If I could only grow one flower for the rest of my life, it would be calendula. It is easy to grow, blooms for a long time, and has many benefits besides being beautiful. Calendula is an edible flower that possesses a multitude of health benefits. Check out this article where we talk about everything calendula, from seed to harvest.
What Is Calendula
Calendula is a flowering herb, also known as pot marigold. The fact that it is an herb is still crazy to me. This beautiful herb is grown for its edible leaves, stems, and medicinal flowers. Calendulas have been loved for centuries. You can look back in history and see that the flower petals have been used medicinally as a religious symbol and even as a dye for clothes. To use as a dye, the calendula petals are dried, crushed, and added to a liquid to create a dye for clothes or cooking.
Do you want to know my favorite reason for growing calendula? It is the ultimate companion plant! Whether in a vegetable garden or a pollinator garden, calendula attracts bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. Calendulas repel insects and help strengthen the soil food web by feeding the microbes. All these things are why it is a top plant to feed and attract pollinators to your garden.
Medical Benefits of Calendula
Take a look at the labels of all of your favorite natural skin care products. The odds are it contains calendula oil. Calendula oil has been used for centuries to help with various skin ailments. Calendula flowers contain healing properties that help promote natural cell repair and growth and contain antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use calendula to treat rashes, eczema, diaper rash, dry skin, cuts, chicken, and more.
Calendula can also be taken internally. The easiest way to consume calendula is by making tea. The tea can help boost and strengthen the immune system, fight fungal infections, reduce inflammation, and more.
Growing Calendula: The Basics
One of the reasons Calendula is one of my favorite plants for the pollinator garden is because of how low maintenance it is. Grow calendula in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. I don’t pay much attention to the soil pH, but if you do, the preferred pH of Calendula is 6-7.
Before planting seeds or transplants, ensure to enrich the soil with organic matter or an all-purpose fertilizer. While calendulas are not heavy feeders, they require readily available nutrients to produce their resinous flowers. Side dressing with your favorite compost or vermicompost at least once every six week.
Sow seeds ¼” deep in an area that receives full sun when the soil is at least 60F. The seeds should germinate in 1-2 weeks. Whether direct seed or transplants, try to space out plants 8”-12” apart. This will ensure proper airflow and reduce the likelihood of powdery mildew.
One thing I love about calendula is the plant’s ability to self-seed. If you do not remove spent flowers from the plant, calendula will drop its seeds to the earth, and wherever they land, they usually grow. This includes soil, mulch, or even the gravel pathways surrounding the beds. You can prevent this from occurring by deadheading flowers before they go to seed.
Harvest the flowers at any time. Some say the best time to harvest is the mid-morning after the dew has dried. I say to harvest the flowers whenever you have time in your busy schedule.
To harvest, pick or cut the flowers from the plant’s stem. Avoid collecting and processing flower heads that have already begun to dry on the plant. It is best to continue to allow those flowers to dry and harvest seeds from them. The magic is located within the flowers. Make sure to harvest from your calendula often. You will notice that, like other herbs, it triggers the plant to produce more flowers once you harvest. After harvest, your plants should re-bloom within 14 days.
I harvest calendula with my fingers instead of pruners. Heads up, if you do the same, be prepared for a sticky resinous remnant on your fingers. Don’t be alarmed! The resin from the flowers is where the antifungal powers come from.
Drying and Storing
Once you harvest the flowers, no, it’s time to preserve them. There are two main ways to preserve calendula, oil or dried flowers. Whichever you choose, understand that step 1 is drying the flowers. You can dry the flowers in a dehydrator, or if you live in a suitable climate or do this indoors, you can air dry them. Whatever you do, do not dry the flowers in the oven. The heat from the oven will destroy many of the medicinal properties of the flowers.
- Air Drying. This is one of my favorite ways to dry calendula. I think it is because I feel this is how the flowers were dried initially when people first learned all the medicinal properties. Place the blooms on a drying rack in warm, well-ventilated, out-of-direct sunlight to air dry. You can use a hanging herb drying rack like this, or window screens also work. Make sure that air can flow all around the flowers to ensure they are completely dry.
- Food Dehydrator. Collect your flower blooms and add them face down to the racks in the dehydrator. Set your dehydrator on the lowest temperature, around 90-100F. This temperature range ensures that we do not overheat the blooms. Allow the flowers to dry for 2-3 days.
Once dried, it is time to store the flowers. Dried calendula flowers store best in an airtight container that is kept from direct sunlight. Make sure to use the blossoms within one year.
Uses For Dried Calendula
My favorite way to use calendula is to make tea. I find this is the easiest way to get the healing properties of this magical flower internally.
How To Make The Calendula Tea
- Fill your tea kettle with water and set it to boil
- Place calendula blooms into a tea infuser. If making 1 cup, use 1 or 2 whole heads or petals. If making a pot, then use a minimum of 5 entire flower heads
- Pour boiling water onto the flowers
- Cover flowers and steep them in hot water for a minimum of 10 minutes.
I am not a doctor, so I can t sit and tell you that this tea will help you fight colds, decrease swelling in lymph nodes, and improve your mood. But I will say I have personally experienced these benefits and more.
Make Calendula oil, and feed it to chickens and other animals. Whatever you don’t waste it. Please don’t spend all that time growing and tending the plant only to waste the magical goodness it provides in return for caring for it. If you don’t know what to do with the flowers, dry them and send them to me. I will make tea and say thank you.
I hope you enjoyed this article and feel more confident to JUST GROW IT.