Can you tell the difference between German and Roman Chamomile plants? German and Roman chamomile share a name and a fragrance, but otherwise, they’re rather different plants. Read on to learn about the requirements and benefits of each.
Both German and Roman chamomile have delicate, finely divided leaves and tiny daisy-like flowers laden with aromatic oils. Their appearance is similar, but their growing habits and their uses are quite different.
German vs Roman Chamomile – Key Differences
Here is a quick recap of the primary differences between German chamomile and Roman chamomile plants.
|Height and Habit||1-3 feet high, |
Upright clumping stems
|Low growing, creeping|
|Sun||Full Sun||Full Sun or Part Shade|
|Spacing||12 inches||2-4 inches|
|Flowers||Taller and hollow yellow centers||Shorter, solid yellow center|
|Fine and feathery, |
Hairy single stems
|Location||Front of the garden bed,|
Turf or Lawn Replacement
|Well Suited For|
|Latin Name||Matricaria recutita or|
Now, let’s take a closer look at each plant so you can decide what you want for your garden.
German chamomile’s Latin names are Matricaria recutita, Matricaria chamomilla, and Chamomilla recutita.
German chamomile is a tender annual plant that must be started from seed each year after frost, or started inside and transplanted out after frost. I have found that it will self-seed in a relatively weed-free bed. So you may choose to grow it in a small corner and let the flowerheads spread their seeds naturally in your garden.
Its upright branching stems, which tend to clump together in mounds, grow from 1 to 3 feet high. Mine has usually stayed at the lower end of that range. The yellow centers of German chamomile blossoms are tall and hollow. The plant is widely adapted, growing in zones 2-8.
The North Carolina Extension office recommends that German chamomile plants require less than 12” of space (mine often get much less). It also says that German chamomile prefers either clayey or loam soil, but German chamomile thrives in my sandy garden. German chamomile thrives in full sun and in well-drained soil.
German chamomile can also be grown indoors. This is not recommended for Roman chamomile.
For more information on growth habits, see our article on growing German chamomile plants from seed or as seedlings in the garden.
Uses for German Chamomile
German chamomile flowers contain aromatic oils that are more potent than those of their Roman counterpart. They are also less prone to developing a bitter flavor.
German chamomile can be steeped in water to make a flavorful and soothing tea that can help the drinker fall asleep. Sarah Garland and Mother Earth News also suggest that it can be steeped in water to make a rinse for sore eyes, or infused in oil to make a soothing rub for aching muscles.
German chamomile is also used in potpourris and in rinses for blond hair. Some research suggests that oil made with German chamomile may have anti-inflammatory properties that soothe burns or allergic rashes.
Chamomile in general is said to be a good companion plant. It improves the flavor of onions and cabbage-family plants growing nearby. Chamomile also attracts beneficial insects, including predatory wasps, robber flies, and hoverflies, which attack some of the insects that attack your herb and vegetable plants.
The Idaho Extension office doesn’t indicate which type of chamomile is better for this, though Roman chamomile is known to attract ladybugs and pollinators.
Roman chamomile, also called English chamomile, is Chamaemelum nobile, formerly Anthemis nobilis, in Latin. The Roman variety has also been referred to as the true chamomile in gardening circles.
Roman chamomile is a perennial which will regrow year after year. It can be propagated by seed or by plant divisions.
Roman chamomile’s stems tend to creep along the ground rather than standing up. The yellow centers of Roman chamomile flowers are flatter and more solid than those of German chamomile. It is less cold-hardy than German chamomile, thriving in zones 4-9. (Sarah Garland, also )
The North Carolina Extension recommends spacing Roman chamomile plants very tightly, every 2-4 inches. They say that Roman chamomile prefers soil that is either sandy or loamy, will grow in full sun or part shade and is drought-resistant. But the Clemson, SC Extension notes that it can also grow well in moderately moist soil.
Uses of Roman Chamomile
Roman chamomile makes a dense, springy, aromatic turf that was used for walks and lawns in England in earlier centuries and is still often used in paths or borders. It copes well with being trodden on, whereas German chamomile is rather more fragile.
Roman chamomile also may be used in tea, though its soothing properties are weaker and its flavor bitterer than German chamomile. Sarah Garland reports that in Spain its bitter flowers are used to flavor sherry. Its fragrant leaves can be dried and used in potpourri.
Roman chamomile is also a good companion plant. It improves the flavor of onions and brassicas that are grown nearby. It also attracts ladybugs and other beneficial insects which eat bugs that might otherwise eat your plants. Its flowers will also help to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden.
Which Chamomile Plant Will You Grow?
Either German or Roman chamomile can add fragrance and beneficial insects to your garden. Beyond that, each plant thrives in different conditions and offers different benefits for you to enjoy.
Think about your location and about what you want, and decide which type of chamomile works best for you. Or try them both and decide what suits you and your site.