How to Grow Feverfew Herb from Seed
- Scientific Name: Tanacetum parthenium
- Hardiness Zone: Annual, Perennial to Zones 5-10
- Days to Harvest: 80-90 days
- Days to Maturity: 90 days
- Days to Germination: 10-14 days
- Seeding Depth: ¼”
- Plant Width: 12-18"
- Plant Height: 9-12"
- Growth Habit: Bushy, wide, and low-growing wildflower
- Soil Preference: Organic, loamy, sandy, well-drained
- Temp Preference: Temperate, 55-75°F
- Light Preference: Full sun
- Pests/Diseases: Wildflower tolerant of many pests and disease. Can be susceptible to aphids and asters yellow disease in some regions.
- Availability: See All Feverfew Varieties
Feverfew, native to southeastern Europe, is a perennial that is common to gardens. It is a part of the daisy (Asteraceae) family and is commonly found in gardens in the U.S. Feverfew’s flowers provide an attractive appearance to gardens, as their appearance is similar to daisies. The flowers are small, only a few inches in mass at most, with yellow centers covered in white petals. Feverfew has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for many ailments. Included in its common name, it is used to reduce fevers. It has also been used to treat headaches, pain from arthritis and headaches, and more. It is popularly used as a tincture and brewed to make a tea. The active ingredient in feverfew, called parthenolide, is currently being developed and tested for pharmaceutical application.
How to Grow Feverfew from Seed
- Make sure it receives plenty of sunlight
- Plant seeds no further than ¼” into soil
- Hardy and tenacious wildflower once established
When planting feverfew, it is important to plant it somewhere that receives a substantial amount of sunlight, particularly in its early growing stages such as germination. This is also why, when sowing seeds, it’s important to plant seeds no further than ¼” into the soil as sunlight helps the seeds germinate. Make sure that the soil is rich and loamy. For optimal growth, ensure that the plant is receiving enough water. Since feverfew prefers warmer temperatures and full sun, it may require watering multiple times a week so that the roots can receive enough moisture. Seeds are best sown in the spring after all frosting has passed, as feverfew is not very cold hardy and prefers warmer temperatures. If planting inside, seeds can be started earlier, about 6-8 weeks before the last projected frost. Feverfew prefers full sun and partial shade. It usually germinates within two weeks, around 10-14 days in total.
Feverfew prefers rich, loamy soil that is well-drained with a pH of 6.0 to 6.7. If growing in poor soil conditions, apply fertilizer to the soil prior to sowing seeds in the spring. Since feverfew grows long roots, it is important to make sure that the soil receives enough water to keep the roots growing. Keep an eye on the condition of the soil, as feverfew does not respond well to dry soil conditions, which causes it to wither. If no rain is present, feverfew may require watering a few times a week, between two and three times. If the ground is not soaking up enough water, consider adding some mulch to the base of the plant to better contain moisture in the ground as this will help its overall growth and maintenance. The soil does not necessarily require either fertilizer or mulch, but they can be helpful additions to its soil if needed.
- Water it consistently and evenly
- Allow soil to dry between waterings to avoid mold
- Wildflowers naturally have some drought tolerance
Feverfew prefers to be water consistently, as it requires enough to reach its roots. It may require to be watered a few times a week if the area has not experienced any rain during that time, around 2-3 times. Ensure that the soil is moist by checking with your fingertips. If the soil is dry, consider adding mulch to help lock in moisture. Since feverfew prefers warmer temperatures with full sun, this is part of the reason why it requires to be frequently watered as high temperatures and consistent sunlight can dry up soil fairly quickly. It also grows long roots that the water has to reach.
Is Feverfew A Perennial?
Feverfew is a perennial in USDA zones 5-10, that may behave like an annual in some colder climates. The varieties of feverfew that are grown as annuals die off in the winter and then germinate again in the spring. Because of feverfew’s sensitivity to cold, it is most often grown in warmer climates compared to others. Feverfew is considered to be a short-lived perennial, meaning that it has a shorter lifespan of usually 3-5 years. Once these years have passed, it will need re-planted and will require a full life cycle of sowing its seeds and allowing to germinate, mature, and die before it will have another 3–5-year lifespan within the following years.
Feverfew in Winter
- Most ornamental feverfew does not overwinter
- Can be brought indoors to winter
- Plant seeds in fall to cold-stratify during winter
Feverfew is highly sensitive to the cold and needs extra care in the wintertime, especially if it is kept outdoors. Feverfew is not considered to be a hardy plant but rather tender, as it does not fare well in wintry nor dry conditions. Feverfew can tolerate colder temperatures but not extreme nor frosting as these will cause the plant to die. However, depending on the zone, some wild feverfew may be able to tolerate temperatures up to -20°F but it is safer to not allow it in such temperatures. Feverfew in the winter does better if transferred to a pot and grow indoors, as this will protect it from frosting and freezing temperatures. In the winter, keep an eye on the condition of its soil as this can make or break it. Feverfew prefers moist soil but not too wet.
Growing Feverfew in Pots
Feverfew does well in pots, given that it receives enough water and sunlight. Feverfew thrives with full sun conditions and warm weather. If you decide to plant feverfew in a pot, make sure that the soil remains moist and well-drained as these are optimal conditions for its growth. Feverfew does not tolerate dry or overly saturated soil; it grows best in a rich loam mixture. Make sure that the pot has drain holes in it to ensure that no water gets trapped in the pot. Pots are known to quickly dry out soil, which may require more frequent watering of the feverfew.
How to Care for Feverfew Plants in Pots
- Feverfew is ideal for containers
- Make sure that it receives full sun and adequate watering
- A smaller container will stunt feverfew growth
Feverfew is similarly cared for in a pot as it is if planted in the ground. As long as it receives full sun and enough water to saturate its roots, it will thrive in a pot. Make sure that the pot it's planted in it is big enough for it and potential growth, up to 2 feet in height and width. The pot should also contain drain holes throughout the bottom so that the rich loam soil mixture can properly drain when watered. As long as these conditions are met, feverfew can easily thrive in a pot.
Growing Feverfew Indoors
Feverfew is usually grown outdoors, as it blooms in the summer and favors sunlight and warm weather. It can thrive in pots but is not commonly planted in them and closed indoors unless unfavorable weather conditions arise, such as frosting and snowing. Feverfew does not respond well to wintry weather conditions and may die due to them, which is why it is recommended to plant them after the threat of frost has happened in the spring. It is known for being outdoors and thriving in sunny conditions outside but can easily thrive indoors with modifications.
Feverfew Companion Planting
Feverfew is a good companion plant as it repels many insects naturally. Due to its scent, it may be able to mask other plants such as vegetables, from pests that eat through them. Feverfew pairs well with herbs such as mint and thyme. Both of these herbs, part of the mint family, are also deterrents for insects. Mint deters aphids and spider mites, two of the pests that feverfew may be affected by. Since feverfew repels insects, it is important to not plant it in gardens bees come to pollinate as it is not bee-friendly and will deter them since bees are not fond of its citrus scent. Feverfew may also be planted near roses to keep aphids away.
Feverfew flowers are small and daisy-like. They are very attractive to the eye and have been confused for chamomile, as they are similar in appearance and size. Feverfew flowers have bright yellow centers that are surrounded by small, white petals. The flowers are typically only about an inch to two in mass. The scent of feverfew flowers is regarded by some as being citrusy, while others claim it smells bitter. The flowers are completely edible like the rest of the plant and are even used as flavoring in some pastries to add a depth of bitterness. A bitter tea may also be made from these flowers.
Feverfew harvesting usually takes place in the plant's second year during mid-summer, as this is when its flowers have fully bloomed, and this produces a higher yield of harvested material. The leaves may be harvested at any time, however. When harvesting, be sure to not remove more than a third of the plant at a time so that it will continue to grow. Feverfew is best harvested at mid-morning. Its flowers and leaves carry a strong citrus scent, which is said to be strongest right before the flowers bloom. To harvest feverfew, cut the stems, being careful to not remove too much of the plant at once. The plant should be ready for harvesting again in a few weeks, if at least two-thirds of it is left to continue growing. It usually grows flowers until the end of September.
When to Harvest Feverfew
- When its flowers have fully bloomed
- In mid-morning, after dew has dried
- When plant is mature enough to safely harvest a third of its overall mass
How to Harvest Feverfew
Feverfew is harvested by cutting stems with scissors or garden shears. They may also be hand-plucked if no scissors are available, but it is safer to use scissors to avoid possibly damaging the plant by pulling on it. Scissors create a clean edge as well, which may be more attractive to the eye upon noticing parts of the plant that have already been harvested. Make sure to not take more than 1/3rd of the plant at a time while harvesting it.
Feverfew may be dried through multiple methods. It is popularly dried using a screen and by hanging it upside down but may also be dried in an oven and a food dehydrator. For the screen and hanging dry methods, it usually takes a week or more to obtain results whereas with an oven and food dehydrator, these results are a lot quicker. However, when using these machines there's more room for error. Dried feverfew may be brewed as a tea, taken as a tincture, made into capsules, and more. Historically, feverfew was used by ancient Greek doctors to treat menstrual cramps. It has also been used to aide problems in labor and childbirth.
How to Dry Feverfew
Hang Dry: To hang dry feverfew, tie it and hang it upside down in a dry and dark area that is well-ventilated. It will need about a week or more to become fully dry.
Oven Dry: Feverfew may be dried in an oven at a low temperature, around 140°F. While preheating the oven to this temperature, lay it out on a tray and when it is preheated, place them inside of the oven and turn it off. Leave the door of the oven slightly ajar to properly circulate air. Take the feverfew out of the oven when it looks dry and dehydrated.
Food Dehydrator: Feverfew may be dried in a food dehydrator on the lowest temperature. While it is preheating, place the plant on the drying racks and when it is fully warmed up, place the feverfew in the dehydrator. It may take hours to fully dry but check on it in intervals of hours to ensure that it does not become too brittle.
Types of Feverfew
Feverfew is a part of the daisy family, Asteraceae, and is closely associated with daisies due to its appearance. There are no other known types of feverfew, but it is called by many different names including but not limited to Chrysanthemum parthenium, featherfew, featherfoil, flirtwort midsummer daisy, midsummer daisy, and false bachelor button.
Benefits of Feverfew
Feverfew is highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties and potential painkilling effects. Parthenolide, one of the naturally occurring chemical constituents found within feverfew, is what causes this anti-inflammatory response once taken internally. This is because it inhibits what is known as a pro-inflammatory signaling pathway. Feverfew may also reduce effects of arthritis due its anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in childbirth and labor for centuries to induce uterine contractions. It has also been used medicinally to treat menstrual pain and induce periods as well. It is known for being helpful in the case of a woman's reproductive system and these practices date back to ancient Greece, as physicians used it for these purposes then. It is also used as a natural treatment for migraines, normally steeped as a tea and drank for this effect.
Additional Information on Feverfew
- Feverfew Wikipedia Page
- Read the Best Practices for Planning Your Herb Garden!
- Learn About Hardiness Zones
Explore these Feverfew Herb Seed Varieties: