Chamomile square-foot gardening maximizes your garden space with a functional and beautiful plant.
If you’re plotting out garden plans and want to know how many chamomile plants you can fit in a square-foot plot, the answer is one.
But before you start your garden, there are other things you should consider. Below we cover everything you need to know about growing chamomile.
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All About Chamomile
Chamomile flowers look charming in any garden plot. In addition, their flowers make tasty teas and are helpful in other herbal remedies.
So, growing chamomile is a wonderful choice. Perhaps that’s why farmers have been cultivating it for centuries! Even Pliny the Elder mentioned the benefits of this sweet plant.
He described several applications for chamomile, including using it as an antidote for snake bites.
Chamomile may not be the best remedy for a snake bite today, but it does have other uses. For example, it may help with anxiety and sleep.
Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla) belongs to the Daisy (Asteraceae) family. Like daisies, the plant has small white flowers with bright yellow centers and thin green stems.
The name “chamomile” comes from khamai, Greek for “on the ground,” and melon, Greek for “apple.”
Roman chamomile flowers smell apple-like and sweet. And chamomile isn’t very tall. So, this name makes a ton of sense.
People have used chamomile in teas, lotions, and cosmetics for centuries.
They also grow chamomile for its taste. Chamomile flowers make excellent tea that tastes slightly sweet without any added sugar.
There are two major types of chamomile that gardeners commonly use:
- Roman (sometimes called English, Russian, or Garden) Chamomile
- German (sometimes called Wild) Chamomile
These two types of chamomile look similar, but there are significant differences. Below, we’ll explore both varieties, allowing you to choose the best one for your garden.
Roman vs. German Chamomile
Roman and German Chamomile both offer many benefits. They both have white flowers that complement most gardens and repel common pests, like cucumber beetles.
However, they’re not the same by any means. One is an annual, and the other is a perennial. That’s only the beginning of their divergence. The table below makes their differences clear.
|Roman Chamomile||German Chamomile|
|Low-growing (1-inch tall)||Taller-growing (2-inch tall or more)|
|Creeping Perennial||Upright Annual|
|Handles light foot traffic||Good in container or herb gardens|
|Often too bitter for tea||Ideal for tea|
|Fewer blossoms||More blossoms|
Roman Chamomile is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a sweet-smelling ground cover that returns every spring without having to reseed.
However, if you want to make tea or keep chamomile in a container or small garden space, like a square foot garden, consider using the German variety.
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Regardless of whether you choose Roman or German chamomile, this plant is relatively easy to grow.
It’s drought-tolerant and grows well in U.S. hardiness zones from 2 through 9. That means it can grow from Seattle, Washington, to Orlando, Florida, and almost everywhere.
It also does well in the eastern United States. So if you’re in Portland, Maine, or Charleston, South Carolina, your garden can feature chamomile.
The only place it doesn’t do well is along exceptionally humid coastlines. As a drought-tolerant plant, tropical conditions aren’t ideal for chamomile.
That means Miami, Florida, and cities along the very tip of Texas aren’t the best areas for growing chamomile outdoors. But even there, you can grow chamomile indoors.
Chamomile thrives as a potted plant and loves sunny conditions. So, if you live in an exceptionally humid area, consider moving your chamomile inside, next to a sunny window.
Chamomile Square Foot Gardening Requirements
If you’re trying to maximize space in your garden, you’ll probably want to grow German chamomile. As an upright annual, it does well in small garden plots.
For German chamomile, you’ll only need one plant per square foot.
Roman chamomile has runners or stolons. These are stems that grow horizontally along the ground. At nodes along the runners, vertical stems shoot up and flower.
That makes Roman chamomile a better choice for ground cover, especially near walls or fences. You’ll only need one plant per two square feet when it comes to Roman chamomile.
Chamomile is not a picky plant. It can handle poor soil conditions and doesn’t need any fertilizer.
Chamomile grows readily with soil pHs anywhere from 5.6 to 7.5. So, there’s no need to apply sulfur or lime.
This bright blooming plant does prefer well-draining soil, though. As we noted, chamomile is drought-tolerant. It won’t thrive in wet or marshy environments.
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Temperature and Sun Needs
As with soil, chamomile isn’t too particular regarding temperature. It will grow in temps that range from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the spring, before it sprouts, chamomile prefers a bit of shade. Once it shows its stems, though, it prefers full sun.
The exception to the full sun requirement is very hot areas. For example, in the harsh heat of Arizona or Texas, many gardeners find that chamomile grows well with afternoon shade.
Because it needs more shade in the earliest part of its lifecycle, many gardeners choose to start chamomile seeds indoors. Then, once it sprouts, they move it to a sunny location outside.
Chamomile doesn’t need much water to thrive. Early on, it will take about 1 inch of water per week. However, once it establishes itself in your garden, it will need far less.
After watering established chamomile, wait until the soil completely dries out before watering again.
Technically you don’t need to prune chamomile, especially when working with the German variety. However, pruning may encourage more flower growth.
If you’re working with Roman chamomile, pruning can also keep the plants from getting too leggy.
To prune, cut the stems a few inches up from the soil line at midseason. This will keep Roman chamomile dense and encourage German chamomile to produce more blossoms for harvest.
Chamomile makes a lovely decorative plant, but many gardeners grow it for more than aesthetics. Chamomile flowers are delicious in teas and work well in cosmetics.
If you want to use the flowers, you can harvest them once they are fully open. At that point, pull the flowers off carefully, ensuring you leave the stem behind.
Assuming you leave behind the stem, you may be able to accomplish more than one harvest per season. That’s because the stems are capable of reproducing new buds.
Using Chamomile Flowers
Once you harvest your chamomile flowers, it’s time to put them to use!
For tea, you can use the flowers dry or fresh. If you’re using them fresh, you’ll want to use them right away, before there’s any wilting.
If you want to dry the flowers, place them in a single layer on a tray or cookie sheet. Then, place them in a dark and dry location for 7-10 days.
Once they’re dry, you can place them in an airtight container. Then, store them in a cool, dark place, such as a cellar or basement. Alternatively, you can put them in a freezer.
Dried flowers will remain potent enough to produce tea for up to four years.
If you’re trying to make cosmetics or lotions, you’ll probably want to create a chamomile oil infusion. In that case, fresh flowers are best.
Infusion recipes vary, but they typically ask that you place fresh flowers with a carrier oil, such as vitamin e oil, in a sealed jar for several weeks.
After the flowers have infused the oil, you strain the flowers out and discard them. Then, you can use the resulting chamomile oil in lotions and cosmetics.
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Roman chamomile is a perennial. It will come back each year on its own. That’s not the case with German chamomile.
However, German chamomile is a prolific reseeder. Meaning it drops its seeds readily.
Since it doesn’t take much for chamomile seeds to grow, German chamomile may appear to come back on its own accord as well.
However, if you want to be sure your chamomile returns each year, you’ll want to reseed your garden by hand.
There’s no need to purchase new seeds to do this. Instead, simply allow your chamomile flowers to dry out on the stem.
Then, clip the flowers off and shake the seeds into a jar or other storage container. Keep the jar of seeds in a cool, dry place such as a basement or cellar.
The seeds will be usable for up to four years after you collect them. So, you can reseed your garden the following spring or use the seeds at a later date.
If you live in a cold climate that experiences freezing temperatures, like New York or New England, you may worry about your chamomile.
German chamomile is an annual, so it won’t survive the winter outdoors. You may be able to keep it alive if you place it in a pot and move it inside.
However, with German chamomile, it’s best to reseed in the spring and start the growing cycle over.
Roman chamomile can survive outdoors through the winter months, even in the Northeast US in places like New York. As a perennial, its flowers will drop, and its stems will fall back, but it will return on its own.
However, severe winter conditions can kill Roman chamomile by drying it out.
Keep your Roman chamomile sheltered from harsh New England winter winds to ensure this doesn’t happen. You can do this by placing it near fences, walls, or another form of windbreak.
Common Chamomile Challenges
Chamomile is a hardy plant, and it’s pretty easy to cultivate most of the time. However, some challenges arise now and then.
You may find some spotting on your plant’s leaves. Spotting usually comes from a fungal infection, like blight.
Luckily, you can get rid of fungus by using a fungicide, available at any garden store.
You may also notice brown leaves. If it’s been extremely hot, the browning may be due to heat.
However, perhaps counterintuitively, brown leaves that then fall on chamomile are usually because of overwatering. You can counteract the problem by watering less often.
Many plants have problems with pests. Chamomile isn’t one of them. Chamomile repels many common garden destroyers, like cucumber beetles and aphids.
It also may repel annoying flying insects like mosquitoes and gnats. There is some evidence that it can even repel ticks.
To add to chamomile’s benefits, it attracts the right bugs to your garden. Its sweet, white flowers bring in honeybees and other pollinators in droves.
So, chamomile is great for bringing in the bugs you need and driving out the ones you don’t want.
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Because chamomile naturally repels so many pests, it’s a wonderful companion plant in vegetable and herb gardens.
Its pollinator-attracting flowers make it a great neighbor to fruit trees. It also looks lovely next to taller, flowering shrubs.
Beyond that, chamomile may release certain chemicals that improve the taste and aroma of certain vegetables and herbs.
For example, it’s thought that planting chamomile next to basil will induce the herb to produce more essential oils. In other words, chamomile may make for more potent basil.
With all of this in mind, you could consider growing chamomile next to any of the following:
- Apple trees
- Brussels sprits
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Most plants benefit from neighboring chamomile.
That said, some farmers say you should avoid growing chamomile next to carrots or parsley. These words of advice are more to protect your chamomile than anything else.
Carrots and parsley may attract pests that can harm chamomile. However, many gardeners grow them side by side without a problem.
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Chamomile square-foot gardening is a great way to maximize your garden space, especially if you use German chamomile. As an upright annual, it will grow nicely into a single square foot.
Chamomile also makes a tasty tea and has pest-repelling properties that will benefit other plants. Plus, it’s drought-tolerant and grows well in most of the U.S.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.