Comforting Calendula and Its Many Benefits

Jul 23, 2017
Calendula
Robin Sweetser

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No other flower in the cutting garden glows with cheerfulness quite like calendula. Irresistible waves of bright yellow and orange daisy-like flowers greet me on my morning rounds, lifting my spirits even on the worst of days.

Included in a mixed bouquet, calendula are sure to gladden the hearty of the recipient.

Not only colorful and a good mood elevator, calendula blossoms are edible. Whether 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 bites! In the Middle Ages calendula was a common remedy for everything from smallpox to indigestion.

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Today’s herbalists use it to make a healing salve for sunburn, chapped lips, minor burns, cuts, and scrapes.

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Bees and native pollinators are drawn to these flowers, making them a useful addition to your vegetable garden.

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).

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Calendula Varieties

  • ‘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 or they can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date for extra early blooms.

Calendula will tolerate poor conditions but perform best in average, well-drained garden soil, the more sun the better. They bloom best in cooler weather with low humidity and some plants may look a bit ratty by now. 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.

Calendula Salve

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 1/4 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.

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Even the tiny tree frogs love it!

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

Reader Comments

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Awesome Calendula

I have been growing these happy little faces for many years. Surprising how few folks have not hear of them. I mix them w/ blue Bachelor Buttons.

Calendula Salve

I planted calendula this year for the first time and it is doing wonderfully. I want to make the salve with it and was wondering if it would be best to dry the flowers first before infusing them in oil since I had read to dry dandelion flowers a bit first so the moisture from the flowers wouldn't create mold in the oil. Has this ever happened to you with using fresh calendula flowers?

I have never had any mold

I have never had any mold form. I pick the flowers during the hottest part of the day so any dew has dried and  the resin comes out on the petals. They are actually sticky. I have never tried drying them first but it may work if the resin dries on the petals and then becomes infused into the oil. Give it a try!

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