Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Costmary, Alecost, Bible Leaf, Mint Geranium
Balsamita major

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Balsamita (bal-SAM-it-uh) (Info)
Species: major (MAY-jor) (Info)

Synonym:Balsamita vulgaris
Synonym:Chrysanthemum balsamita
Synonym:Chrysanthemum majus
Synonym:Tanacetum balsamita

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

13 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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2 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Ted_B On Oct 16, 2014, Ted_B from Birmingham, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

Note: There are evidently two distinct subspecies of this plant, with photos of each being presented as "T. balsamita" on the web. This tends to create confusion:

T. balsamita, var. balsamita - Tansy-like yellow button flowers with brighter, sweet smelling leaves.

T. balsamita, var. camphoratum - Daisy-like flowers with darker, camphorous smelling leaves.

In a southern climate, the plant succeeds in a mostly sunny position with regular watering. The plant responds well to fertilizer.

Positive paracelsus On Apr 24, 2010, paracelsus from Elmira, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

I've been growing this plant for years because I love the smell of the leaves, which to me smell like old-fashioned men's cologne. My cat also likes to lay amongst its leaves. Although my plants have flowered regularly, I have not found any seeds. They do spread easily by rhizomes, though, and you can dig up a bunch and stick it in a pot or somewhere else in the yard, and it takes to it very well. It prefers full sun where I live (upstate NY).

Neutral Baa On Oct 24, 2001, Baa wrote:

A herb which has been grown for many centuries and is possibly native to Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Has soft, slightly hairy, fine toothed, pale green leaves upto 12 inches long, which have a scent of balsam or mint. Bears clusters of small, white, rayed flowers with yellow centres. It probably won't set seed in cooler areas. It spreads by rhizomes where happy.

Flowers August - October

Likes a well drained soil in full sun but if its leaves you want, and to be honest the flowers aren't worth much in the way of ornamentation, partial shade will produce a leafy plant.

It isn't very pretty and its main use fell out of fashion with the appearance of hops. However it still has other uses.

It was used in brewing ale to aid in the preservation and possibly add some flavour.

Also used in liver treatments, indigestion and digestive disorders in the middle ages.

It was also a 'Bible leaf' plant, these were plants whos the leaves were used as a book mark for the Bible. The reason for these Bible leaves, and sometimes aromatic posies, were to ally hunger (by the scent not by eating!) while listening to long sermons.

It was also a useful strewing herb.

Its most current uses are in pot pourri, in salads, as a tonic tea for colds, stomach cramps, easing chlid birth and catarrh.

It makes a good hair tonic and is reputed to rid hair of headlice and as a scented rinse for the skin.

The leaves can also be bruised and rubbed onto insect stings and bites to ease the pain.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Birmingham, Alabama
Hazel Green, Alabama
Detroit, Michigan
Elmira, New York
Port Angeles, Washington
Merrimac, Wisconsin

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