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Home & Garden

Learning to Grow in St. Charles: Feverfew sparks devoted gardener fan base

Feverfew is a popular garden addition.
Feverfew is a popular garden addition.

If you are like most gardeners, beginners and veterans alike, you are always on the lookout for great perennials that give a lot while asking for little in return. Do you search for easy-to-grow and inexpensive perennials that perform in spring, summer and fall? Or perennials that bloom consistently?

Do you favor perennials that can be cut back and are easy to transplant? How about plants that resist summer’s heat like a champ? Or are you interested in perennials that attract beneficial insects? Would you want plants that can be purchased for next to nothing at garden centers or are easily grown from seed?

Would you want a perennial that has all these attributes? Plant feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). My favorite type is a double flowering cultivar called Tetra Strain. It shows off small pure white flowers with yellow centers that resemble those of white chamomile. There are also single varieties and varieties with yellow flowers.

An old-fashioned plant, feverfew is a traditional medicinal herb that once was used for its supposed ability to prevent migraine headaches and fever, which is where it gets its common name. It is often found in catalogs featuring heirlooms.

Feverfew grows about 2 feet tall. I planted it many years ago, mistaking it for an annual, but this tender perennial survived winter and then reseeded. I have never had to plant it again.

Feverfew is an excellent companion to roses, peonies, lilies and just about any other plant in the garden. If you don’t want the seedlings, they are easy to pull, but you will probably want every one, because they are so lovely in the garden.

Donna Mack is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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