By Jennifer Poindexter
Feverfew isn’t an herb you see or hear many talking about when they mention an herb garden. Though it may be one of the unusual or lesser known herbs, it could be a good addition to your garden.
This herb has many wonderful benefits. It can help with soothing skin irritations caused by insect bites, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, can help induce labor naturally, can remedy headaches, and even relieve menstrual pain.
Having this type of herb right at your backdoor could prove beneficial, so here’s what you need to know to grow it.
Growing Conditions for Feverfew
Feverfew is known for its simplicity. It doesn’t need a great deal of attention to thrive, but it does have some specific conditions it seems to thrive under.
This herb should be planted in full to partial sunlight in well-draining soil. The soil should be loose, high in nutrients, sandy, and with minimal clay.
Feverfew can be grown in a garden bed, a variety of containers, or even as a plant for a border. This plant’s versatility makes it a great choice for most gardeners.
How to Plant Feverfew
Feverfew can be grown either indoors or outdoors from seed. It’s simple to grow and a great choice for the beginner herb gardener.
If you choose to grow feverfew indoors from seed, be sure to use quality soil. Put two to three seeds in each pot, cover lightly with the soil, and give the newly planted seeds a gentle mist of water to moisten the soil.
Place the seeds in a warm location to encourage germination. Give them 10-14 days to germinate and be sure to water regularly. When the plants reach three inches in height, it’s time to transplant them outdoors.
If you’d like to direct sow feverfew seeds outdoors, you can do this as well once all threat of frost has passed. Choose a location with full to partial sunlight and well-draining soil. Feverfew prefers a soil pH of 6.0-7.0.
Once the planting conditions are accurate, direct sow the seeds approximately eight to twelve inches apart. Wait until the seedlings reach three inches in height to begin thinning them out. When they’re thinned, you’re ready to maintain the plants you’ve started.
Caring for Feverfew
Feverfew doesn’t require a great deal of care. It’s grown as an annual in some climates, but it can also be a perennial if the planting zone is warm enough over the winter.
In general, feverfew will do well in planting zones four through nine. Even if you live in an area where feverfew is known as an annual, it reseeds easily which means new plants should voluntarily come back the following year.
If it does well as a perennial in your area, be sure to leave plenty of room for feverfew because with its reseeding capabilities it could equate to more plants in your gardening area.
Feverfew likes to have soil surrounding it which is consistently moist. Be sure to water regularly to keep things in balance.
However, don’t overwater. If you place feverfew in soggy soil or an area where the soil doesn’t drain well, the plant won’t thrive. It could even die.
You don’t need to fertilize feverfew if you planted it in nutrient rich soil. If you’re someone who fertilizes your flowering plants and would feel better giving some extra nourishment to your herb plants, you can.
Use the same fertilizer as you would for other flowering plants but be sure you only fertilize feverfew once per month.
It’s a good idea to mulch around feverfew. The mulch will protect the plant during the winter and help retain moisture during the scorching summer months.
The only other care feverfew requires is pruning. If feverfew will grow as a perennial in your area, cut the plant back prior to frost. It will regrow in the spring as the temperatures warm.
While the plant is in bloom, be sure to deadhead any dead blooms. After the first flowering, cut the plant back to promote new growth. You can cut the plant back by as much as half of its original size, if needed, during this process.
Otherwise, remove anything which looks dead or sickly to maintain a healthy feverfew plant. With a little care and attention, this herb should thrive in your garden.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Feverfew
As with any plant, feverfew has a few diseases and pests it must be guarded against. One of the most common pests in a garden is an aphid.
It’s no surprise these pests enjoy feverfew as much as you do. You’ll know you have an aphid problem by checking under the leaves and stems where they commonly hide. They leave a sticky substance behind known as honeydew. You’ll also notice your plant will begin to wilt or turn yellow.
You can treat aphids by spraying your plant with soapy water. This will cause the aphids to detach from the plant. The treatment may need to be repeated on an as needed basis.
Leaf miners are another threat to feverfew. They leave discolored lines on the leaves of the plant. These lines are actually small tunnels the leaf miners travel through. One of the easiest ways to squash leaf miners is to run your index finger and thumb along the lines on your plant. If they’re in the tunnels, they’ll be crushed. You can also spray your plants with insecticidal soap.
Slugs are also a threat to feverfew. The main signs of slugs are holes in the leaves and eventually seeing a wilted plant where the slugs have depleted it. You’ll also notice a slimy substance slugs tend to leave behind where they travel. You can defeat slugs by handpicking them at dusk. This is when slugs usually come out of hiding to munch on your plant.
If you don’t want to touch them but still want the slugs gone, place diatomaceous earth around the base of your plant. When the slugs slither over it, the substance will cause them harm. You can also deter slugs by placing coffee grounds around the base of your plant. Slugs don’t like caffeine which most coffee is loaded with.
Another pest feverfew must contend with is the spider mite. Spider mites are tiny insects you probably won’t even notice until the damage appears. They like to drink the sap from your plant which will eventually cause discoloration and even death. You’ll frequently find webs hidden in the foliage if you have a spider mite infestation.
You can defeat spider mites by spraying the plant with soapy water. This will break down the webs and dislodge the spider mites. Consider applying neem oil to the plant as well.
The final threat for feverfew is powdery mildew. You’ll notice powdery mildew on your plants because it will appear as though they’ve been sprinkled with powdered sugar. Powdery mildew occurs when the weather is hot and dry. You can purchase a fungicide to cure powdery mildew or make a homemade remedy of baking soda, mild dish soap, and water.
Anytime you enjoy a plant, rest assured, there are insects in the world which enjoy it too. Disease is also a basic part of gardening. Learning how to keep the pests and diseases away is always a good idea.
Understanding how to treat them once they’ve invaded is also vital. By keeping an eye on your plants, they should have every opportunity to thrive no matter what they come up against.
How to Harvest Feverfew
Many people mistakenly confuse feverfew with a weed. When in bloom during the summer months, it has gorgeous white petals with a vibrant yellow center.
These flowers are what most are after when growing feverfew, though you can harvest feverfew leaves as well.
Feverfew leaves can be harvested at any time during the grow season by using scissors to snip them from the stem without nicking the stem itself. You can also harvest them by hand by gently pulling them from the plant being careful not to cause damage.
The feverfew flowers will vary on when to harvest based upon their purpose. If you’re going to enjoy them fresh, you should harvest the flowers when they’ve opened a little over halfway.
If you’re planning on drying the feverfew flowers, allow them to fully open before harvesting. You’ll use scissors, in either scenario, to safely snip the flower from the stem right where the flower and stem meet.
You can also harvest them by hand. Gently pull on the flower until it safely dislodges from the stem. Be careful not to pull too hard to avoid damage to the plant.
For dried feverfew flowers, be sure to dry them quickly. They should be stored in an airtight container but use them promptly. You’ll only receive the full benefit of the feverfew flowers for four months after harvest.
Feverfew is a wonderful herb to have on hand. It’s easy to grow and care for, the pests and diseases are few, and it’s easy to harvest.
Whether you want feverfew as a fresh ingredient for your meals or for its healing benefits, give it a try. It might be a welcomed addition to your herb garden for years to come.