How To Grow And Use Calendula

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This bright and beautiful flower graces many gardens, but few know how amazing this simply gorgeous flower is. Calendula does not just brighten your garden, it is beneficial for both health and beauty.

Growing Calendula

The Latin translation of Calendula is “little calendar” as a reference to its long blooming season. Calendula is considered a garden flower because it is not found in the wild. It is an annual plant that does not regrow from its roots or runners each year but if left to go to seed it will self-sow wonderfully!

You can directly sow calendula seeds in the warm ground after the last frost. It can be grown in zones 2-11 but it grows best in zones 5-6. In zones 7-9 planting in the fall provides the best growth. In zones 2-4 starting the seeds indoors before the last frost gives a longer growing season.

Calendula will do well in full sun or partial shade. If you have extreme heat in the summers, partial shade is a good idea. Calendula doesn’t tolerate extreme heat well, and will do well in most soils as long as the soil is well drained. It also enjoys water but not soggy soil.

Calendula will start to bloom in mid to late spring and will continue to bloom well into the fall and sometimes even after a few frosty days in most zones.


Harvesting Calendula

The key to keep your Calendula blooming all through the growing season is harvesting it often. No worries though, harvesting calendula is so easy! All you really need to harvest calendula is your hands but if you want you can use scissors or shears.

Flowers of calendula are ready to be harvested when they are sticky with resin. This is usually late morning to early afternoon, when the day is warmer and after the dew has dried.

To harvest the calendula flowers, pluck them off the stem, using one hand to stabilize the plant and the other to pick the flower head. The more often you do this, the more blooms you will have and this leads to a bountiful harvest! When in full bloom I usually harvest every 2-3 days!

Towards the end of the season leave a few blooms to go to seed. This will provide you with plants next season without having to replant any. We’ll talk in a bit about how to save the seeds below.

Preserving and Storing Calendula

You can use your freshly harvested calendula blooms in teas, salads or soups, but to preserve them for other remedies they should be dried. Drying calendula is as simple as taking the blooms and laying them out on a screen. It is best to leave your screen in a warm, (not hot) area with good airflow. Depending on your humidity levels, calendula can dry as quickly as overnight to just a couple of days. In very humid areas the best option is to use a dehydrator on very low heat to dry your flowers. Your flowers are ready for storage when they are crispy, not soft and still have most of their color.

When the flowers are dried you can store them in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. This is also a great time to make an infused oil with the calendula. Calendula is a very moist flower so before you add it to any oil or alcohol for processing, it is best to dry it.

How To Save Seeds From Calendula

If you choose to let a few blooms go to seed you can stop there and hope for the best for next season’s growth. Results are usually pretty good. If you’d like to be safe and sure that you’ll have calendula next year you can save some seeds from the blooms. Towards the end of the season, choose a few of your favorite plants and don’t harvest the blooms. Pick your best-blooming plants to be sure you have quality seeds and will grow quality plants.

The calendula petals will fall as the plant begins to go to seed. You’ll be left with the button like center of the flower. These seeds will be green in the beginning and turn brown as they dry out. Check the flowers often as the seeds start to change colors.

With a brown bag or another container be ready to catch the seeds, grasp the button head and wipe it with your thumb. If the somewhat spiral seeds come off easy the time’s right. If they don’t come off easily then check again in a day or so. You will probably lose some seeds to the elements and the ground but don’t worry you’ll get plenty to save through this process.

You can harvest these when they are green and dry them in a brown paper back, shaking occasionally to make sure they are completely dry. Or you can wait till they are a bit more brown and dry, shortening the indoor drying time. When the seeds are dry in the bag, label and store them in an airtight container of your choosing.


Buying Calendula

Buying calendula in all forms is very easy. You can find dried calendula flower from most herbal suppliers. Buying calendula seeds is the easiest way to buy calendula to add to your garden and you can easily find the seeds wherever you purchase your herbal seeds. In my experience, it is difficult to find the actual plants to put in your garden. You can find many different marigold plants but these are rarely calendula officinalis, pot marigold. Most of them belong to the Tagetes family. These are related to calendula somewhere down the line but the Tagetes family marigolds do not hold the therapeutic benefits that Pot Marigold, Calendula officinalis does.

You can also find many different salves and oils made from calendula. These are all pretty awesome but making your own concoctions from calendula is much cheaper and far more enjoyable!

Culinary Uses of Calendula

Your garden flower called Calendula may not be the first thing you think about when you think about culinary herbs but trust me on this one! Putting calendula in nearly any savory dish adds nutrition and a pretty pop of color. You can add fresh or dried petals to homemade bone broths, soups, and stews. It is beautiful and tasty in garden salads and it adds so much to quiche, scrambled eggs, and omelets. In Medieval Europe, it was added to nearly everything through the winter to boost the immune system, including bread and syrups.

Healing with Calendula

Calendula is a must have medicinal herb! It is good for nearly any skin condition. If you are not sure what is going on with your skin, start with calendula. It is an antibacterial, antifungal and studies are showing promise against viruses! Calendula promotes cellular repair making it a fantastic herb for burns, ulcers and other hard to heal wounds.
Wound care on severe or chronic wounds is complicated with many studies being done all the time on best practices. Choosing whether to use a tea or a salve for a particular wound will take some research. However, when dealing with simple wounds in an otherwise healthy person, such as 1st-degree burns, sunburns, cuts, and scrapes you can use whatever is easiest for you. Calendula is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that helps with inflammation and swelling caused by injury or infection. Calendula works well on the mucosa of the body making it a great herb for mouth issues and internal digestive issues.

Calendula makes a wonderful infused oil that can be turned into a beautiful healing salve, lotion or lip balm. It makes a great tea or addition to tea mixes for added immune boosting goodness. Calendula tea can also be used as a mouthwash for gum issues. You can also use the tea as a wound wash.

Calendula is great for beautifying skin but it is fantastic for healing. There are many methods to use this as a healing remedy. Figure out what works best for you and go for it!

Mentions in Literature and Culture

For centuries calendula has been recognized by everyone from the Romans to the Aztecs to the early American settlers. Nobody has ever denied the beauty of calendula but all quickly learn that it is not just a beautiful flower but a powerful healer. It has brightened winters for centuries in soups and stews, bringing the beautiful sunshine colors to damp cold winters. And in spring it wakes up to follow the sun through the warm seasons. Calendula is a nice addition to foods but by far it’s medicinal benefits to wounds make it a very important flower to have on hand.

If you have not started growing calendula in your garden this is a perfect time to start!