In this step-by-step guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about growing chamomile indoors.
These evergreen perennials are easy to nurture and produce cheerful, fragrant white blossoms from late spring through early fall. As a bonus, they often produce multiple blooming periods during the growing season each year.
Read on to find out how to successfully and easily grow your own Camomile at home!
About Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
For centuries, humans have prized — and even worshipped — chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). But these little plants are especially valued for their many culinary and medicinal uses.
From calming teas to potential anti-cancer treatments, chamomile’s mild flavor and sweet scent make this an attractive plant to grow at home.
While the plant’s scientific name stems from the late 1500s, chamomile has been cultivated in its native Europe and Asia for at least 2,000 years.
Botanical Characteristics and Scientific Classification of Chamomile
Chamomile, or C. noble, belongs to the Chamaemelum genus. It’s a small group of plants in the Asteraceae, or daisy family.
Chamaemelum contains just a few species; the most commonly grown are also known as Roman chamomile or German chamomile, common chamomile or ground apple, C. nobile.
These low-growing perennials bloom through summer and often into fall with small, radial flowers. Each bloom has seven to 20 petals surrounding a yellow center.
The fragrant, evergreen leaves are dark green and from one to three inches long. The plants grow in a creeping, mat-like fashion up to six inches tall and 12 inches wide.
The plant’s scientific name, Chamaemelum nobile, comes from the Greek for “on the ground,” or chamai, and “apple,” or mēlon. This refers to the low-growing plant’s scent, which many say is reminiscent of fresh apples.
Nobile comes from the Latin for noble; this is thought to refer to the plant’s therapeutic properties.
Uses and Benefits of Chamomile
Dried chamomile flowers have long been used to make beverages such as tea and beer, adding a bitterness similar to hops.
Flowers can also be consumed, dried or fresh, in salads and used as toppings. Steeped blossoms add sweetness and apple fragrance to ice cream, liqueurs, and desserts.
In ancient Egypt, the plants possessed both health and spiritual value. They were used to treat fever but were also linked to the sun and worshiped to show dedication to the gods.
Ancient Greek texts illustrate the flower’s use by Hippocrates and Dioscurides. Romans also used chamomile to treat intestinal and rheumatic illnesses.
The Lacnunga, a collection of ancient Anglo-Saxon medical and spiritual remedies, included chamomile in a list of sacred herbs. The Württemberg Pharmacopoeia, compiled in the 1740s, indicates that chamomile was used for gastrointestinal ailments, pain relief, and a diuretic.
In the language of flowers, chamomile has traditionally carried the symbolic meaning of rest, peace, poise, calmness.
Chamomile’s Medicinal Properties
Chamomile’s medicinal properties have been widely studied, and modern scientific research supports many uses. These potential therapeutic uses of chamomile may include:
- Treating sore throat and mouth sores
- Relieving hay fever and allergies
- Treating gout
- Relieving headache
- Colic treatment
- Premenstrual relief
- Sleep and relaxation aid
- Treating nausea
- Stress relief
- Lowering blood pressure
- Anti-cancer agent
Medicinal applications of chamomile may take the form of supplements such as capsules, oils, teas, or tinctures. Often, chamomile may be combined with other herbal remedies such as Gingko biloba, valerian, St. John’s wort, or kava kava.
Despite its many culinary and medicinal uses, chamomile leaves are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. The foliage contains volatile oils that, when ingested, may cause vomiting, intestinal distress, and anorexia.
In humans, the plant may cause allergies and hay fever; for some, contact with the foliage leads to contact dermatitis and irritation.
How to Grow Chamomile Indoors
Growing chamomile indoors is easy. Under the right conditions, the plants grow quickly to about 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
What To Do Before Planting Your Chamomile
To grow Roman chamomile indoors, start with choosing the right type of container. You’ll need a pot that’s at least 12 inches in diameter and has good drainage. Wash containers thoroughly, then dry before you start planting.
Make sure you have a sunny spot that receives at least four to six hours of sun each day. A south- or west-facing window may be a good choice.
The Best Soil for Chamomile Plants
Chamomile grows best in soil that’s well-draining and a bit sandy. Loamy or silty soil works, too, as long as the containers offer good drainage.
Chamomile will grow in pH levels ranging from 6.0 to 8.0, encompassing slightly acid and slightly alkaline potting mediums.
How to Plant Chamomile
Before planting chamomile, clean containers and add about an inch of gravel to the bottom of the pot. Fill pots with high-quality soil up to about an inch from the top of the pot. Water the soil and let the pots drain completely.
If planting seeds, sow directly into the soil. Press seeds lightly into the top of the moistened soil. Do not cover the seeds; chamomile seeds need light to germinate. Leave about two inches between each seed.
Mist the seeds lightly each day. Seeds should sprout within about two weeks. Once the seedlings are three to four inches tall, thin the weaker plants, leaving about eight inches of space.
If planting seedlings, dig a hole the same depth and slightly wider than the root ball. Gently place the root ball in the hole, then backfill with soil up to the top of the root ball. Firm soil lightly, then water thoroughly.
Ideal Light Conditions for Chamomile
Chamomile plants need at least four to six hours of bright direct sun each day. When you’re growing chamomile indoors, choose a south-facing or west-facing window to ensure adequate light.
Ideal Temperatures to Grow Chamomile
Roman chamomile seeds must be at least 68 degrees F to germinate. If your planting site is too cold, consider using a heating pad or placing pots near a heat source.
Once plants sprout, keep at room temperature, or between 60 and 68 degrees F.
How to Care for Chamomile Indoors
While seeds are germinating, mist lightly each day to keep the soil moist but not wet. Once seedlings are taller, keep the soil moist but never soggy.
Watering once per week should be adequate for established plants. Plants may require a bit more water during the growing season and less during the winter.
As a general rule, water when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.
Avoid over-watering at all costs; it’s better to err toward under-watering than over-watering.
How, When, and Why to Fertilize
Potted chamomile plants will benefit from a light feed once a month during the spring and summer months each year to boost and sustain their growth and vitality. For best results, use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.
You may cut the plants back after a flush of flowering or if the plants start to look spindly or leggy. Trim stems and foliage back to about 4 inches from the soil.
Though it’s not necessary, you may choose to deadhead flowers after blooms wilt. Simply cut stems back right above the top bud.
If you’re harvesting flowers for tea, cut blooms off soon after they open.
To propagate chamomile, water the plant thoroughly until water runs through. Let the plant sit overnight.
In the morning, locate stems at least 4 four inches long with healthy foliage, a thick base, and no blossoms.
Reach under the soil at the base and, using a clean knife or shears, snip the stem about 1/2 an inch under the soil. The cut end should be white and have small roots protruding.
Wrap the cuttings in a moist paper towel. Prepare pots to receive the cuttings by filling with three parts soil to one part perlite. Water thoroughly and let drain.
Create two-inch-deep holes in the soil. Unwrap the cuttings and place, root end down, in the holes. Press soil around the base and gently firm to hold cuttings upright.
Place in a shaded spot and water once a week. Cuttings should show new growth in six to eight weeks. At that point, you can transplant into larger pots or a garden bed.
How to Harvest Chamomile Flowers
Harvesting chamomile flowers is an easy and pleasurable experience. It is best to harvest is when the plant is in full bloom.
Pinch at the base of the flower head to remove the flower from the plant which will release without too much pressure from the stem.
The pinched flower heads can then be laid on a tray or cloth and stored in a warm spot in your home to dry out completely for 7-10 days. Once complete store the preserved flowers in a tightly sealed container.
Check out this short video by Gapeys Grub for more on harvesting and drying Chamomile:
Common Problems & How to Treat Them
Chamomile is easy to grow indoors and doesn’t often experience problems. However, if you see brown spots on the foliage, this may indicate botrytis blight or another fungal plant disease. Treat with a fungicidal oil.
If leaves turn brown and fall off, it’s likely a sign that you’re giving your plant too much water. Take a break from watering and let the soil dry out a bit.
Most common pests avoid chamomile. However, your plants may develop aphids or thrips. If you notice these pests, treat them with insecticidal soap.
Providing plants with plenty of air circulation, enough light (four to six hours per day), and avoiding over-watering will prevent most problems.
Essential Tools to Have Around
When you’re growing chamomile indoors, it is easy to over-water it, so having a moisture probe on hand can help avoid wet feet.
Wear gloves when working with chamomile plants to prevent contact dermatitis from oils in the foliage if you have sensitive skin.
Final Thoughts on Growing Chamomile Indoors
Roman chamomile has long been prized for its many culinary and medicinal uses. But these lovely plants also lend a cheerful, sunny vibe to indoor spaces, as well as emitting a pleasant, apple-like fragrance.
Growing chamomile indoors ia easy and relatively problem- and pest-free. Growing a few pots of chamomile on your south- and west-facing windows is a great way to add year-round fragrance and color to your home.
About the Author – Andrew Gaumond
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic – a site dedicated to showcasing local floristry, exceptional floral design, and celebrating the world of flowers and plant life. Andrew holds a BSc Degree in Plant Sciences and has trained at leading floristry schools, including McQueens in London and l’École des Fleuristes de Paris.
Frequently Asked Questions
What part of the chamomile plant is used?
Chamomile flowers are used for many culinary and medicinal purposes, such as calming teas and stomach-settling remedies. While the foliage isn't toxic to humans, it isn't suitable for pets and can cause contact dermatitis. Check the full guide for more info on which part if the Chamomile plant to use.
Does chamomile come back every year?
Chamomile is a perennial, so it comes back every year. Its evergreen foliage means you can enjoy year-round fragrance and color in your home. Check the full guide for more on growing Chamomile.
What conditions does chamomile need to grow?
Chamomile grows best in relatively cool temperatures — between 60 and 68 degrees F — and in spots that receive four to six hours of sun per day. Choose sandy, well-draining soils and avoid over-watering for the best results. Check the full guide for more on the ideal conditions to grow Chamomile indoors.
Where does chamomile grow natively?
Chamomile is native to Europe and Asia. Check the full guide for more info on where Chamomile originates from and how to care for Chamomile.
References and Useful Resources
ASPCA: Chamomile Toxicity
Britannica: The Chamaemelum Plant Genus
Science Direct: Chamaemelum nobile – Medicinal Properties
U.S. National Library of Medicine: Research Studies on Chamaemelum nobile
Wikipedia: Etymology of Chamaemelum nobile