My favorite flower is the daisy so it is no surprise that I love feverfew with its daisy-like flowers. Feverfew isn’t fussy about soil and though it prefers a sunny spot, it will tolerate a little shade. Add to that the fact that it reseeds readily in the garden providing me with new plants every year and you have the perfect plant.
So where did this “perfect” plant come from? Feverfew is a perennial that is native to the Eurasian part of the Mediterranean. It spread throughout the entire Mediterranean area as well as Europe. Then European colonists introduced it to North America where it is hardy through zone 5.
Feverfew has been used as a medicinal plant since Roman times. It’s been used for everything from fevers to arthritis although modern science has proven that it has no real positive effects beyond the placebo effect.
Personally, I don’t know how anyone could stand taking feverfew medicinally. Taken internally, it causes nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas. Chewing on it can result in ulcers in the mouth. Just rubbing it on your skin causes contact dermatitis. Feverfew is a blood thinner so you shouldn’t use it if you are taking blood thinners nor should you use it if you are pregnant because it acts as an abortificant.
Feverfew does have its uses as an insect repellent. Its leaves have a strong, bitter odor sometimes described as smelling like citrus. Insects, especially bees, find it distasteful and stay away from it. I usually recommend customers plant feverfew near their outdoor living areas but not in their vegetable gardens where it will keep bees, necessary for pollination, away. If you don’t have any gardens near your outdoor living areas, feverfew grows well in containers.
Feverfew can be grown from seeds, cuttings or by division. Divide your plants in the spring or fall. Using a shovel, cut the crown into three or four divisions. Plant your divisions at least eighteen inches apart.
Cuttings should be taken in the summer. Make your cuttings 4 to 5 inches long. Strip the leaves from the bottom of the cuttings and dip them into rooting hormone then plant them in a soilless mix. Keep your cuttings warm. Feverfew develops roots best in warm soil.
To grow feverfew from seed, start it indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Sow your seeds on the surface of your soilless mix. Don’t cover them! The seeds need light to germinate. Germination is within 1 to 2 weeks. Harden off your seedlings and plant them eighteen inches apart in your sunny garden after your last frost date.
Feverfew isn’t fussy about soil. It grows best in rich loamy soil but it will tolerate poorer soils. What it won’t tolerate is wet feet. Make sure you plant it in a well-drained location. It prefers sun, but doesn’t mind a little shade. Mature plants reach a height of 18 to 24 inches and flower all summer provided you deadhead them regularly. It is precisely that habit of reseeding itself all over the garden that most gardeners hate about feverfew. The most common complaint is that once you plant feverfew, you can never get rid of it! That’s not true if you remove the flowers before they form seeds.
I love feverfew’s cheery flowers. Even its lacy foliage is attractive. The foliage should be cut down to the ground in the fall. When the leaves appear again in the spring, prune away any leftover dead foliage to maintain good plant health.
I don’t understand why so many gardeners dislike feverfew. It grows anywhere, in any soil, is easy to propagate and blooms all summer like an annual. It’s the perfect plant!