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 Information

Common chamomile, (Chamaemelum nobile), should not be confused with German chamomile, (Matricaria recutita), a similar annual plant also often sold as chamomile. Both of these plants are used medicinally and to make teas but only the former will remain in place in a garden over multiple years. 

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.

Care Tips for Chamomile

The care required for chamomile will of course depend in part on where you are growing it and for what purpose. For example, when growing chamomile as a lawn, you may not need it to flower or this might not be a top priority, while you will obviously want to encourage good flowering if you are growing chamomile to make a chamomile tea, or to attract beneficial insects to your garden. 


It is important to keep chamomile well-watered, especially over the summer months. Plants in a container will, of course, dry out more quickly and so must be watched especially carefully in warm weather. Raise pots up to allow the water to drain out freely – this is especially important as you move into winter as in the colder months, roots kept in excessive moisture may rot.


Weeding can be important when growing chamomile as these are not plants that can cope with much competition. Weeding is especially important if you wish to establish a chamomile lawn. Before sowing or planting a lawn, therefore, it is important to weed thoroughly before you begin. 


Remember, chamomile needs full sun. so you need not only to find a sunny spot to place chamomile but also to ensure that other plants do not shade out the chamomile as the garden matures. 


Soil for chamomile, remember, needs to be free-draining. It needs to not dry out entirely, nor become waterlogged in wet weather. Making sure that the soil is rich in organic matter will help ensure the right growing conditions. 

Temperature and Humidity 

Common chamomile is fully hardy (with an RHS hardiness rating of H7) and the same is true of German chamomile. Both plants can cope with the full range of temperatures experienced in the UK. Excessively humid environments are not ideal for either of these plants. 


Even in poor soil, you do not typically need to feed chamomile plants. 

Cutting Back 

If a chamomile plant becomes leggy, you can clip it back lightly if you desire in order to encourage bushiness. Frequently harvesting flowers will encourage the plants to produce more. 

In chamomile lawns where dwarf types were used no clipping will usually be needed, but some work will be required especially at first to keep the area weed free. 


Flowering types are most easily propagated by seed, while non-flowering types used for lawns can be propagated by means of division of established mats in the autumn or in the spring. 

Potting and Repotting Chamomile 

If you wish to grow chamomile in a container then the container should be at least 30cm wide so that it does not dry out too quickly. But remember that potted plants still need to be watered a lot more frequently than those growing in the ground.


Common chamomile is a perennial and it will overwinter easily in your garden. Foliage will usually die back but new foliage will come back the following spring. 

Remember however that German chamomile is an annual plant that will die after it has flowered and set seed. It will not remain in your garden for multiple years. 

Harvesting Chamomile

You can gather the flowers of your chamomile as soon as they open over the summer months. The flowers are best used fresh though can be stored for later use. When used fresh the flowers give the tea a sweet and slight apple taste that is not clear with dried tea.

How to Make Chamomile Tea

The flowers are simply steeped in boiling water for a few minutes to make tea. Typically, to make a tea, between 2 and 4 tbsp of fresh flowers are used. Simply place the flowers into boiling water, allow them to sit and steep for a few minutes, then strain and drink the tea. 

You can also add other ingredients if you wish to make different herbal teas, many of which have several health benefits.

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. 

Common Problems for Chamomile

Chamomile is generally not a plant that encounters many serious pest or disease problems. Most problems that arise do so because of issues with the environmental conditions or care. Make sure, in particular, that plants do not dry out too much in summer, or become waterlogged at any point. 

However, though serious pest problems are not common, chamomile can be plagued by slugs and snails, or aphids, especially when young. So look out for these and use organic pest control methods such as boosting biodiversity, companion planting, and physical barriers where necessary. 

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. 


Does Chamomile Come Back Every Year?
Is Chamomile Easy To Grow?
Can You Grow Chamomile In The UK?
Where Is The Best Place To Plant Chamomile?


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

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growing chamomile in a polytunnel