By: Jackie Rhoades
The feverfew plant (Tanacetum parthenium) is actually a species of chrysanthemum that has been grown in herb and medicinal gardens for centuries. Read on to learn more about feverfew plants.
About Feverfew Plants
Also known as featherfew, featherfoil, or bachelor’s buttons, the feverfew herb was used in the past to treat a variety of conditions such as headaches, arthritis, and as the name implies, fever. Parthenolide, the active ingredient in the feverfew plant, is being actively developed for pharmaceutical application.
Looking like a small bush that grows to about 20 inches (50 cm.) high, the feverfew plant is native to central and southern Europe and grows well over most of the United States. It has small, white, daisy-like flowers with bright yellow centers. Some gardeners claim the leaves are citrus scented. Others say the scent is bitter. All agree that once the feverfew herb takes hold, it can become invasive.
Whether your interest lies in medicinal herbs or simply its decorative qualities, growing feverfew can be a welcome addition to any garden. Many garden centers carry feverfew plants or it can be grown from seed. The trick is knowing how. To grow feverfew from seed you can start indoors or out.
How to Grow Feverfew
Seeds for growing feverfew herb are readily available through catalogs or found in the seed racks of local garden centers. Don’t be confused by its Latin designation, as it is known by both Tanacetum parthenium or Chrysanthemum parthenium. The seeds are very fine and most easily planted in small peat pots filled with damp, loamy soil. Sprinkle a few seeds into the pot and tap the bottom of the pot on the counter to settle the seeds into the soil. Spray water to keep the seeds moist as poured water may dislodge the seeds. When placed in a sunny window or under a grow light, you should see signs of the feverfew seeds germinating in about two weeks. When the plants are about 3 inches (7.5 cm.) tall, plant them, pot and all, into a sunny garden spot and water regularly until the roots take hold.
If you decide on growing feverfew directly in the garden, the process is much the same. Sow the seed in early spring while the ground is still cool. Sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and lightly tamp to make sure they make full contact. Don’t cover the seeds, as they need sunlight to germinate. As with the indoor seeds, water by misting so you don’t wash the seeds away. Your feverfew herb should sprout in about 14 days. When the plants are 3 to 5 inches (7.5-10 cm.), thin to 15 inches (38 cm.) apart.
If you choose to grow your feverfew plant somewhere other than an herb garden, the only requirement is that the spot be sunny. They grow best in loamy soil, but aren’t fussy. Indoors, they tend to get leggy, but they flourish in outdoor containers. Feverfew is a perennial, so cut it back to the ground after frost and watch for it to regrow in the spring. It re-seeds fairly easily, so you might find yourself giving away new plants within a couple of years. The feverfew herb blooms between July and October.
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Feverfew & Bees
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a biennial herb found in medicinal gardens, long valued for its purported ability to treat fevers, headache and mask unpleasant flavors in food. Unlike many additions to herb gardens, feverfew is not a favorite plant of bees in fact, the plant is known to actually repel the insects and can inhibit pollination of plants that depend on honeybees for pollination.
Feverfew Plant Care
Size and Growth
Feverfew is a clump-forming plant with a rounded growth habit.
The plant grows to heights ranging from 1′ to 3′ feet.
Individual plants may spread about a foot-and-a-half.
Feather Few has deep green, feathery, parsley-like lobed leaves 2″ or 3″ inches long.
The undersides of the leaves are slightly hairy.
Leaves have a strong citrus scent repellent to bees and other pollinators.
Flowering & Fragrance
Mid-Summer Daisy produces clusters of inch-wide, white flowers with bright yellow, disk-like centers.
The unscented, showy flowers appear in early June and persist through the end of August.
Light & Temperature
Plant Featherfoil in full sun or an area with a little light shade.
The plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5-10. It grows as an annual in cooler climates.
In the deep south, it may grow and bloom year-round.
Watering & Feeding
Wild Chamomile naturalizes easily in areas where the soil stays slightly moist.
This plant is not especially tolerant of drought.
Provide a light feeding of balanced fertilizer annually, early in the springtime.
Soil & Transplanting
Febrifuge plant likes loamy, sandy, well-draining soil with a fairly neutral pH (6.0-6.7).
Ideal soil should retain some moisture while simultaneously providing good drainage.
While it is possible to purchase seedlings to transplant into prepared soil after all danger of frost has passed, it is more usual to simply sow seed directly onto prepared soil and cover lightly.
Grooming & Maintenance
Mid-Summer Daisy is cut back vigorously to stimulate more bloom production.
Cut fresh flowers to use in arrangements or to create herbal concoctions.
Deadhead flowers regularly to encourage more blooms and to discourage self-seeding (if you so desire).
How to Grow Feverfew Herb
Tanacetum parthenium Plant seed can be grown in your garden. You can easily get its seeds in a nursery. However, people become confused while buying them because several shops know it by its scientific name Tanacetum parthenium. It remains happy in the presence of the full sun.
For better results, any sunny site with well-drained, and of a stiff, loamy character, enriched with a good fertilizer.
Single Plants: 11″ (30cm) each way (minimum) Rows: 11″ (30cm) with 11″ (30cm) row gap (minimum)
How to Harvest Feverfew
Feverfew, or Chrysanthemum parthenium, is a perennial herb with tiny, off-white flowers. You can dry and use the flowers to make tea, or dry or freeze the leaves to add to food. Feverfew has been sought after for its medicinal uses since ancient times. The plant has been used to reduce pain associated with migraines and insect bites. Feverfew has also been used for asthma, bronchitis, delirium tremens (withdrawal from alcoholism), rheumatoid arthritis, colds and fever (of course). Harvesting and preserving feverfew is quite simple.
Hose down the feverfew plants the evening before you plan to harvest them. A gentle spray of water will help to clean the plants.
- Feverfew, or Chrysanthemum parthenium, is a perennial herb with tiny, off-white flowers.
- You can dry and use the flowers to make tea, or dry or freeze the leaves to add to food.
Cut the feverfew when the flowers are in full bloom. Harvesting feverfew at full bloom produces a slightly higher herb yield than harvesting during early bloom. Cut no more than one-third of the plant so that the entire plant doesn’t die.
Tie the feverfew bundle at its stems with some twine and hang the bundle upside down to dry it. Feverfew will dry out best in a dark, airy and dry place.
Rapid dry the feverfew at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or field dry it at 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Field drying is simply hanging the feverfew upside down in a warm, dry room, and is usually your most practical choice.
- Cut the feverfew when the flowers are in full bloom.
- Field drying is simply hanging the feverfew upside down in a warm, dry room, and is usually your most practical choice.
You can use a food dehydrator if you have one to hasten the drying process of the feverfew.
Harvest the feverfew in mid morning, when the morning dew has dried. Always use a sharp knife or gardening shears to harvest your feverfew, so you cut clean and don’t damage the root systems by pulling on the plant.
Don’t use too much dried feverfew when making tea. Feverfew makes a strong tea, and the rule of thumb with herbs is to use half as much dried than fresh.