Calendula – “Pot Marigold”

(Calendula officinalis – Compositae)


A favorite around herbBee, calendula is the "old-fashioned marigold", also referred to as "Pot Marigold" or sometimes as "Garden Marigold" (not to be confused with the genus Tagetes of which Mexican marigold, African marigold and French marigold belong). It has also been referenced as Caltha officinalis.

Varieties and cultivars include ‘Bon Bon’, ‘Kablouna’, ‘Lemon Coronet’, ‘Pacific Brights’, ‘Fiesta Gitana’, ‘Pink Surprise’, ‘Touch of Red’, and others. Calendula is a plant that is grown for ornamental, culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal uses. The petals are only used (or the whole flower heads in the case of potpourri).

Calendula’s flower meaning is "joy". It is also October’s flower. Its name is derived from calends, the first day of each month in the ancient Roman calendar.

Care and Cultivation

Calendula is an easy to grow hardy annual that will readily self-seed and will over-winter in mild climates if protected from frost. The bright showy yellow and orange daisy-like, compound flowers open at dawn and close at dusk. Some varieties have petals that are in a single row and some have multiple row of petals. Keep dead heads plucked off to encourage continual blooming.

Plant in full sun for best results after temperatures reach 60°F/16°C and the danger of frost has passed. A fairly rich soil is desired with adequate draining. Direct seed with seed from a recent crop – no older than one year. Germination period is 8 to 10 days. After seedlings are established, thin to 10″ to 12″ apart. Calendula also grows well in containers, window boxes, and peat pots, and can be started early indoors.

Provide moderate even watering, increasing during hot summers. Fish fertilizer and/or liquid kelp may help increase production.

Mature plants will reach a height of 12″ to 24″ with a 6″ spread.

The light green foliage of calendula may be affected by slugs, caterpillars, powdery mildew, rust, and cucumber mosaic virus. Aphids can also be a problem and calendula will attract them from other plants. Bees are also attracted to calendula.

Harvest and Preservation

On a dry sunny day, harvest flower heads and remove petals to dry in shade or on paper. A dehydrator can be used instead and the whole heads can be placed in single layer. Once completely dry, store in an airtight jar.

Gather fresh for salads.

Culinary and Other Uses

The bittersweet, salty petals are used fresh in salads and dry in fish and meat stews and soups. Also used in buns, rice dishes, cakes, desserts, and custards for color and as a color substitute for expensive saffron. Calendula goes especially well with eggs. Yellow dyes are extracted and added as colorant to commercially prepared cheeses and butters.

Calendula is also included in herb teas for color and flavor. It also makes a colorful and cheery addition to fresh bouquets and potpourris.

"The petals are used for coloring foods and as an inexpensive substitute for saffron. Try the dried petals in rice for a lovely tint and in mixed herb teas for color and flavor." –The Pleasure of Herbs by Phyllis Shaudys

"C. officinalis was used in early Indian and Arabic cultures, and in ancient Greece and Rome, as a medicinal herb and as a colorant for fabrics, foods, and cosmetics." –Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses by Deni Bown

"An infusion of the petals may be used as a hair rinse to lighten fair hair, and the petals made into a nourishing cream for the skin."-The Complete Book of Herbs by Emma Callery

"Calendula heals and rejuvenates the skin, and is used in lotions, salves, and soaps for babies and adults."-Growing Herbs by Mary Preus

In The Northwest Herb Lover’s Handbook, Mary Preus goes on to say:
"Calendula’s value as a skin herb goes beyond cosmetics, because of its antiseptic, antifungal, astringent, and wound-healing qualities. In the form of a tincture, infusion, salve, cream, or homeopathic remedy, it is therapeutic for burns, scalds, sunburns, bruises, wounds, and slow-healing sores. An effective anti-inflammatory, it brings down swellings of sprains, insect bites, varicose veins, and contusions. It is also used in cases of athlete’s foot, and to treat conjunctivitis."

See also Calendula Oil

According to University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC): "Calendula is also known to affect the menstrual cycle and should not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Theoretically, calendula may affect conception when taken by a man or woman, so couples trying to get pregnant should not use calendula."

Highly recommended product by editors of herbBee (“My family and I use this herbal ointment for acne breakouts, chapped skin, small cuts, insect bites, blisters, boils, rashes, and other minor skin irritations and it never fails to help take away the pain and discomfort and heal us up quickly!”):

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