Top of The Crops - Chamomile

Welcome to Top of the Crops - today, you will learn how to grow chamomile in a polytunnel. For more gardening insights, be sure to check out our blog Polytunnel Gardening too!

Growing Chamomile In A Polytunnel

Chamomile is a fragrant herb and could be a good addition to your polytunnel, either in a container or direct in the soil, perhaps amidst other herbs. 

It could be a good choice not only due to its use in teas but also due to its credentials as a good companion plant – chamomile is said to increase the essential oils in a number of other herbs. Chamomile may also help to attract beneficial insects into your polytunnel and reduce pest problems.

Key Info about Chamomile

Chamomile is widely known because of its tea, but did you know that there loads of other factors to consider about chamomile too:

  • Common names: Chamomile, German chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Barnyard daisy
  • Scientific name: Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile
  • Plant family: Asteraceae 
  • Type of plant: Annual, perennial
  • Size: 8-24 inches tall; 8-12 inches wide
  • Sun: Full
  • Soil: Well-drained
  • pH: Neutral
  • Blossom: Summer
  • Flower colour: White
  • Native continent: Europe

Knowing these factors will help you to better understand chamomile plants and the correct growing conditions for them going forward.

Choosing Chamomile

When choosing chamomile you should think about which of the above species you actually wish to grow. You will also need to decide where you wish to grow chamomile, as the setting will also determine which variety is best for you. 

Chamomiles can be grown from seed, or purchased as young plants. In addition to many sold simply as 'chamomile' there are also a few named varieties. 

The Preferred Conditions for Chamomile

Chamomile needs a location in full sun. These plants need a soil or growing medium that is free-draining, and which does not dry out entirely or get saturated and waterlogged. 

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Chamomile seeds are sown in spring, and it is best to sow some time in May to plant out in June. Fortunately, both common Chamomile and German chamomile are easy to grow from seed, though some named cultivars are only available as young plants rather than seeds. You can plant indoors or outside directly where the plants are to grow. 

Sowing Indoors

If you decide to sow chamomile seeds indoors, sow the seeds onto the surface of a suitable seed starting compost in small pots or seed trays, covering them only lightly. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, you should then prick them out and pot them on into their own individual pots. 

Sowing outdoors

If you decide to sow outdoors, make sure that the soil is warm before doing so. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil as they do need light to germinate. 

Make sure you protect the seedlings from slugs and snails, water then regularly but carefully, and if necessary, thin the seedlings to give an eventual spacing of around 15-20cm between plants. 

How to Plant Chamomile

Whether you have grown the young plants from seed yourself at home or purchased young plants from a garden centre or plant nursery, these can be planted out into your garden in June. 

Make sure that you have chosen a suitable spot. Remember, chamomile needs a site in full sun, with a free-draining soil or growing medium. Space plants 15-20cm apart in beds or borders, or perhaps as close as 10cm apart when trying to create a chamomile lawn as dwarf plants are frequently used for this purpose. 

Where to Grow Chamomile

Chamomile can be grown in the ground, in raised beds or in containers. It can be grown alone, with other herbs that like similar conditions, or perhaps as a companion plant for fruit or vegetable crops. 

Chamomile is not just grown as a herb for teas, or as a companion plant in a food producing area, it is also grown on a larger scale to create whole lawns. 

This tradition comes from the fact that, historically, chamomile was a strewing herb. Though not well suited to a high-traffic area, a chamomile lawn could make a lovely addition to a quieter portion of a sunny garden.

How to Care for Chamomile

Caring for chamomile plants is simple, making them an excellent addition to your garden. Here’s a breakdown to keep your chamomile thriving:


Regularly water potted chamomile plants, ensuring that they are well-drained as this will prevent waterlogged compost. Full grown plants generally need watering only during dry spells. 


Trim chamomile plants regularly to maintain bushy growth and prevent them from becoming leggy. This simple step keeps your chamomile healthy and aesthetically pleasing.

Chamomile Companion Plants

Chamomile thrives in vegetable gardens, meaning that you can pair it with companion vegetables such as potatoes, leeks, kohlrabi, and various cabbages. It also pairs well with nasturtium, offering protection against fungi and pests. However, avoid planting chamomile alongside peppermint, as their chemical benefactors can hinder each other’s growth.


As mentioned, chamomile prefers rich, organic soil. While it can survive in poorer soil, this may result in more delicate stems. Chamomile isn’t overly picky about soil pH, preferring a neutral range between 5.6 to 7.5.


Both varieties of chamomile, Roman and German, thrive in either full sun or partial shade. Full sun allows for better flowering, but in hot climates, providing some afternoon shade can protect the delicate blooms from scorching.


Chamomile typically grows and flowers well without the need for additional fertilisation. 


Keep seedlings and young chamomile plants free of weeds to minimise competition and help them establish themselves. Follow our guide for further advice on how to get rid of weeds in a polytunnel.

Temperature and Humidity

Chamomile is adaptable to various summer temperatures but prefers moderate conditions between 60 to 68° F (15°C to 20°C). Chamomile is not well-suited for excessively humid environments due to its drought-tolerant nature.


Chamomile generally doesn’t require fertiliser; it naturally thrives and grows without the need for additional nutrients.

Cutting Back

To prevent common chamomile from becoming leggy, trim it back multiple times during the growing season. This practice allows for a more compact, dense, and bushy appearance.
If you’re growing a chamomile lawn, the non-flowering ‘Treneague’ variety stays naturally low to the ground and doesn’t require regular trimming. However, if you’re growing flowering chamomile as a lawn, trim it back in late summer to remove spent blooms and taller stems.


You can collect seeds from common and German chamomile for new plant growth. Additionally, they may self-seed, allowing you to transplant seedlings in late spring or early summer to preferred locations. Note that German chamomile is an annual, meaning that it will begin dying off once it sets seed.

Varieties like ‘Treneague’ and ‘Flore Pleno‘ cannot be grown from seed but can be propagated by dividing established mats in either autumn or spring, helping you expand your chamomile lawn or fill any gaps.


If your chamomile plants become leggy or spindly midseason, cut the stems down about 4 inches from the soil line, using sterilised pruners. Trimming after the first flower harvest encourages new growth and more flower production. Harvest fresh flowers as they bloom for use in tea or deadhead faded blooms to promote new buds to grow. 

Potting and Repotting Chamomile

Chamomile can be grown in containers with a depth of at least 6 inches, provided they have enough drainage holes. Use well-draining potting soil enriched with fertiliser, ensuring it’s pre-moistened for optimal growth. 
When transplanting chamomile, check that the plant is measured around 2 to 3 inches in height. Older seedlings do not transition well, and avoid transplanting during the active flowering phase.


If you live in an area that is vulnerable to frost, make sure to protect your chamomile plants properly. Potted German chamomile plants should be moved indoors during winter to safeguard them against freezing temperatures. 
Roman chamomile, (hardiness zone 4), can withstand colder conditions but requires protection from harsh, drying winds. Planting it near a wall can serve as an effective windbreak. If Roman chamomile is potted, wrapping the pot with jute can prevent the soil within from freezing.

How to Harvest Chamomile

Harvest chamomile flowers as needed, and frequent picking stimulates the growth of more flowers. If you do not intend to use your chamomile straightaway, drying the flowers is a better option. Lay them out on a tray or similar surface in a warm, dry spot, away from direct sunlight, for a week or two. Once dried, store them in an airtight jar in a cool, dark location, such as in a cupboard.

Problems When Growing Chamomile

Whilst chamomile is a rather easy plant to grow, provided that it has plenty of sunlight and soil, it is still partial to certain problems, such as the following: 

  • Waterlogging: Soil or potting compost that becomes waterlogged can lead to plant rot, particularly in winter. Ensure proper drainage to prevent this issue.
  • Drying Out: Chamomile dislikes drying out in the summer, so consistent watering is essential during dry spells.
  • Pests: Watch out for slugs, snails, and aphids, especially when the plants are young. Protective measures such as physical removal or pinching affected shoots can help.
  • Chamomile Lawns: If your chamomile plant is walked on excessively, this can lead to it having problems such as extreme soil conditions (either too dry or too damp), or deprived of sufficient sunlight. Prevent weeds gathering in these gaps, which can mar the lawn’s appearance and shade out low-growing chamomile plants. Purchase new plants in spring or divide thriving clumps to fill gaps and extend your lawn.

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How to Make Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is renowned for its easy digestion and health benefits as well as its calming properties. Crafted using freshly harvested or dried chamomile flowers, it’s easy to make too:

  1. For fresh flowers, harvest a handful, rinse, and pat them dry.
  2. To avoid the presence of flower bits in your tea, use a tea infuser or an empty tea bag. Place the flowers inside and steep in hot water for about five minutes.
  3. Remove the infuser or bag, and your fragrant chamomile tea is ready to enjoy.

Varieties of Chamomile

As well as choosing between perennial common chamomile and annual German chamomile, you can also select some named cultivars. 

For example, a dwarf variety for lawns called Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’, and Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ - a compact and double-flowered varietal that can also be used for lawns. 

Advice on Buying Chamomile

When purchasing chamomile, consider using either German and Roman varieties, as they differ in height and growth characteristics.

Always read the instructions on the packet, and monitor your pot-grown plants for any signs of pests or disease.

You can purchase Chamomile plants from various garden centres, including ones available online:

Did you know that chamomile also makes for a great houseplant? Check out the best house plants for scent and wellbeing.

Top Tips for Growing Chamomile in a Polytunnel

Chamomile is, as mentioned above, a good companion for a wide range of aromatic herbs, as it can increase their essential oil production. So chamomile could be a great addition to a perennial herb garden or an annual herb garden in your polytunnel, depending on which type you have chosen to grow. 

There is also some suggestion that chamomile may also be a good companion for brassicas – cabbage family crops. So you may wish to consider growing chamomile alongside either annual or perennial members of the cabbage family. 

Chamomile also attracts beneficial predatory insects such as hoverflies and so could help to keep down infestations of aphids and other pests in your polytunnel, making them useful in general in a garden, but also making chamomile an appropriate companion plant for a number of other crops that can be plagued by these pests. 

Of course, in addition to thinking about why it could be beneficial to grow chamomile in a polytunnel garden, you also need to think about practicalities such as ensuring good ventilation in your polytunnel to make sure humidity does not get too high. 

Chamomile will be grateful not to be exposed to excessive rainfall and the potential for waterlogging, but remember that should not be allowed to dry out entirely and will need consistent watering throughout the growing season. So bear these things in mind when growing this useful herb in your polytunnel garden. 

Grow Your Own Chamomile Plant

In summary, growing a chamomile plant is relatively easy and just as rewarding. No matter whether you choose to grow a German or Roman chamomile plant, these hardy perennials require minimal care once established. With this in mind, when harvesting your chamomile to use as tea, you may find that it will taste better than if bought from the shop. 

Be sure to grow your own chamomile now, and come back to use and let us know your thoughts on how good your own chamomile tea tastes!

We have also recently produced a featured article about what is winnowing, if you are interested in how winnow seeds work.


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Klein, A., Gold, B.,  (2024) 8 Chamomile Tea Benefits for Your Body and Mind. Real Simple. [online] Available at [accessed 22/05/24]

Ashridge. (n.d.) Treneague Chamomile Plants. [online] Available at: [accessed 22/05/24]

Beth Chatto. (n.d.) Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno.’ [online] Available at: [accessed 22/05/24]

Common Chamomile. (n.d.) Roman Chamomile. Crocus. [online] Available at: [accessed 22/05/24]

‘Chamomile.’ (n.d.) Thompson & Morgan. [online] Available at: [accessed 22/05/24]

Laskaris, C., (2023) 7 House Plants For Scent and Wellbeing. Country Living. [online] Available at: [accessed 22/05/24]

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growing chamomile in a polytunnel