To many in the herbal medicine community, feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is known as a natural headache remedy. But in the gardening community, this shrubby herb is appreciated as an attractive landscape plant.
Masses of one-inch, white, daisy-like flowers with large yellow centers rise on spindly stems above parsley-like leaves.
Feverfew, which you might also see referred to as Matricaria parthenoides, Chrysanthemum parthenium, featherfew, febrifuge plant, featherfoil, mid-summer daisy, flirtwort, or wild chamomile, grows anywhere from eight to 24 inches tall, with a width of about the same range.
Let’s learn more!
It Depends on Where You Plant It
While native to southeastern Europe, T. parthenium is now widespread throughout Europe, Australia, and North America, where it grows in zones 5-10.
This member of the aster family behaves like an annual in cooler zones, a perennial in some areas, and can be evergreen in the South.
Though it looks similar, it’s not to be confused with true chamomile, which you can read more about here.
In Lieu of Aspirin
Though its name may suggest an ability to lower body temperature, feverfew is instead mainly relied upon medicinally to treat and prevent headaches. It has also been used to treat arthritis and digestive problems.
All parts of the plant that grow above ground may be used in medicines, but most commercial products use the leaves.
Numerous studies assessing the effectiveness of feverfew as headache treatment have been conducted, and a study from H.C. Diener et. al. found that incidents of migraine headaches were reduced in patients who ingested feverfew extract.
Scientists are still working to identify the substance in the plant that offers the beneficial effects.
Which to Choose and Where to Buy?
To find seeds for T. parthenium ‘common,’ check out Helens Garden via Amazon.
‘White wonder’ is another attractive variety to try. It displays clusters of white half-inch double blooms, and is available from Renee’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
If you’re looking for something more exotic, check out ‘White stars,’ an attractive cultivar with pale yellow centers surrounded by haphazard, long, slim petals with hooked ends.
You can purchase seeds from Frozen Seeds Capsules through Amazon.
Interestingly, this plant has a strong citrus-like aroma that repels bees, so don’t place T. parthenium near plants that rely on bees for pollination. Feverfew can self-pollinate and doesn’t require help from pollinators.
Plant it in full sun, or in an area that gets a bit of light shade.
Well-drained sandy or loamy soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.7 is perfect for these plants.
You can start seeds indoors in late winter, or direct sow in your garden after all danger of frost has passed. Expect germination to take 10 to 14 days.
You can also transplant seedlings from a garden center or divide existing plants.
Feverfew reseeds quite liberally and can even be considered invasive, so keep an eye out for an abundance of emerging seedlings.
Apply a light, balanced fertilizer each spring, and keep roots moist throughout the year. This plant won’t tolerate dry conditions.
Deadhead spent blossoms or cut still-vibrant flowers for arrangements to keep up production of blooms. Deadheading also helps to prevent excessive self-seeding.
Getting the Blues from the Yellows
This white and yellow beauty is relatively disease free, but may be plagued by aphids or aster yellows.
For aphids, try insecticidal soap, such as this one from Bayer Advanced via Amazon.
The only cure for aster yellows is prevention. Use diatomaceous earth or insecticidal soap to kill the bugs that spread this bacterial disease.
Aster yellows-infected plants must be pulled up and discarded.
Cures a Headache and a Dreary Garden
Whether you have a headache or just want to fill an empty spot in your landscape, cheerful feverfew is a plant worth considering.
Remember its bee-repelling properties, though, when you plant it! You don’t want to rob neighboring plants of their much-needed pollinators.
Have you grown this plant? Are you now considering it? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.
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Product photos via Helens Garden, Renee’s Garden Seeds, Frozen Seeds Capsules and Bayer Advanced. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.