Step-by-step guide to growing chamomile in pots
Chamomile is the slightly sweet, calming, golden queen of herbal teas. It’s delicately floral, made from apple-scented flowers that look like little daisies. It pairs perfectly with honey, and soothes in a way only warm herbal tea can. There are dozens of brands that sell it in stores, but did you know growing chamomile in pots is an easy way to grow your own?
With very little effort, you can have your own homegrown, organic supply right outside your door.
Along with making delicious, soothing tea, chamomile (a member of the aster family) also has high levels of certain flavonoids, plant nutrients with medicinal qualities.
According to Medical News Today, there’s evidence that consistent consumption of chamomile can help treat many ailments, including menstrual pain, inflammation, osteoporosis, sleep problems, skin conditions, and even cancer.
Chamomile is perhaps best known for its calming qualities that soothe the nervous system and aid digestion.
Pretty amazing for a cool little flower that’s easy to grow!
See for yourself how it improves your health and eases stress. (Please note, some people with ragweed allergies can have reactions to large amounts of chamomile. I’m mildly allergic to ragweed and have never gotten a sniffle from it, for what it’s worth.)
If you aren’t sold yet on the benefits of your own personal supply, read on … you’ll see growing chamomile in your container garden is easy and worth a try!
I’ll just be over here with a steaming mug of tea and a swirl of local honey ….
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Best variety of chamomile for pots
You’re probably reading this post because you Googled “how to grow chamomile in a pot” or “growing chamomile” or found us through Pinterest.
And if that’s the case, you’ve probably seen other posts on other sites and discovered one frustrating thing: There are two main varieties of chamomile, and apparently no one agrees about which is best to grow in containers.
In fact, all the confusion had me doubting my own knowledge until I spent a full week researching it.
So let me save you the time and hassle of comparing all that conflicting advice!
The two main types of chamomile grown are German and Roman.
- German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a hardy, self-seeding annual that grows up to 2 feet tall and loves to spread and take over. It produces a ton of flowers, so it’s a solid choice if you’re growing chamomile for tea. Just make sure it has room to grow.
- Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a smaller perennial, maxing out around 6 inches tall. It’s more commonly grown as a ground cover, as it’s low, aromatic, and spreads easily. It doesn’t flower as prolifically as the larger German variety, in part because German produces multiple flowers off each stem while Roman produces one.
If you’re hoping to harvest flowers for tea, German will produce more but needs a slightly bigger pot to accommodate its height.
If you’re not as concerned about abundant blooms, Roman is a good option because its smaller size allows it to thrive in smaller pots.
The good news? Both varieties have amazing potential as container plants! Chamomile in general isn’t fussy about growing conditions, so choose the one that best fits your needs and space.
Or if you’re feeling experimental, try growing both to find your favorite!
I’ll give general growing instructions below, with specific details for each variety when they differ.
How to plant chamomile in a pot
Should I grow chamomile from seeds or seedlings?
You can totally start chamomile from seedlings, if you have a good local garden store that specializes in herbs (or a farmers market). That saves you time and lets you plant when you’re ready to start your deck garden, rather than planning much in advance.
BUT quality seedlings aren’t always easy to find, and chamomile does just fine starting from seed.
So I recommend you start from seed, if possible, whether that’s indoors or direct-sown. Seed companies say direct sowing produces better results (and it’s easier than using seed starters inside!) but if you want to get an early start, consider starting indoors.
Growing chamomile from seed
There are two methods to choose from:
Sowing chamomile seeds indoors
- Chamomile seeds can be started indoors about 6 weeks before last frost (find your date here).
- Sprinkle seeds in seed starting potting mix and press gently, do not cover. Light is needed for germination, either a window that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day or under fluorescent grow lamps for 16 hours per day (let them sleep at night!). Seedlings should sprout in 7-14 days.
- Once seedlings emerge and grow two sets of true leaves, thin to one seedling per container you plan to use for the growing season. Transplant and harden off before setting outside full time.
Direct-sowing chamomile seeds outdoors
- Chamomile doesn’t like frost, so wait until all threat of frost has passed in your area.
- Sprinkle several seeds in each container. They need light to germinate, so don’t bury them. Press gently into the potting soil or sprinkle a thin layer of sand on top.
- Seedlings should emerge within 7-14 days.
- When they have two sets of true leaves and reach 4-6 inches tall, thin to one plant per container.
Or buy seedlings from a local farmers market, nursery or garden store
Look for seedlings with healthy green leaves, and ask if they’ve been hardened off yet.
(I always recommend farmers markets over big box stores, as quality tends to be higher, your money supports local farmers, and you can talk to the growers themselves for tips and advice. Plus they’re just more fun!)
Transplant your seedling into its container and harden off, if it hasn’t been already. Be sure to keep moisture levels consistent while it establishes roots.
Choose a container and a spot with sun or partial shade
Chamomile likes: Sun or partial shade, moderate water, moderate temps
Chamomile doesn’t like: Full shade, too much water, temperature extremes like frost or intense heat (over 100 degrees)
These are all key factors when deciding where and how you’re going to plant:
- Roman chamomile: Remember, this is the low-growing one often used as ground cover. Minimum pot size should be 12 inches wide by 8 inches deep, but wider is even better as it likes to spread. Depth isn’t as important here because chamomile in general has shallow roots.
- German chamomile: Since it can reach up to 2 feet tall, this variety needs more room. Aim for a pot at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep or larger. This variety could do well in 10-gallon grow bags, which measure 12 inches wide and 16 inches deep.
- What type of pot should I use? The main thing to consider here is moisture level. Since chamomile doesn’t like soggy soil, terra cotta, clay or fabric containers are preferable to plastic or glazed ceramic because they dry more easily in between waterings.
If you’re using a pot or container, be sure it has a drainage hole or two to keep the roots from rot and decay.
- Fill the container with loose, good quality potting soil. (Never use garden soil for container plants, as it can harbor pests and diseases and can hold in too much moisture.)
- Find a spot that gets full to partial sun at least 6-8 hours per day. Chamomile is especially sensitive to high temps, so if you’re in a hot climate that hits 100 degrees or more, pull it into the shade on the hottest days and give it extra water.
How to take care of chamomile in pots
It may be the delicate queen of herbal teas and remedies, but thankfully, chamomile isn’t fussy about growing conditions.
Gotta love a drought-resistant plant! Once well-established, chamomile can make it through minor dry spells. But don’t tempt fate. Those shallow roots dry out quickly.
Consistent watering helps encourage flowers and keeps the roots happy and healthy, so make sure it’s getting at least 1 inch of water per week. Let soil dry some between waterings.
A simple way to check moisture level is to stick your finger in the soil … water when the top ½ or so is dry.
For plants like chamomile that need to stay moderately watered, a little mulch can really help. Even just a layer of dried leaves or wood chips can help regulate moisture levels (just make sure the mulch doesn’t touch the stems themselves).
Chamomile doesn’t need much fertilizer. Remember, it’s a perennial (or self-seeding annual in the case of German chamomile) and grows and spreads easily in the wild, even in not-great conditions.
However, some container plants need a little extra love because they have access to a more limited store of nutrients. A light monthly application of aged compost, diluted fish emulsion or diluted all-purpose plant food is all that should be needed.
On that note, it can actually be detrimental to over-fertilize chamomile. It can become bitter and focus growth on leaves rather than flowers. So keep a light touch or skip the extra fertilizer altogether. (To learn more about fertilizer and how it’s used, check out my Fertilizer 101 post!)
Chamomile generally blooms between June and September, about 8-10 weeks after planting. When flowers open, harvest just the flower heads before the petals start to droop. Remove stems and leaves before using.
Dry in a cool, dark place. The dried flowers can be stored in a glass jar or container or frozen until ready for use.
Here’s a great demo of how to harvest chamomile and dry it for tea:
Companion plants for chamomile
Like many herbs, chamomile attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and can boost other plants’ oil production.
Cucumbers and basil are both plants that benefit from close proximity to chamomile.
So if you love herbal tea and have some space on your deck or patio this season, consider growing chamomile in a pot. You’ll get homegrown, homemade tea and herbal remedies … and bragging rights that you grew it yourself!
Check out more ideas for your container herb garden:
- How to grow basil in a pot
- How to grow oregano in a pot
- How to grow thyme in a pot
- How to grow dill in a pot
- How to grow rosemary in a pot
- How to grow catnip in pots
- Growing lavender in pots
- Growing chives in pots