The two most popular types of chamomile are Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) and German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). They have somewhat similar properties but I decided to grow German chamomile. German chamomile is a taller annual plant verses the shorter perennial Roman chamomile. I would say to plant the Roman variety and you'll never have to plant it again. The way the German chamomile self seeds though, makes that kind of a moot point!
The main secret to growing chamomile was as easy as this: quit planting the seed. Seriously. Just toss it on the ground. Apparently it needed sunlight to germinate and I was covering it with dirt and depriving it of the main thing it needs. Once I figured this out I just tilled some compost into the ground, raked it smooth and tossed some seed out. Give the seed a nice soaking with the watering can and let it go. I had dozens of plants that year!
Chamomile likes the sun so a mostly sunny area suits it best. I like to thin the plants out a bit leaving about 6" between them. I get so many growing that self seeded the year before that when I thin them out, I give a lot of plants away! Seriously, this stuff will overtake your garden! Sadly German chamomile does not do very well in pots, unless they're really big pots since it tends to get top heavy.
Chamomile flowers have a yellow cone like center set amid delicate white daisy like petals. The flowers start with the petals folded over the center. The petals open outwards and the flowers are ready to be plucked when the petals start to fold back slightly from the center. Pick chamomile after the morning dew has dried off. I like to harvest them before noon. I simply pinch off the flower heads but you can cut them with scissors.
To dry chamomile for storage, you can spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set it in a dry area like the top of the refrigerator. Your chamomile should be dry in a week or two. Since chamomile seems to flower a lot at one time, I like to hurry things along by using my dehydrator. I spread the flowers out on the dehydrator sheets and set it as low as possible. After about 2 hours I start checking every hour. When a flower head crumbles easily between your fingers, they're done! Store in an airtight jar in a cool dark place. I talk more about proper herb storage in How To Store Dried Herbs.
I use chamomile mainly for it's calming properties and use it often in teas and herbal salves or lotions. It's one of the main ingredients in my herbal sleep tea recipe.
Now here's a funny little trick that might work for you: you can grow chamomile plants from a tea bag. Yes, you read that right! Chamomile tea is simply dried chamomile flowers. As long as they're fairly fresh, you should be able to open a tea bag and plant the chamomile inside. Just follow the sowing instructions above and wait for your chamomile to sprout! Happy growing!
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