Chamomile is a self-seeding annual.
Chamomile is native to Europe and north and western Asia. Introduced to North American, it grows well in many environments and is a highly sought-after medicinal. Chamomile is a lovely member of the Asteracea family. It grows two to three feet tall and is a multi-stemmed, light green plant that has lacy leaves and a white daisy-like flower. The flowers bloom in mid to late summer and have yellow centers surrounded by white petals.
Even though chamomile looks dainty, it is a pretty tenacious grower and does well in cooler climates. It likes full sun and well-drained, sandy loam with good fertility and organic matter. This annual will readily self-seed; however, self seeded beds are often interspersed with weed seeds that chamomile will not out-compete. This can be problematic and make harvesting difficult. For production, it’s good to start with a clean, weed-free seedbed and replant each season.
Chamomile can be direct-seeded using a broadcast or precision seeder in fall or early spring. Because chamomile will not outcompete or smother weeds, it is important to be proactive with weed control. Broadcast seeds at a rate of approximately four to sixteen ounces per acre. Chamomile can also be grown from transplanted plugs. The seeds are light dependent germinators and should be sown on the surface or covered lightly with potting mix.
Plant spacing for chamomile is eight to ten inches between plants within a row, with fourteen inches between rows, and three rows per bed. Once established, chamomile will readily spread to fill in the spaces between plants, making a nice full bed of blossoms.
Chamomile is a medicinal herb that is widespread popularity and recognition. Chamomile is a tasty nervine that has calming effects on both the nervous and digestive system. Chamomile is an anti-inflammatory, a mild sedative, and bitter. It has antiseptic properties and is used topically in washes for skin, eyes, and mouth. The essential oil of chamomile is prized for cosmetic purposes and often found in creams, oils, and salves. When brewed in tea it is delicious and brings a sense of well-being; those sweet little blossoms lighten the spirit and restore peace. Chamomile can also be formulated with other herbs and take in extract form as a digestive, a sleep aid, and an overall nerve tonic.
Chamomile flowers are, by and large, picked individually by hand, raked by a blossom comb, or cut from the stem. Each method has benefits and issues. We prefer using a chamomile rake, combing each plant carefully and removing as many of the individual blossoms as possible.
Post Harvest Drying Conditions
Chamomile blossoms are not difficult to dry, but they do contain more water than most herbs and care should be taken to ensure the center is completely dry. To this end, dry at low temperatures with excellent airflow and limited exposure to light. Temperatures from 85 to 95 degrees F work well. To check for dryness select several blossoms and break them apart. When dried completely chamomile comes apart easily but is not overly crumbly or desiccated.
Pests and Diseases
Chamomile does not attract many pests and diseases. Crop rotations and good cultivation practices are recommended to avoid any pest and disease issues that may rise.