Horticulture Magazine

‘Feverfew’ Tanacetum Parthenium Care & Growing Tips

large clumps of feverfew flowers

Feverfew Overview

Official Plant NameTanacetum parthenium
Common Name(s)Feverfew
Plant TypePerennial Herb
Native AreaBalkan Peninsula, Anatolia and the Caucasus
Hardiness RatingH6
ToxicitySkin irritant
FoliageDeciduous
FlowersYellow
When To SowMarch, April, May
Flowering MonthsJune, July, August
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun or Partial Shade

Exposure
Exposed or Sheltered

Size

Height
0.1 – 0.5M

Spread
0.1 – 0.5M

Bloom Time
June – August

Soil

Preferred
Loam, sand

Moisture
Well-drained

pH
Any

Feverfew is an attractive daisy-like herbaceous perennial which can be both useful and attractive in a garden.

As well as being a good choice for a perennial border, or in the guilds of beneficial companion plants for fruit trees in your garden, this is also an interesting plant for a medicinal garden.

To benefit you, your plants, and the garden ecosystem as a whole, feverfew can often be a good choice.

What is Feverfew?

white and yellow feverfew with foliage in the background

Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, is a flowering plant in the Asteraceae (daisy) plant family.

It is a small perennial which grows around 50cm high, and has an eventual spread of up to around 50cm, with a bushy form. It has aromatic pinnately lobed ovate leaves and bears small daisy-like flowers with white petals and a yellow centre in the summer months.

This plant is native to the Balkan Pensinsula, Anatolia and the Caucasus. But it is cultivated all over Europe and also common in other parts of the world.

Why Grow Feverfew?

white and grey coloured butterfly sat on feverfew flowers

Feverfew is an attractive ornamental plant that requires very little work, so it can be a great choice for a low maintenance garden.

Though relatively short-lived, feverfew is a perennial plant that will grace your garden for a number of years. And since it is a prolific self-seeder, if you allow it to go to seed it should reseed itself in an area and come back for many years to come.

Further sowing will not usually be required as long as the plant is growing in a suitable location.

Feverfew can bring several benefits while growing in your garden. For example, it is said to naturally repel a range of insect pests while in active growth (though scientific evidence is lacking).

Some say that this makes it a good companion plant for a range of other perennial plants. You might also consider placing it close to a doorway or seating area to keep bothersome insects away.

Feverfew also provides a range of yields which can be useful in the home and garden.

The dried flower buds can be used to make an insecticide similar to pyrethrum by steeping 1 cup of them in 1 litre of hot water for an hour.

The dried flowers are occasionally used in certain pastries, or used as a pot herb, or used to make tea. Essential oil from the plant is also used to make perfumes.

Interestingly, the name of this plant is something of a misnomer, as it is not believed to help with fevers at all.

Feverfew is, however, sometimes prepared at home into headache busting salves or balms, or used as a strewing herb. But always consult a professional in herbal medicine if planning to take advantage of the medicinal benefits of plants, especially if taken internally.

essential oils bottle with feverfew flowers laid next to it

Choosing Feverfew Cultivars

In addition to growing the common Tanacetum parthenium, you can also consider some variants. Some named cultivars of feverfew include:

  • Tanacetum parthenium ‘Aureum’ (bright lime-coloured leaves)
  • Tanacetum parthenium ‘Vanilla’ (golden-yellow lobed leaves)
  • Tanacetum parthenium ‘White Bonnet’ (double flowers)
Tanacetum parthenium White Bonnet
Tanacetum parthenium ‘White Bonnet’

Where to Grow Feverfew

Feverfew is a quintessential cottage garden plant, and works well in informal and varied cottage garden style planting schemes.

It can work well in perennial borders, or in a dedicated perennial herb garden area. Due to its pest repelling properties, feverfew may be beneficial for aphid control near roses, or be included on the sunny fringes of a fruit tree guild.

Feverfew does require plenty of sunshine, so place it in full sun.

It can cope with a location that is exposed or sheltered – but does not cope well with maritime exposure.

One of the most important things to remember is that feverfew does require a well drained loamy or sandy soil, though it is relatively unfussy when it comes to pH and fertility.

In fact, it can even be grown in or on a stone wall and can also do well in containers providing that they provide sufficient drainage.

Sowing and Planting Feverfew

Feverfew seeds can be sown from March indoors, or direct sown in the garden after all risk of frost has passed, in April or May. Indoors sown plants are planted out between May and July.

The seeds should just barely be covered, and it is important to make sure that the pot or seed tray does not dry out.

Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, they can be pricked out into individual plants to grow on before you plant them out into their final growing positions.

What To Plant With Feverfew

Feverfew can work well under rose bushes, and pairs well with hardy geraniums (cranesbill), clovers, and Cerinthe major, as well as a range of other traditional cottage garden plants.

You can also grow it in a herb garden with other perennial herbs – such as those Mediterranean herbs which also like free-draining conditions.

Caring For Feverfew

Feverfew is a very easy plant to grow and could easily take over your garden beds if you let it, due to the ease with which it self seeds.

This is a great choice for those who do not have a lot of time to tend their garden, or who would like to quickly achieve a garden with an abundant look and feel.

Watering

Once feverfew is in its final growing position in your garden, it will be relatively drought tolerant and will only require watering in extremely dry conditions, or when it is grown in containers.

The soil should be moist but must be free draining. It is important not to overwater your plants.

Feeding

Feeding feverfew is unnecessary, and in fact, this is a plant that can thrive in poor conditions.

Deadheading

Deadheading feverfew will prevent the plants from self-seeding prolifically.

So if you want to keep these more contained, then deadhead the plants before seeds form.

Alternatively, collect the seeds from the plant so you can control where you want them to go and plant them next year.

Or simply let the plants self seed for a more natural and low maintenance scheme.

Propagation

If you want to make new plants from the existing feverfew plants in your garden, you can divide the plants as you would other herbaceous perennials to make new plants.

However, it is important to note that the plants do not live very long, so this is not usually very useful.

Save the seeds to propagate new plants, or, as mentioned above, let them self-seed and let nature do the work for you.

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