Calendulas are a colorful addition to the herb garden. The calendula’s daisy-like flowers are bright yellow and orange and are as easily grown in containers as they are in planting beds. The calendula is also known as pot marigold because cooks toss calendula blossoms into pots to thicken and color soups and stews. Calendula flowers also add a peppery flavor to salads, sandwiches, soups, and stews.
- Get to Know Calendula
- How to Plant Calendula
- How to Grow Calendula
- Troubleshooting Calendula
- How to Harvest Calendula
- Calendula in the Kitchen
- Preserving and Storing Calendula
- Propagating Calendula
- Growing Calendula from Seed
- Dreaming of a beautiful, productive veggie garden?
- 1: Calendula Protects Soil
- 2: Repels Pests
- 3: Calendula Attracts Beneficial Insects
- 4: Enhances Fruit Tree Guilds
- 5: Calendula Dazzles the Edible Landscape
- 6: Aids Healing
- 7: Calendula Adds Color to Culinary Creations
- How to Grow Pot Marigold
- Growing Calendula: How to Grow Pot Marigold
- Benefits of Calendula
- Types of Calendula
- Calendula Varieties
- How to Grow Calendula
- Calendula Salve
- Calendula officinalis growing guide
- Sowing Calendula Seeds
- Planting Calendula
- Direct Sowing Calendula
- Calendula as a companion plant
- Calendula growing tips
- Very few pests
- Growing Calendula in Containers
- Blooming times
- Single and Double Flower Varieties
- Perennial or annual?
- Collecting Calendula Seeds
- Harvesting and using Calendula Flowers
- Related posts:
Get to Know Calendula
- Botanical name and family: Calendula officinalis; calendula is a member of the Asteraceae–daisy family.
- Type of plant: Calendula is a herbaceous annual.
- Growing season: Spring, summer, and fall
- Growing zones: Calendula grows in zones 3 to 10.
- Hardiness: Calendula is resistant to cold weather down to 25°F; calendula is a cool-weather plant; it does not do well in the heat.
- Plant form and size: Calendula plants are mounding plants 12 to 15 inches tall with narrow long leaves that are aromatic and slightly sticky. There are hybrid dwarf varieties half the size.
- Flowers: Calendulas have bright yellow or orange daisy-like double or semi-double flowers 2 to 4 inches across. There is one flower on each stem.
- Bloom time: Calendula blooms from midsummer to after frost. Flowers close at night and reopen in the morning.
- Leaves: Calendula has pointed oblong or oval leaves to 3 inches long on angular stems; leaves have smooth edges and a prominent middle vein. The upper leaves clasp the stalk.
How to Plant Calendula
- Best location: Calendula prefers full sun in the northern regions and partial shade in southern regions. Calendula is intolerant of intense heat and crowding. In hot regions calendula may die in midsummer; plant calendula in dappled shade in hot summer regions.
- Soil preparation: Plant in compost-rich, well-drained, and moisture-retentive soil. Calendulas grow best where the soil has a pH of 6.6.
- Seed starting indoors: Calendulas can also be started indoors and transplanted out to the garden when the soil is workable; avoid transplanting seedlings into the garden when temperatures are hot. In Zone 5 or colder, start seeds indoors about 8 weeks before the last spring frost date. Seeds take 7 to 14 days to germinate. In southern regions, sow seed outdoors in fall.
- Outdoor planting time: In Zone 5 or colder, transplant calendula seedlings to the garden a week or two before the last spring frost. In Zones 5 to 6, plant seeds outside after the soil warms to 60° In Zones 7 to 10, sow seeds outdoors in fall, where they are to grow.
- Planting depth: Sow seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep.
- Spacing: Space calendula plants 8 to 10 inches apart.
- How much to plant: Grow 6 calendula plants for culinary use; grow 12 plants for preserving.
- Companion planting: It is said that calendula protects vegetables against asparagus beetles and tomato hornworms. Calendulas attract aphids, whiteflies, and thrips; use calendula as a trap plant to keep pests away from nearby herbs and vegetables.
How to Grow Calendula
- Watering: Grow calendulas in evenly moist soil.
- Feeding: Feed calendulas with an all-purpose organic fertilizer such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
- Mulching: In hot regions mulch around mature plants to retain soil moisture and keep roots cool.
- Care: Deadhead calendula regularly to keep plants blooming throughout the summer. Cut plants back to about 3 inches after the first bloom and they will regrow to bloom again. Provide good air circulation and drainage to prevent powdery mildew and other fungal diseases from attacking calendula.
- Container growing: Start calendula seed indoors then transplant them out to containers when they are 3 or 4 inches tall. Choose a pot at least 6 inches wide and deep; larger for multiple plants. Plant calendula in mid to late summer for indoor fall color.
- Winter growing: In mild-winter regions, calendulas will bloom outdoors all winter.
- Pests: Calendulas can be attacked by slugs, snails, aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and thrips. Handpick snails or slugs or drown them in a shallow can of beer set at soil level. Control aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies and thrips with insecticidal soap or knock them off plants with a strong blast of water.
- Diseases: Calendulas are susceptible to fungal diseases including leaf spot, downy mildew, and powdery mildew. Space plants so that there is plenty of air circulation and do not use overhead irrigation. Control stem rot by allowing the soil to go dry just before watering again.
How to Harvest Calendula
- When to harvest: Harvest calendula flowers just after they open fully throughout spring and summer, gathering them in the morning when the dew is dry. Do not harvest flowers going to seed.
- How to harvest: Harvest flowers with a snip or garden scissors.
Calendula in the Kitchen
- Flowers: Calendula flowers have a mild peppery flavor; they have no fragrance. Remove the petals from the center of the flower; sprinkle the petals over salads, soups, stews, sandwiches, cheeses, eggs, butter, cakes, cookies, and puddings. Dried petals can be used as a food coloring; add a half cup of petals to soup or broth to give the dish a golden glow. Dried petals can be used as a substitute for saffron.
Preserving and Storing Calendula
- Drying: Separate petals and lay them on parchment paper in a dehydrator or between sheets of brown paper in the shade. Keep petals from touching each other or they may discolor as they dry.
- Storing: Store dried petals in an airtight, moisture-proof container in a dark dry location.
- Seed: Grow calendula from seed. Calendula easily self-sows; allow a few seedheads to remain in the garden to sow for next spring.
Also of interest:
Growing Herbs for Cooking
How to Grow Mint
How to Grow Thyme
How to Grow Oregano
Growing Calendula from Seed
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Growing calendula (Calendula officinalis) from seed is an annual garden project in my family. We let the little ones help, and they enjoy monitoring growth as the first seedlings push their way through the soil. Calendula adapts to a wide variety of climates and soils. With its yellow, apricot or fluorescent orange blossoms, calendula is a cheery, dependable bloomer. The petals are single or double, depending upon the variety and the scent is somewhat spicy and clean.
Growing herbs outdoors or indoors from seeds is much less expensive than starting with nursery grown plants. Calendula has a high germination rate, so you’ll have enough from one seed packet to share.
This annual herb completes its life cycle in one year. Calendula can, however, become a short-lived perennial in some climates. It has many nicknames. Pot marigold is probably the most well known and refers to the way calendula petals are used in foods cooked in pots, like soups and stews. But calendula is not related to the common marigold. They are from different plant families. Calendula belongs to the Asteraceae family, which includes the chamomile plant and yarrow. Common marigolds are a member of the Tagetes family, which includes sunflowers.
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And here’s a bit of plant trivia. The calendula plant opens its petals in the direction of the sun in the morning. As the sun sets or after a cold spell or rain, the petals close up.
There’s a bonus here, too. The calendula plant is deer resistant and a favorite plant of pollinators!
Bee Pollinating Calendula
Seeds are Crescent or Horseshoe Shaped
Starting Seeds Indoors
- Start seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost date.
- Use a seed starting potting mix, not regular soil or potting mix. Seed starting mix has the correct balance of growing material and nutrients. You can plant the seeds in a seed starter kit and follow instructions there, or use anything that gets good drainage. I use peat cups and put two seeds in each. I’ll remove the weaker of the two seedlings after sprouting.
- Press seeds on top of the soil and spread a 1/4″ layer of soil over seeds. Firm gently with your fingers.
- Spritz soil until the top 1/2″ feels fairly moist. While the seeds are germinating, maintain that moisture.
- I like to arrange mine on a tray to make them easier to handle. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and poke enough holes in the wrap for air circulation and evaporation.
- Set near a window with a southern exposure, one that receives at least six hours of sun daily. Or set under a grow or fluorescent light. Germination will occur in five to 14 days. Discard the plastic wrap. Remove the weaker seedlings. Rotate the seedlings if necessary so they don’t get leggy trying to reach the light.
- After the seedlings develop their second/true set of leaves, they can be planted outdoors if the frost date has passed.
Calendula seedling with first set of leaves
Direct Sowing Outdoors
- Sow seeds after last frost date. Calendula won’t germinate in extremely hot weather. Seeds germinate in seven to 10 days. Calendula grows well in Zones 2 to 10 with a soil pH range from 5 to 8. Don’t be surprised if you see volunteers sprouting the next year. The seeds stay viable over winter. I see seeds sprouting toward the end of April in my herb garden. That’s a good six months after the seeds have dropped from the mother plant.
- Plant in average, well-drained soil in full sun, or partial shade if the climate is very hot. Some describe calendula as a cool season annual. It’s said that in hotter zones, calendula may stop flowering. I have not had that problem here in my southern Ohio garden. There are heat-resistant cultivars available, such as Pacific Beauty.
- If using containers, use a good quality potting mix.
- Scratch up the soil, water well, and plant seeds about four inches apart, 1/4” deep. Wait until the second set of true leaves appear and then thin the plants out so they grow eight to 12 inches apart. Plants eventually grow to at least 12 inches high, and up to a foot or more in width.
- Seeds and seedlings need to be kept moist. As the plant grows, water as needed. I like to add a sprinkling of compost around established plants.
- If grown in containers, fertilize and water a little more.
- Although calendula is usually an easy plant to grow, monitor for pests and diseases by checking with your local Cooperative Extension Agency.
Growing calendula from seed gives you plants that flower profusely, so go ahead and pick to your heart’s content! Picking forces the plant to send out more flowers. Calendula can survive light frosts. In my herb garden, calendula is one of the last blooming flowers late into autumn.
Trendy chefs have rediscovered this sunny flower and include it in their edible flowers list to add vibrant color and texture to foods.
Fresh petals can be chopped into salads or used as a garnish on fruit and vegetable platters. Roll a log of butter in minced calendula petals. Grind dry petals to a powder and add to rice and grains as a substitute for saffron or turmeric. In olden days, calendula was called poor man’s saffron. Calendula doesn’t taste like saffron but it does lend a golden hue to foods.
Calendula-flavored brown rice and edamame
The word Officinalis in the scientific name means calendula has medicinal qualities. With its antiseptic qualities, it’s a good remedy for sores, cuts, bruises, burns and rashes. Find calendula in oils, teas, natural toothpaste, creams, teething gels, salves, and ointments. The brightest orange petals have the highest concentration of active ingredients.
|Allergies||Calendula is closely related to the ragweed family, so if you have allergies to ragweed, you may want to avoid calendula. Check with your health care provider.|
|Calendula vs. Marigold||Calendula goes by many nicknames, but marigold is not one of them.These 2 plants come from completely different “families.” Calendula is from the Asteraceae family, which includes the chamomile plant. Marigold, a member of the Tagetes family, includes the common sunflower.|
Do like growing calendula from seed or do you purchase already started plants? What’s your favorite way to use this golden flower?
Calendula officinalis, also known as pot marigold, can benefit soil, repel pests, and aid healing. Here are seven reasons to grow this herb.
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I’ve been growing calendula throughout my garden for years, and can hardly contain my excitement to tell you all about it!
Note: This herb is not related to common garden marigolds, which go by the Latin name Tagetes. Calendula officinalis, written about here, is edible and medicinal, while Tagetes varieties can be toxic to ingest.
Overall, this herb can help reduce garden maintenance while yielding an abundance of useful flowers. Here are seven reasons to grow it.
1: Calendula Protects Soil
This flower grows especially well in the cooler seasons of spring and fall, though it grows all summer long in mild climates, too. Since it has thick, fibrous roots and grows in thick patches, it can be used as a cover crop or as a living mulch to protect the soil.
Sow seeds mid-summer for a fall cover crop that protects soil throughout the winter. Or sow seeds in the fall for a spring cover crop/mulch.
It grows thickly and then dies back on its own. When it does, it enriches the soil with biomass. Or you can simply pull it in time for planting and compost it. Personally, I leave it planted on the perimeter of my crops as a trap crop (see #2 below).
A thick crop of calendula can also be used as a cut flower. The bouquets are a beautiful sight! 🙂
Would you like to learn more about using flowers to improve biodiversity, reduce maintenance, and increase yield?
You’ll find loads of information just like this in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
2: Repels Pests
One late summer a few years ago I noticed the stems of my pot marigold plants covered in aphids. I was alarmed and naturally worried that the aphids would be attracted to the crops around them. When I inspected the crops, I couldn’t find a single aphid—they were all on the calendula!
This herb truly lives up to its reputation as a trap crop—”trapping” pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and thrips by exuding a sticky sap that they find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops.
See: 6 Flowers to Plant in the Vegetable Garden
Aphids cover calendula stalks.
3: Calendula Attracts Beneficial Insects
The flowers provide nectar and pollen that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The nectar—along with the pests that it traps—attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings.
Learn more about the life cycle and habits of bumble bees!
These beneficial insects even stay to mate, increasing the number of beneficials in the ecosystem! (They will mate and stick around where there is abundant food.) As a matter of curiosity, did you know that ladybug mating can last up to two hours???
Here is what I found on the calendula in my garden recently (warning: beetle sex!):
4: Enhances Fruit Tree Guilds
For all of the reasons mentioned above, calendula is an excellent multi-functional plant for the permaculture garden. In fact, Gaia’s Garden suggests using it in fruit tree guilds and food forests.
5: Calendula Dazzles the Edible Landscape
Rosalind Creasy, in Edible Landscaping, encourages the use of pot marigold in the edible landscape because it brings such a bright, cheery flash of color. I’ve used it for years in my landscape, and I love it because it is both beautiful and low-maintenance.
Calendula officinalis growing with broccoli.
6: Aids Healing
This flower has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties, and is often used to soothe a long list of skin ailments including—but not limited to—cuts, scrapes, bruises, bee stings, insect bites, fungal infections, eczema, and rashes. That’s why I use the flower petals to make a healing calendula oil and a soothing salve.
Healing calendula oil
This herb is hypo-allergenic, so it is often used in personal care products, like soap, for sensitive skin.
According to The Backyard Homestead, the petals, easily dried and stored, make a delicious medicinal tea. Here are 14 other medicinal remedies using calendula.
7: Calendula Adds Color to Culinary Creations
The flower petals—fresh or dried—can spruce up salads, cream cheese, or cooked vegetables.
According to Homegrown Herbs, the petals are also used as a natural food coloring for common foods such as cake frosting or broth. They can substitute for high-priced saffron to make golden-colored rice.
How to Grow Pot Marigold
This herb grows in USDA zones 3-9. Although it is an annual, it will easily self-seed in most climates.
I collect dried seed heads each season so I always have a supply of seeds.
A collection of calendula seed heads
Here is where you can buy calendula seeds. Sow seeds any time simply by sprinkling them on top of the soil and watering them well. If you can’t grow as much calendula as you would like, you can buy dried calendula flowers for your medicinal and culinary needs.
Calendula is such a joy, and I love sprinkling it around the garden each season.
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How do you grow and use calendula officinalis?
Growing Calendula: How to Grow Pot Marigold
No other flower in the cutting garden glows with cheerfulness quite like calendula, commonly called the pot marigold. This bright yellow and orange flower is not only calming to my spirit, but also has many other benefits: it attracts pollinators, repels pests, has healing properties, and is edible! Learn more about growing calendula.
Benefits of Calendula
Included in a mixed bouquet, calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers are sure to gladden the hearty of the recipient. Irresistible waves of bright yellow and orange daisy-like flowers greet me on my morning rounds, lifting my mood even on the worst of days.
- Calendula blossoms can be used in cooking—eaten fresh in salads, added to rice, or dried and used as a poor man’s saffron, calendula petals make an ordinary meal seem special. See our recipe for Mixed Greens With Calendula.
- Calendula has been used medicinally for centuries. Ancient Romans grew them to treat scorpion stings! In the Middle Ages calendula was a common remedy for everything from smallpox to indigestion. Today’s herbalists use it to make a healing salve for sunburn, chapped lips, minor burns, cuts, and scrapes. See more about calendula’s healing properties.
- Calendula is a wonderful companion plant in the garden. Bees and native pollinators are drawn to these flowers, making them a useful addition to your vegetable garden. Plus, calendula repels many pests!
Enjoy seeing calendula in the garden!
Types of Calendula
The calendula family includes about 20 species of bushy annuals and a few perennials that are native from the Canary Islands through the Mediterranean area to Iran. They were found growing wild in the Holy Land by crusaders who brought them back to Europe. Legend has it that St. Hildegard of Bingen gave the plant the name “Mary’s gold” in honor of the Virgin Mary. To this day calendulas are sometimes called “pot marigolds” though they are unrelated to regular garden marigolds (Tagetes).
- ‘Pacific Beauty’ is my favorite but at one time we grew 8 different kinds. There are lots of interesting varieties.
- For something unusual try ‘Porcupine’ which has spiky, bright orange, quilled petals,
- ‘Touch of Red’ has dark red underneath and on the edges of each petal.
- ‘Triangle Flashback’ has a soft, apricot-pink color.
How to Grow Calendula
Calendula is easy to grow from seeds directly sown in the garden.
- Plant seeds early spring onward or start them indoors and set out the sturdy seedlings. They can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date for extra early blooms.
- Choose a sunny site. The more sun, the better.
- Soil needs to be moderate-rich and drain well. Calendula will tolerate poor conditions but perform better when it has nourishing soil. Once established, calendula do not need any extra fertilizing or feeding.
- Calendula grow nicely in the vegetable garden. Good companions are: Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Peas, Carrots, Asparagus, Spring salad vegetables.
- The flowers bloom best in cooler weather with low humidity.
- Cut them back and they will reward you with new growth and more flowers when the weather cools off. These plants are pretty tough and can take some frost. They will keep right on blooming until a harden freeze finally kills them.
- Allow some plants to produce mature seeds to scatter where you want to see calendula seedlings in subsequent seasons.
If you would like to try making a simple calendula salve, here’s an easy recipe:
- Steep one cup of fresh calendula petals in one cup of olive oil in a glass jar on a sunny windowsill for about a week.
- Strain the oil.
- Melt ¼ cup of beeswax and mix in the oil.
- Pour into small sterilized jars and seal.
- Let solidify overnight before using.
- For the fullest effect, harvest the petals during the hottest part of the day, when the resins have risen to the surface of the flower.
A word of caution: People with allergies should test the salve on a small spot on the inside of the forearm and monitor it carefully for any adverse reactions.
This is one plant that is good for the garden and for the gardener alike. Make room for some comforting calendula.
Even the tiny tree frogs love it!
Want to grow more edible flowers in your garden. Here’s a list of more flowers that you can eat!
How to grow calendula officinalis flowers including a guide to sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use.
This piece is a chapter from the ebook, Calendula: A guide to Growing & Using it in Skin Care
If you only grow one skin care flower, choose Calendula officinalis. Known by many as the Pot Marigold, this cheerful and easy to grow flower has a myriad of uses. The flowers can range in color from a buttery yellow to bright orange and being hardy, new plants can produce flowers from May right through to the first frost. Best of all, the more flowers you pick, the more they produce.
It does incredibly well in most open situations and will grow in practically any garden. It’s a flower that thrives on neglect and will grow better for being left alone. Once they’re in bloom, you can pick the flowers to use in making healing natural skin care.
Calendula officinalis growing guide
• Suitable for all zones
• Fuss-free and easy to grow
• Yellow, orange, and apricot flowers
• Full sun to partial shade
• Most soil types but prefer fertile and well drained
• Plant height: 45-60cm (18-24”)
• Flowers from late spring to the first frost
Calendula grows in all gardening zones
Sowing Calendula Seeds
Though Calendula officinalis is originally from the Mediterranean, its hardy nature has allowed it to colonize the temperate world. It grows in most soil types and will even tolerate partial shade. They do best in sunny positions though, especially on well-drained soil. Plant them there and they’ll reward you with hundreds of flowers.
Sow the seahorse-like seeds in either autumn or spring. Sowing them in autumn will give the plants a head-start and you’ll see flowers much earlier. Calendula seeds germinate best at between 15-25C (59-77F). You may not see many seedlings emerge if it’s cooler or warmer than this.
Calendula seedlings unfurling from curved seeds
In autumn, sow six to eight weeks before the first frost in a tray or modules filled with one-part perlite (or grit) mixed with three parts multi-purpose compost. Top dress with horticultural grit, water it in, and keep moist under cover in a bright place. The seeds should be sown 1.25cm (1/2”) deep.
You’ll see leaves emerge 6-15 days after sowing. With protection from both the cold and slugs the plants will overwinter well and you can plant them outside after the last frost in spring. If growing in a tray, you’ll probably want to plant them individually in modules before winter.
You can sow calendula seeds in modules in spring too. Use the same instructions above and sow 6-8 weeks before the last frost date if you’re starting them off inside or in a heated greenhouse. If your greenhouse is unheated, sow after the last average frost date.
Six-week old calendula plant
Calendula will grow in most soil types but does prefers fertile, well-drained soil. If you want a lot of flowers keep this in mind when you sow or plant them outdoors. They will grow in partial sun but I’d avoid growing them in full shade. Some sources may say that you can but these Mediterranean plants are truly sun loving.
When your little plants are two inches tall, harden them off and plant them outside. They’ll grow to their full potential if you can give them 1-2 feet in all directions.
Sowing Calendula seeds in a drill
Direct Sowing Calendula
Direct sowing in spring is very easy. Between March and May, and well after the last frost, lightly scatter seeds in rows 18” apart. Protect the emerging plants from slugs using beer traps or another organic solution and when the young plants reach an inch tall, thin to about 15cm (6”) apart.
Allow the plants to continue growing and when they’ve hit 2-3” in height thin them to 30-60cm (1-2 feet) apart. You can dig up the extra ones for replanting elsewhere or to give away. Put weaker plants on the compost pile.
The above is general planting guidance. I personally tend to grow my calendula in thicker plantings, either in a row with plants just a few inches apart or broadcast over an area. When broadcast or allowed to self-sow, I don’t thin them out. They sort themselves out without interference.
Calendula plants grow well on their own or in rows
Calendula as a companion plant
Though you may be like me and grow calendula for their own purpose, they can also be dotted around the garden to help other plants to grow. They can attract aphids away from prized vegetables and attract more beneficial plants as well.
In the garden, Calendula is often grown as a companion plant to vegetables that need pollination to produce. The vibrant flowers attract insects that will happily flit over to pollinate zucchinis, pumpkins, and cucumbers while they’re there. Calendula officinalis is a friend to many edible plants including:
• Asparagus – it deters the asparagus beetle
• Squash and pumpkins – their flowers attract pollinators
• Most other veg. Gardeners grow calendula to draw aphids away from vegetables like cabbages, kale, lettuces, and other leafy greens.
The downside to calendula is that their dense growth creates a nice damp place for slugs and snails to lurk. That means you should avoid planting them directly next to anything you don’t want decimated.
Though Calendula is sometimes called a marigold or ‘Pot Marigold’ it’s not closely related to the common marigold you might be more familiar with. That plant is a Tagetes and has different companion planting suggestions.
Calendula can help other plants by warding away some pests and attracting polinators. Image courtesy of Flickr
Calendula growing tips
If you already have mulch of compost or composted manure on the soil you can sow directly into it. Otherwise, apply a mulch of your choice after the plants are a good inch or two tall. Don’t cover the base of the plant but bring the mulch up to within an inch of it. Mulch will keep the soil underneath moist and stop weeds from growing.
Calendula requires very little in the way of aftercare. My main advice on growing them is to not mess with them too much, other than picking the flowers. It’s over-watering and over-feeding that will cause stunted growth and other issues. Let them alone and they’ll happily grow and bloom all summer long.
If your plants are starting to get tall and a spindly, you can trim them back. Use scissors or your fingers to pinch back to a leaf node. Aim to keep your plants under 60 cm (two feet) in height. They tend to stay bushier and healthier that way, need less water, and stand up better in the wind.
Very few pests
As far as pests are concerned, calendula can suffer from aphids later in the season. If you notice an infestation, spray the aphids off using soapy water.
You can grow calendula in containers if you don’t have enough garden space
Growing Calendula in Containers
Calendula is adaptable and will grow well in outdoor pots, containers, and window boxes. Aside from the harvest of flowers, they’ll also add a splash of color throughout most of the year.
When growing in containers, make sure that the compost is moist but has good drainage. To make a good mix add 1-part grit or perlite with 1-part vermiculite and 3-parts multipurpose. Perlite adds drainage, Vermiculite aerates but also retains water, and the compost contains nutrients and a place for roots to grow.
After planting, press the compost down and top-dress it with horticultural grit. This will help the compost retain water and keep weeds from colonizing the surface.
The more you pick, the more flowers Calendula will produce
Calendula plants will begin blooming 45-60 days after germination and as long as you keep on top of picking the flowers, they’ll continue flowering.
In fact, they’ll bloom all throughout the summer and autumn if you’re diligent with your dead-heading. In mild climates some will even continue blooming through the winter.
On the other hand, in warm climates or during a hot summer you may find that your plants stop blooming. They’re hunkering down, bearing through the heat, and will start flowering again when it cools down in autumn.
Calendula flowers aren’t just for show, they’re also a skin-beneficial plant and an edible flower. That means picking the flowers in their prime not only spurs more flowers to bloom but you can use the flowers too.
Make your own natural calendula skincare or use the petals to color and add flavor to food recipes.
Single flower types (left) have an open center and are more attractive to pollinators. Double flowers (right) have more petals to harvest
Single and Double Flower Varieties
The flowers themselves will usually be yellow to bright orange and 2-3” in diameter. There are different varieties of Calendula officinalis with some blooming as single flowers and others with double rows of petals.
Some varieties, like Fiesta Gitano, produce flowers in both yellow and orange and in semi-double to fully double petals.
You can also buy calendula seeds as mixes so that you could have single, double, yellow, and orange flowers all in the same row.
Most of the 100 or so calendula officinalis cultivars have been bred for the ornamental market. However, petals from all cultivars are edible and medicinal. It just means that the ones better suited for health and skincare are the more resinous varieties.
• Erfurter Orangefarbige – double with orange petals. This is the best cultivar for using in herbal and skincare applications.
• Resina – single with yellow petals and yellow pistils. Another good cultivar for herbal uses.
• Single Orange – single with orange petals and pistil
• Indian Prince – double and orange-red with a dark pistil
• Pink Surprise – double and yellowy-pink
Calendula will happily bloom all summer long
Perennial or annual?
Calendula is technically a short-lived perennial and if it isn’t touched by a hard frost it can survive for a least a couple of years. A few of my plants survive each winter (zone 8), though their lower stems sometimes darken and become leggy.
In zones 7 and lower you grow calendula as an annual. This means that it will probably die off and need re-sowing from year to year. Fortunately, they are prolific seed producers and will self-seed if you let them. These self-sown seeds overwinter and will grow a new crop of calendula in the same place the next year.
You can also save seeds and start the sowing process over again the next spring.
Calendula are prolific seed producers and you can collect a lot in a single season
Collecting Calendula Seeds
Calendula seeds are easy to collect and save off the plant. Once you’ve made the initial investment of seeds you shouldn’t need to buy them again.
Allow some of the flowers to bloom, drop their petals, and transform into green seed heads. As they mature the seed heads will turn brown and they can be cut from the plant before the seeds are released. Cut the seed heads off on their own or with six inches or more of stem.
Cutting with a bit of stem can be easier but will also remove part of the plant that could continue flowering. Tie the cut stems with a string and then place the flower heads in a brown paper bag. Tie it on so that it won’t fall off.
Hang upside down in a warm and airy place until the stems are dry. Give the bag a good shake after this and most of the seeds will fall off. Tease the rest off if need be.
If you’re just cutting the seed heads, scatter them at the bottom of a brown paper bag and leave in a warm, dry place. When fully dry, use your fingers to pull the seeds out of the heads.
Store dried calendula seeds in bags or jars in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. For best germination, use within six years.
The next piece in this series is on harvesting and drying calendula flowers
Harvesting and using Calendula Flowers
This piece is an excerpt from the ebook, Calendula A guide to growing and using it in Skin Care. It’s 49 pages that show how to grow, harvest, process, and use calendula in healing natural skin care. It also includes over a dozen beauty and skin care recipes including calendula soap, lip balm, bath fizzies, and skin cream.
Head over here for further information and your instant download.
Seed germination of calendula in response to temperature
The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer: The Ultimate Guide to Producing High-Quality Herbs on a Market Scale, page 277