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Feverfew Growing & Common Mistakes

Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium) is a super successful herb that can grow happily on wastelands or the edge of gardens. Ours is lovely and we allow a large patch of our garden to become a wildlife garden, trust me though this is not a straight forward herb!

Feverfew is easy to grow and will appreciate a loamy soil with full or partial sunlight. It can be a perennial in mild climates and be a self-seeder and act as an annual in colder zones. It is tempting to use it to fill borders, however it will deter bees from visiting local plants as well!

How To Grow Feverfew

white petals yellow bud and green leaves feverfew is a tasty herb
Feverfew has parsley shaped leaves that are yellowing.
  1. The tiny seeds of feverfew Tanacetum Parthenium, are most suitable for growing directly where they are to grow or into biodegradable pots. Wait until the fear of frost has passed (we cannot always be sure so make sure you have the ability to protect tender seedlings).
  2. Pick a spot outside where they will get full sun to partial shade. Whatever you do, avoid planting near to herbs or plants that rely on pollinators to fruit. Bees will be deterred by feverfew and avoid adjacent flowers as well sadly.
  3. As the seeds are so tiny, no cover will be needed. Simply sprinkle in the pot or onto the ground and then water with a fine nozzle on the watering can or a mister if in pots. This will stop the seeds from being displaced by the water and clustering when they grow.
  4. Put the seed pots into a heated propagator.
  5. Two weeks later germination should take place.
  6. Wait a few more weeks before transplanting to the ground where they are to grow.
  7. Prepare soil by digging in loamy soil. Place the seedling, pot and all into the ground spaced about 30cm apart.
  8. Frosts don’t seem too much of an issue in the UK and US zones 5-10. If you know that you have a harsh frost coming cover with a transportable mini poly tunnel.

During colder Winters the feverfew will die back, in warmer climates it will happily act as a perennial. In more mainland Europe we have known it act as an evergreen.

How Do You Use Fresh Feverfew

Fresh feverfew leaves can be used directly in herbal teas. We have a simple infuser that you can carry and fill straight from the garden. A little goes a long way! Too much feverfew consumed at once has been thought to lead to mouth ulcers and numbness.

But what does feverfew taste like? Sadly it does not taste very nice. It is extremely bitter and a few leaves will go into our infuser with a whole lot more in the way of lemon balm, lavender, mint and rosehip! Then add honey, like a lot of honey! The smell is a strong citrus one so we do not tend to blend it with other heavy citrus flavors like lemon verbena.

As a result of that bitter flavor, health food stores have taken to selling dried feverfew leaves as capsules with a controlled measurement of the medicinal herb used.

Using Feverfew As A Bug Repellent

We use feverfew to deter bugs. To make it into a repellent you can just move it around in containers and it grows very well in larger pots.

A word of caution here as feverfew is so repellent to bees that even planting it near to plants that rely on bees for pollination can be risky. The fever few plant produces pyrethrin, a natural insecticide. It has a strong citrus aroma almost like a citronella and will deter any insects. So by all means grow in pots and keep them in your outdoor eating area.

Just be very aware of other plants!

Feverfew pinterest
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Why Would You Take Feverfew

People do take it to ease symptoms of the following ailments, but medical treatment must always be your first line of attack against illnesses.

  • fever
  • migraines
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • arthritis
  • a skin disorder such as psoriasis
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • dizziness such as vertigo
  • nausea and vomiting.

For us it really is worth noting that herbal remedies are a great supplement to modern medicines. Only when you inform your medical practitioner as there are side effect to taking herbal remedies.

One of the most common mistakes we see are people using it interchangeably with chamomile, when in fact they are two very different plants.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Feverfew and Chamomile

feverfew vs chamomile

We grow both chamomile and feverfew in our garden and often get asked how we tell the difference between the two. For us it is quite easy to see why the question is being raised as at first glance they look to have the same size and shape of daisy like flowers, however the differences are there once you know what you are looking for!

Chrysathemum Family, hence the name ‘mum’ which is sometimes used.Daisy family,
The leaves are edible and the flowers are unpleasant and inedibleThe flowers and the leaves are edible, but the leaves are bitter. The flowers taste like a gentle apple flavor and are perfect in herbal teas.
Heavy citrus scent and produces pyrethrin which repels bees and bugs. This makes it a non-bee friendly herb!Little natural aroma, until steeped in hot water. Chamomile attracts bees and other pollinators.
Strong stems with a mature plant reaching a height of up to 70cm.Gentle, floppy foliage that can be ground cover or even used in hanging baskets. Maximum height would be probably around 30cm.
Leaves are almost yellow and rather thick, so they snap if you try to break them.Leaves are almost tendrils and a lovely green verdant color.
Perennial, often grown as an annual, but will also happily self seed.Roman Chamomile is a perennial, but German chamomile is an annual.

What Next?

Grow feverfew in areas where other herbs may not flourish. Make sure to keep it away from your plants that need pollinators.

Let us know how you get on with it!

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