About This Plant
O’ joyous Calendula, with its sunny disposition–it’s bright golden orange- yellow blossoms are always a welcomed sight in the garden. Calendula is a short-lived aromatic, herbaceous perennial of the Asteraceae family. It is often grown as an annual in cold climates where it’s unlikely to survive winter temps below 25 degrees Farenheight, and also in hot summer locations where it does not survive the heat. If you place it in its ideal environment, it will grow as a perennial.
Calendula is a sun-loving plant that is usually low and compact with attractive blossoms that are from two to four inches across. In warmer climates, it will tolerate light shade. Calendula will grow up to about 18” high and about a foot wide. It is frost tolerant and somewhat cold hardy which allows it to add long-lasting color and beauty to your flower beds
Calendula, often called Pot Marigold or English Marigold, should not be confused with the other compact bright and dark orange and yellow blossomed plant called Marigold with the scientific name Tagetes. The Tagetes Marigold is toxic if consumed. Calendula officinalis however is both edible and medicinal. The Latin epithet officinalis refers to the plant’s medical and herbal uses. The name Calendula comes from the Latin word kalendae, meaning “the first” because it tends to bloom in accordance with the calendar–either at the first of the summer months or during the new moon. This latter tendency eventually led to it becoming a symbol of the Roman calendar.
Growing Calendula can benefit soil as it has thick fibrous roots that grow in a thick patch. It can be used as a cover crop or a living mulch to protect soil. It grows thickly and then dies back on its own enriching the soil with biomass. Calendula can also be planted as a “trap crop”. It exudes a sticky resinous sap that aphids, whiteflies, and thrips find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops. The sap traps the pests and the pests attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and lace wigs. Try planting Calendula around Chard, Carrots, and Tomatoes for added insect protection. Its flowers provide nectar and pollen that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Calendula makes a great addition to fruit tree guilds.
Calendula typically blooms two months after seeds are sown. Its flowers close at night and open in the morning. An old wives’ tale stated that if the flowers didn’t open by 7 a.m, one could expect thunderstorms. Flowers are bright yellow or orange ray blooms at the top of long single stalks. It blooms from early-Summer until after the Autumn’s first frost. Leaves are pointed oblong or oval and about three inches long on angular stems. They have smooth edges and a prominent middle vien. Leaves are occasionally waved or weakly toothed. The upper leaves clasp the stalk. Leaves are pale green and hairy on both sides. Plants are sparsely branched with lax or erect stems.
Calendula is a premier herb for healing the skin and mucous membranes. Bathing in a Calendula infusion was thought to give one a healthy, sunny glow that would draw the admiration and respect from one’s community. Ancient Egyptians used Calendula to rejuvenate the skin. The plant was used in ancient Greek, Roman, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures as a medicinal plant. It has long been a staple in English cottage gardens. The first documented cultivation is thought to be by St. Hildegard of Bingen, an 11th century nun and practicing herbalist in what is now Germany. Calendula’s medicinal affinity is said to be for moving that which has stagnated in our defense system. It is also used as a dye for fabrics, foods, and cosmetics as well as to lighten hair. It brings color to culinary creations and a bright, cheery, dazzle to edible landscapes. Plants will readily self-sow in the garden.
Some people who are allergic to members of the Asteraceae family may also have a reaction to Calendula. If you are allergic to Chamomile, treat Calendula with caution.
Calendula is able to be started from seed easily. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the last expected frost, or directly sow seeds just before the last frost date. Cover seeds with ¼” – ½” of soil. Keep evenly moist. Seeds should germinate in one week.
Calendula tends to transplant well. Space plants 8 to 10 inches apart.
Calendula is an easy plant to grow. It likes full sun and ordinary garden soil that is well-drained. It needs regular watering while getting established, but mature plants thrive on only occasional watering. Dense, wet solid can cause the roots to rot. Calendula prefers mild summer temperatures and may die away by the end of summer in very hot climates.
Pinching back young plants will promote a more compact, bushy growth pattern. Over-feeding Calendula can make the plants leggy and spindly. Calendula is one of those plants where less fuss is better than more. Too much care can result in stunted or slow growth.
Once plants start blooming, harvest the entire flower heads daily to inspire new flowers to emerge. Flowers should be harvested just after they fully open. Harvest flowers in the morning after any dew has burned off and the flowers are completely dry. The more sticky resin you find covering your fingers the better, as this is a sign you’ve got good medicine! Harvest will last throughout the Spring and Summer since Calendula only takes 45-60 days to go from seed to flower. Flower heads can be spread out on a screen in a dry shady spot to dry. Turn them occasionally until they are papery dry, then store them in an airtight container away from light and heat until ready to use. Once dried, flowers will retain their bright colour indefinitely. If stored well, dried Calendula will easily last from six months to a year.
Calendula will produce lots of seed in a similar fashion as Zinnias or a Marigolds. When the blooms dry out, cut them off and hang them upside down in bundles. The seeds are contained in the flower heads and once dry and crisp, the flowers can be lightly hand-crushed and the seeds separated out. Seeds look like curved, thorny, dried-up worms or spiked boomerangs.
- Natural Dye
- Pest deterrent for companion planting
- Makes a great addition to fruit tree guilds
Calendula flowers have a mild peppery flavor and no fragrance. Petals can be removed from the center of the flowers and sprinkled into salads, soups, stews, sandwiches, cheeses, eggs, butter, cakes, or cookies. Dried petals can be used for food coloring and as a substitute for saffron. Add petals into rice to impart a saffron-like color. Petals can also be used to decorate cakes for a festive flair.
Calendula is beloved for its wound-healing abilities. It relieves inflammation and increases a beneficial immune response. It is mildly antimicrobial and even is believed to protect the skin from radiation damage. It is used to prevent scars and to relieve itchy, dry skin and rashes. Calendula promotes wound healing by stimulating the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts. It is gentle enough that it is often used to relieve diaper rash. It also helps soothe bug bites, including mosquitos, chiggers or bee stings.
Calendula is often used as a salve or cream, and can also be used as an infusion, poultice, or tincture. It is common practice to infuse Calendula into oil and to use that oil directly onto skin or as a base of making salves, lotions, soaps, body butters or facial serums.
Calendula can be used both externally and internally to support blood vessel health and decrease varicosities such as hemorrhoids or varicose veins. Calendula’s wound healing, antimicrobial, and inflammatory modulating effects will also work well for internal ulcers. Scientific studies have validated Calendula’s effects on improving elasticity and skin hydration.
Calendula can be a great herbal for postpartum mother and baby care. It can be made into a strong tea for a sitz bath to help heal the perineum. A salve or fresh flower poultice can be used on tender nipples. It can be used for diaper rash or as a gentle wash for baby’s skin. It also is used for cradle cap.
Internally, Calendula provided mild liver support. A stong infusion of Calendula is bitter, an indication of its ability to cleanse liver stagnation. It can promote delayed menses as well as help relieve painful menstrual cramping. It is commonly used for fungal infections, mastitis, thrush, gum disease, UTIs and conjunctivitis. Calendula tincture can be applied to chickenpox sores to decrease the pain and itching. Studies have shown promising results concerning Calendula’s effect on cancer cells, including colon cancer, leukemia, and melanoma.
Calendula is believed to be native to the Mediterranean region, though its long history or cultivation makes its precise origin unknown. It may possibly be a plant of cultivated origin.
Calendula officinalis, or Scotch marigold, is a plant in the family Asteraceae. It is widely naturalized in northern Europe and elsewhere in warm temperate regions of the world.
Type: Annual, self-seeding
Native Range: SW Asia, W. Europe, Mediterranian
Growing Zones: 3-10
Mature Height: 18-24 inches
Mature Width: 12-15 inches
Sowing: Start indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost; can direct sow in early Summer
Sow depth: ¼ in
Days to Germinate: 7-14 @ 70F
Special Maintenance: n/a
Sunlight: Full sun, Part Sun
Soil Type: Average
Drought Tolerance: Moderate
Growth Rate: Fast
Leaf Description: Resinous
Bloom Time: Summer, May-September
Bloom Description: Resinous, multiple yellow/orange petals
Harvest Time: Summer, May-September
Special Properties: Bees, Butterflies, Pollinators, Deer resistant