomile, is a low growing perennial. It is considered to be the true chamomile and is used in landscapes as a flowering groundcover or lawn substitute. English chamomile is hardy in zones 4-11 and is cultivated all over the world for its herbal properties.
- German chamomile, or Matricaria recutita, is also cultivated as the herb chamomile, but it is considered the false chamomile. It is an annual that grows to 18 inches (46 cm.) tall and its consistent miniature daisy-like flowers add charm to container, herb, and cottage gardens.
Both types of chamomile plants produce small white composite flowers with bright yellow center discs. German chamomile produces a hollow conical disc from which its white petals arch down from. English chamomile’s disc is flatter and solid, the flower petals spread outward from the disc, like a ray.
Upon each disc, or seed head, an abundance of chamomile seeds are produced, which germinate within 7-10 days when exposed to adequate soil, sunlight, and water. When seeds are left on the plant to mature and spread naturally, one chamomile plant can quickly turn in to a lovely patch of chamomile.
Planting Chamomile Seeds
Chamomile usually produces flowers that can be harvested for herbal use in just 6-8 weeks. When harvesting chamomile flowers, most herb gardeners will leave some seed heads to naturally self-sow to produce a small colony of chamomile. You can also set aside some of the harvested blooms to dry for seed to plant in other areas. So when to plant chamomile seeds in the garden?
Chamomile seeds can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost. When planting chamomile seeds indoors, fill a seed tray with well-draining potting mix, then simply scatter the seeds over the loose soil and lightly tamp it down or water it in with a light mist.
Seedlings should be thinned to 2-4 inches (5-10 cm.) apart when they are about an inch (2.5 cm.) tall. Plants do not like to be transplanted once their roots have established and they begin to produce blooms, so many gardeners prefer to sow the seeds directly in the garden.
In the garden or as a lawn substitute, chamomile seeds need only be scattered over loose soil and gently tamped down. Germination can occur in temperatures as low as 45-55 F. (7-13 C.) in full sun to part shade.
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Read more about Chamomile
Chamomile has 2 different varieties that are best for home herbs gardens. The first one is chamaemelum nobile or roman chamomile and the second one is matricaria recutita or German chamomile. Before you learn more about how to grow chamomile, choose one between 2 varieties below:
1. Roman chamomile
The other names of this chamomile are English chamomile and Russian chamomile. If you have tried growing spearmint, you’ll figure out that spearmint and roman chamomile have the same character: they’ll cover the garden ground just like a mat.
Roman chamomile produces flowers that look like small daisy flowers with white petals and yellow centers. This perennial herbs plant has feathery leaves.
2. German chamomile
This chamomile and the previous variety above has a similar look. The difference is that German chamomile can grow upright and reach 30 to 61 centimeters tall. Besides, German chamomile is an annual reseeding plant.
German chamomile is a perfect herb plant to grow in some parts of Florida since this variety grows well especially in the USDA hardiness zones between 4 and 9.
Which one between both varieties of chamomile above is the better one to grow? It depends on your goal in growing chamomile. If you want to grow chamomile to make tea, you must learn how to grow chamomile, the German variety. But if your goal is to beautify a garden, roman variety is the best.
How to Grow Chamomile | Guide to Growing Chamomile
Binomial Name: Matricaria recutita
It is said that the Egyptians dedicated Chamomile to their sun god and valued it over all other herbs for its healing qualities. Due to its sedative and relaxing properties Chamomile was an ingredient in some love potions of the middle ages. Chamomile flowers are used in alternative medicine as an anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, nervine, stomachic, tonic, and vasodilator. The anti-inflammatory properties make it good for rheumatism, arthritis, and other painful swellings.
Fertile, sandy, well-drained loam
German Chamomile grows outward and upward to height of approximately two feet and produces the familiar small white flowers that are popular in herbal teas and medicine.
Chamomile prefers full sun, and a fertile and well-drained sandy loam.
Chamomile is best started in mid-spring, indoors about 4-6 weeks before transplanting. Small seeds are light dependant germinators and should be tamped lightly into your medium, or covered lightly with a thin layer of soil (1/4" or less) deep. To simulate natural cycles or warm and cool and promote germination, provide stratification by moving the seed flat from a warm location during the day to a cooler one at night, alternating between approximately 85 and 65 degrees F. Be sure to keep seeds moist during this period. Germination should take place within 10-14 days. Chamomile will self- sow once the plant goes to seed.
When plants reach height of approximately 2" and have begun to display their first true leaves, they are ready for transplanting. Do not allow seedling to grow too large in flats as they may not grow as well later in their life cycle. When moving seedlings outdoors, space small groups of 2-4 plants 8" apart in rows 18" apart.
Heirloom seeds are the gardeners choice for seed-saving from year-to-year. Learning to save seeds is easy and fun with these books. Before you harvest, consider which varieties you might want to save seeds from so that your harvesting practice includes plants chosen for seed saving. Be sure to check out our newest seed packs, available now from Heirloom Organics. The Super Food Garden is the most nutrient dense garden you can build and everything you need is right here in one pack. The Genesis Garden s a very popular Bible Garden collection. The Three Sisters Garden was the first example of companion planting in Native American culture. See all of our brand-new seed pack offerings in our store.
I love growing herbs. There’s nothing better than grabbing a pinch of fresh herbs from your garden for dinner. And herbs are the perfect plant to grow for gardeners of all experience levels–they’re super easy for beginners and the perfect addition to a vegetable patch for seasoned pros. Plus, most herbs grow very well in containers, making them perfect for urban gardeners or growing during winter in your kitchen. While you can easily visit your garden center in the spring to buy pots of herbs already growing, they’re some of the easiest edibles plants to grow from seed. If you’re new to gardening, this guide covers everything you need to know to grow fresh, delicious herbs from seed.
Select Your Seeds
Head to your local garden store, home improvement store, or even your grocery store and check out their seed display. These usually start appearing in February with the seeds for the upcoming growing season. If you’re overwhelmed by the options, you can order a herb seed variety pack with the most common culinary herbs.
Most herbs are incredibly easy to grow, so just pick out the ones you’re most interested in or use the most in your cooking. Tea lovers should grow mint or camomile. Tomato fans must grow basil! And don’t forget dill for all the fish you’ll be grilling this summer.
Decide Where to Grow Your Herbs
There are basically three options for growing herbs: in a traditional garden bed, in pots outdoors, or in pots indoors.
If you want to grow herbs indoors, you will need a very sunny window or to provide supplemental grow lights. If you’re tight on space, a hydroponic herb garden system might be a good choice. They’re especially good for apartment dwellers with limited space.
If you’re debating between growing herbs in garden beds versus pots outdoors, there are a few things to consider. First, there are some herbs that are better to grow in pots because they can easily spread and grow out of control in your garden. If you want to grow mint or dill consider putting them in a pot. Second, some perennial herbs like mint, rosemary, and thyme are great to grow in pots because you can bring them indoors in the fall to enjoy them throughout the winter.
If you have problems with rabbits in your garden, you may want to plant your herbs in pots. Basil, cilantro, parsley, and other herbs are equally delicious to bunnies as they are to us and can easily be gobbled up in your garden. If you plant them in a pot that can be placed out of reach of rabbits it will save your herbs. A dedicated raised garden planter (pictured above), is a convenient way to grow herbs away from hungry critters. Alternatively, you can plant them in a raised garden bed and protect your plants with a chicken wire fence.
Starting Herb Seeds
The seed packets will have specific planting instructions for each variety, including timing for direct sow in your garden. Generally, you want to plant herb seeds outdoors after the frost-free date for your gardening zone.
Starting Herb Seeds Indoors
If you want to get a head start on your gardening before spring, seeds can be started indoors in seed trays. I’ve also used recycled egg cartons (see video below) or even cleaned out take-out containers with clear plastic lids. (Whatever container you use, make sure to cut drain holes in the bottom). I recommend buying a seed starting potting mix rather than using regular potting soil, but I’ve definitely started seeds both ways with success.
Fill your containers with potting soil. Follow the planting depth guide on the seed packet. Poke a small hole with your finger or the eraser end of a pencil and drop 1 or 2 seeds inside. Cover lightly with soil.
To ensure germination of the seeds, they must stay moist. This means the soil should be moist but not overly wet or soggy. Many gardeners prefer to use a spray bottle to water seeds that haven’t germinated. Check your soil two to three times a day and add more water as needed.
If you don’t have a sunny window to start seeds in, a grow light may help. If you have radiators, that’s a great place to set your seed trays for extra warmth to aid germination. Heat mats are an affordable alternative to provide your seeds with extra heat when your house is cold.
Once your seedlings have started growing their true leaves (the second set of leaves), you can transplant them to your garden bed or their larger growing pots. I usually let them get a little more established since it will be a few weeks before they outgrow their starter pots.
Starting Herb Seeds Directly in the Garden
Once you’re past your frost-free date, you can easily plant herb seeds directly in your garden bed. This is great for companion planting or using up small spaces between larger vegetable plants.
Prepare your garden bed by removing weedings and tilling in fresh compost. Even out the soil and break up any clumps of dirt. Follow the planting guide on the packet for depth and spacing instructions. Often with herbs, the spacing instructions don’t matter quite as much, but I have had more success following proper spacing for basil.
Once you have the seeds in the ground, you will need to keep the top layer of soil moist until the seeds germinate. Use the misting mode on your hose sprayer to avoid blasting the seeds around. I generally check twice a day and water as needed.
Growing, Harvesting, and Pruning Herbs
Once your seeds have germinated, you will need to water your herb regularly. You can harvest at any time, but you should follow the rule of never harvesting more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Try to cut or pinch the stem above a junction of leaves as this will encourage most herbs to grow bushier.
To extend your harvest, you should regularly prune your herbs to prevent them from flowering and going to seed. If you see seed heads forming, pinch them off.
If you want to collect seeds to prepare for the next gardening season, allow your plant to flower. It will eventually go to seed. Allow the seeds to dry out completely before storing them in labeled envelopes.
Ready to start growing your own herbs from seed? Check out these herb garden gift sets and indoor hydroponic herb garden systems.