More Than Just a Garden Beauty: How to Dry, Use, and Grow Calendula
There are a lot of great reasons to grow Calendula. In addition to their bright orange and yellow daisy-like blooms which bring cheer to the garden, Calendula attracts good insects like bees and butterflies while deterring unwanted pests. But most importantly, Calendula has a long-standing reputation as a natural anti-inflammatory skin care treatment. It’s easy to grow, harvest, and dry in the home garden, and beneficial for use in recipes and DIY beauty products, a practice that dates back to ancient history.
The early Greeks and Romans used to drink Calendula tea for upset stomach as well as adding the flower to soups and stews to improve digestion. The bright hues were often used to dye fabrics and cosmetics. Most commonly, Calendula was used in salves, ointments, or as a poultice for treating wounds. Calendula has been historically used for burns, cuts, bruises, and conditions that involve inflammation.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is part of the daisy family, Asteraceae, and they are also known as pot marigolds. Many gardeners grow them in the vegetable garden to attract pollinators and repel pests. Calendula contain the phototoxin alpha-terthienyl, which protects against root-eating nematodes. Nematode-susceptible tomatoes do very well with companion-planted marigolds. You can also plant marigolds near cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts to deter cabbage worms. These fragrant flowers are also reported to mask the scent of the vegetables protecting them from veggie-sniffing insects far and wide.
How to Plant Calendula from Seed
Calendula can easily be started from seed, either indoors or out. To sow the seeds outdoors, the best time to plant them depends on what type of climate you live in, but a good rule of thumb is to plant them just after the last frost of the season. To start Calendula indoors, plant them approximately 8 weeks before you plan to move them outside into the garden and allow them to germinate in the dark for a week or two.
Plant the seeds about ¼” deep. Dwarf Calendula should be spaced 8” apart, while the taller varieties should be about 20” apart. Calendula like lots of sunlight and can become leggy if they do not get enough, so plant them somewhere bright but not extremely hot.
How to Grow Calendula in the Garden
Calendula can survive in dry conditions, but during the hottest time of year water them once a week to keep them perky and encourage blooming. Deadhead old flowers regularly to promote new growth, and if the plant begins to look wilted or otherwise unhealthy cut it back quite drastically. It will come back healthier and bloom later in the year.
Calendula can fall victim to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can be identified by white patches on foliage. Remove the affected area of the plant as soon as you notice it and dispose of it to prevent the disease from spreading.
How to Harvest, Preserve, and Use Calendula
Organically-grown Calendula flowers are the gold standard for medicinal plants, so you will probably want to preserve some for home use. Harvest flowers when they are fully open and spread them out on a screen or in a shallow basket to dry. They are ready when the petals feel papery to the touch. Store in an airtight jar and use them in natural beauty recipes, herbal infused oils, or tea.
You can also use the flowers fresh as cake decorations, or add the petals to a fresh salad.
Here are some of the recipes on Garden Therapy that include Calendula:
- Naturally Treat Cuts and Scrapes with this Homemade Calendula Salve
- Three Ways to Make Herbal Oils for Natural Beauty Recipes
- Homemade After Sun Salve Recipe
- Skin-Renewing Herb Garden Facial in Four Steps
- Herbal Anti-Flea Dog Shampoo Recipe
- Ultra Healing Foot Balm
- Protect Your Lips with an All-Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm Recipe
- Exquisite Botanical Soap that Cleanly Preserves the Garden
- The Dirt on Edible Flowers (and the Top Ten You Must Try!)
- 43 Healthy Herbs for Hens: the Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs
- Plant a Mosquito-Repelling Container Garden to Protect Entertaining Spaces
- Monogrammed Herbal Drawer Fresheners
- Gorgeous Bouquets from the Herb Garden