Chamomile is well known for its pleasant and comforting taste as an herbal tea, but did you know it’s also an excellent addition to the garden?
Just imagine dainty white and yellow flowers swaying in the breeze, nuzzled between clambering cucumber vines and vibrant green lettuce heads. Not only do its lovely little flowers create a beautiful contrast amongst the green foliage, but it also benefits the surrounding plants in several ways.
From deterring pests and diseases to attracting pollinators and predatory insects, chamomile is a great companion plant for herb and vegetable gardens.
We’ll dive into its many garden benefits below and then detail some of its top companion plants. But before we do, learning the growing conditions chamomile prefers is worthwhile. That way, you’ll be sure to grow happy and healthy chamomile companion plants!
Roman Vs. German Chamomile
The growing requirements for chamomile depend on the type of chamomile you grow.
There are two common types of chamomile: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Both types are favored for their sweet-scented flower heads used in herbal preparations.
However, these plants differ in their growing requirements as German chamomile is a short-lived annual that is spindly and branching, while Roman chamomile is a small, herbaceous, creeping perennial reaching up to 1 foot tall when flowering.
Because of its low stature and spreading habits, Roman chamomile is favored in many British gardens as an ornamental ground cover between stones and walkways.
German chamomile also produces more blooms and blooms more often, making it the preferred species to gain a substantial harvest.
Furthermore, Roman chamomile is more sensitive than chamomile in that it won’t do well in warmer climates (with hot summer days continuously above 80 degrees).
Because of this (and the fact I don’t have experience growing Roman chamomile myself), this article will be concerned with the growing requirements, garden benefits, and plant companions of German chamomile.
German Chamomile Growth and Care
Once established, chamomile is easy to grow and care for. It can grow in zones 3-8 and prefers a soil pH range of 6-8 (7-7.5 is optimal).
It thrives in well-drained, moist garden soil with low to moderate fertility. Avoid rich and heavy fertile soil, as studies show loamy soils produce the most vibrant crops.
Chamomile is best started from seed, either directly in the garden or in seed trays.
If started directly in the garden, it’s best to sow it in early spring (temperatures averaging 40-50℉) as chamomile prefers cooler temperatures to germinate.
As a light-dependent germinator, sow it shallowly on the soil surface and tamp firmly.
If you prefer to start it in trays, I’ve had the best germination results by leaving the trays outside in the cool spring temperatures (40-50℉), as inside temperatures are usually too warm to germinate.
Transplant or thin when it reaches 1-2 inches tall; it’s best to transplant them when they’re still young, as chamomile’s shallower root system is sensitive to disturbance.
In zones 5b-8, chamomile prefers part shade, especially during the heat of the day. This shade will prolong its blooming season.
In cooler climates (zones 2-5), it can grow in full sun as long as summertime temperatures don’t average 90 degrees or higher (if so, it will be happiest with some shade).
As a self-seeding annual, chamomile will return yearly if the growing site is correctly cared for and you leave enough flower heads to go to seed.
German chamomile is an excellent companion plant for vegetables and herbs alike. It benefits the garden through its ability to deter pests and diseases and attract beneficial predatory insects and pollinators.
Numerous sources say it releases chemicals in the soil that enhance the flavor and growth of surrounding plants. However, take that with a grain of salt. As I couldn’t find any substantial evidence, I’ll add my two cents on those eye-brow-raising claims.
Pest and Disease Deterrent
The most significant benefit of chamomile is its ability to deter pests and prevent the spread of fungal diseases.
It can do this through the flower’s high volatile oil content. These volatile oils, known as aromatic compounds, give chamomile its strong, apple-sweet scent.
Because the aroma of chamomile flowers is so strong, it can help mask the scent of vegetables, especially members of the brassicas family, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
This scent will dissuade and confuse pests looking for these vegetables, such as cabbage worms, cabbage moths, cabbage loopers, and spider mites.
Chamomile’s rich volatile oils contain anti-septic and anti-fungal properties. Not only does this make it a valuable medicinal plant, but it also helps protect nearby plants from fungal diseases.
Attracts Beneficial Insects
Chamomiles bright and happy flowers attract many pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other small pollinators. Because some vegetables require fertilization to produce a crop, chamomile intermixed with your vegetables can increase fruit and vegetable production, such as with beans, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Because of chamomile’s unique aromatic compounds, it also attracts beneficial predatory insects that prey on common garden pests.
Chamomile attracts ladybugs, damsel bugs, hoverflies, lacewings, and even praying mantis’!
By attracting these predatory insects, chamomile further protects its vegetable neighbors, as all those insects (except for praying mantis) prey on harmful pests such as aphids, white flies, spider mites, and mealy bugs.
Damsel bugs specifically prey on cabbage worms and other caterpillars, while praying mantis prey on most large insects, such as squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and caterpillars, making it a precious garden ally!
Enhances Vegetable Flavor and Crop Production…&Nbsp;
Several sources claim that chamomile releases beneficial compounds in the soil that increase nearby crop production and enhance the flavor of those crops. I’m not exactly sure where that source comes from, which makes me guess it’s a folk benefit of chamomile that’s been passed down.
I’m not one to dismiss folk benefits, but I also can’t find any scientific evidence proving this claim. Again, just because there isn’t scientific evidence doesn’t mean it’s not true; just know this benefit of chamomile may or may not be factual.
In a way, that’s exciting, as it means each one of us can now experiment and see if we notice (firsthand) if chamomile truly enhances the flavor and production of nearby crops.
That said, the closest evidence I could find to these claims is that the volatile oils of German chamomile act as nitrification inhibitors or urease inhibitors.
Essentially, this means certain compounds in chamomile flowers, when extracted and put in the soil, can prevent the evaporation of nitrogen. Thus, it reduces nitrogen loss, making more nitrogen available to crops and promoting higher crop yields.
However, as far as I can find, these compounds are not released into the soil via chamomile’s roots; they are in the flower’s aromatic compounds.
So, if you were to use chamomile as a green mulch or manure when it’s in full bloom, then you may be able to reap these benefits in your home garden.
10 Best Chamomile Companion Plants
The good news is that chamomile is a happy companion for several different vegetables and herbs. While it has many good companions, some plants have a deep friendship with chamomile.
Let’s dive into those unique plants.
1. Brassicas Family Plants
Brassicas plants stand out because chamomile specifically deters the pests that go after these vegetables through its strong aromatic oils. Plants in the Brassicas family include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and bok choy.
If intermixing chamomile with these plants, I recommend planting it behind the other vegetables. That way, these plants can also benefit chamomile by providing it some shade during the heat of the day, as many of these plants grow taller than chamomile.
Be sure to give plenty of space between the chamomile and brassica plants, especially cabbage and cauliflower, as they can quickly overpower chamomile’s delicate stature.
Cucumbers are also benefited from chamomile’s ability to attract beneficial predatory insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies. Cucumbers are susceptible to aphids – the main prey of lacewings and ladybugs.
Cucumbers are also susceptible to cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Chamomile’s aromatic compounds may dissuade these pests from causing damage to your cucumber plants.
Plus, chamomile will attract pollinators to cucumber flowers, enhancing your cucumber yield.
Other sources claim chamomile enhances the flavor of cucumbers. Again, it’s up to you to discover whether this is true!
3. Fruit Trees
A traditional method for preventing fungal diseases in fruit trees is to plant chamomile around them. This is especially true for apple trees and peach trees, where it’s said farmers would plant chamomile around their base.
Speaking of my above theory about chamomile nitrification inhibitors, I would like to know if chamomile green mulch or manure would significantly benefit fruit trees.
With its unique nitrification inhibitors and anti-fungal properties, it could provide more nitrogen to the tree (along with the other minerals found in its leaves) and give the tree roots with anti-fungal compounds.
Beans and chamomile are favorable companions as they have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Chamomile helps attract pollinators and predatory insects while dissuading pests, and beans support the future chamomile generations by releasing nitrogen into the soil.
Chamomile plants are self-seeding annuals, so they will continue to return if given the right conditions. Because of this, last year’s beans will support the growth of these young chamomiles and the future vegetables that take their place.
5. Onions and Garlic
Even though chamomile isn’t prone to pests or diseases, it is not invincible and can experience fungal blights and aphid attacks.
In this way, chamomile benefits from other plants emitting pest-deterring aromas and has anti-fungal properties, such as garlic, onions, and chives.
Chamomile then benefits onions and garlic by attracting predatory insects that help protect those plants from certain pests.
6. Culinary Herbs
Like onions and garlic, aromatic culinary herbs can form a great relationship with chamomile. Chamomile will attract pollinators and predatory insects that will protect the culinary herbs, and the culinary herbs will add further anti-fungal protection for the chamomile.
Examples of good culinary companions for chamomile include thyme, sage, basil, parsley, and rosemary.
7. Perennial Flowers
Aromatic Perennial and ornamental flowers form a mutually beneficial relationship with chamomile, as both attract beneficial insects and deter pests.
Ornamental and medicinal herbs such as yarrow, calendula, marigold, borage, and bee balm can help protect chamomile from aphids and fungal diseases.
Because chamomile is self-sowing, it will return year after year in your perennial flower bed; just make sure to plant it with other flowers that prefer part-shade and moist soil.
Chamomile and strawberries make good companions, as they don’t interfere too much with each other’s space. In fact, chamomile grows quite well between strawberry’s creepy vines, and the spreading strawberry helps to keep the soil cool for the chamomile.
Plus, chamomile attracts predatory insects and pollinators, which benefits the strawberry plant. They are also absolutely lovely together and complement each other’s beauty.
As long as there is enough space between them, tomatoes and chamomile can make a marvelous pair.
Chamomile will promote tomato production by attracting beneficial insects and pollinators and help dissuade pests from juicy ripe tomatoes!
The tomatoes, if positioned well, can give chamomile much-needed shade during the heat of the day.
Just be sure to space them far enough apart, as tomato plants can quickly overpower chamomile.
Along with attracting pollinators to potato flowers, some sources claim chamomile can help reduce the spread of Colorado beetles, which can significantly damage potatoes (and tomatoes). Because of this, they are a helpful companion for your potatoes.
For this purpose, you should have chamomile next to them in a pot to protect them from the dirt continuously piled on the potato patches!
3 Plants To Avoid Next To Chamomile
Few plants wouldn’t be good companions for chamomile, as it would happily get along with various vegetables and herbs. In this way, it’s easier to think about conditions that wouldn’t be suitable for chamomile.
I would avoid placing chamomile near plants that require nitrogen-rich soil, such as corn. Be mindful of large, quick-growing plants, such as squashes, that can easily take over the chamomile.
You also want to consider nutrient-hungry vegetables you’re growing as they could outcompete chamomile for nutrients. That said, chamomile doesn’t require many nutrients but is more prone to pests and diseases if nutrient deficient.
While chamomile gets along with a variety of plants, there are a select few that you should avoid planting with chamomile. These include…
Not only does fennel grow quite large and can easily displace small chamomile plants, but it also inhibits the growth of other plants around it. Because of this, it’s best to avoid planting chamomile near fennel.
It’s recommended to avoid planting chamomile next to carrots as some claim it can actually attract the harmful carrot root fly. This fly is drawn to the scent of carrot roots, and its larvae will eat the carrots.
Chamomile doesn’t mask the scent of carrots well enough to dissuade this pest and may perpetuate the issue.
Because mint spreads by runners and forms dense colonies, it’s generally recommended to avoid planting chamomile with mint, as mint will quickly take over and outcompete the chamomile.
The Truth About Chamomile As a Companion Plant
While there’s no denying the benefits of chamomile as a companion plant, it’s also important to know that this plant isn’t invincible.
In my research, I came across source after source that claimed chamomile deterred pests such as aphids and wasn’t affected by fungal diseases.
This isn’t true – chamomile is just as susceptible to aphid attacks just as any other plant. It can also be subject to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew. It is especially vulnerable to these things if it doesn’t have adequate airflow and is nutrient deficient.
Diversity is vital to any healthy garden. By intermixing various plants, including vegetable crops and aromatic flowers, you can create a biodiverse environment that helps dissuade pests and prevents widespread fungal diseases.
This way, chamomile is just one of the many beneficial garden companions you should add to your vegetable and herb patches.
Chamomile: the Plant Of Many Benefits
Chamomile is a gift to the garden in so many ways. As we’ve seen in this article, it’s an excellent companion plant for a variety of plants by helping to attract pollinators and dissuade pests.
Plus, it’s easy to grow and a wonderful medicinal herb to have on hand to harvest your own chamomile tea from.
Whether you grow it for tea or to benefit your garden (or both), I’m confident you’ll be delighted with growing chamomile in your garden.
And who knows, maybe placing it next to your vegetables will produce tastier and juicer crops. It’s up to you to try it for yourself and see what you discover!
As an herbalist, my goal is to connect people with the healing powers of nature. Through my writings and herbal concoctions, I aim to guide others toward a healthier lifestyle using time-honored methods. With over four years of experience studying herbalism and organic gardening, I offer my knowledge to inspire others to explore the natural world, cultivate their own gardens, and rediscover their bond with the earth.