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 high, the feverfew plant is native to central and southern Europe. 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.
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 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, thin to 15 inches 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!