Help Pollinators

6 Reasons Why You’ll Fall in Love with Growing Calendula this Year

Among new gardeners in the United States, Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) isn’t as well-known as Marigolds (Tagetes family) but it should be. Calendula is part of the Asteraceae family like daisies and chrysanthemums are. Calendula is easy to grow from seed, it attracts beneficial bugs, it’s a valuable companion plant, can be displayed in a vase, are edible and are commonly used in ointments for patients undergoing radiation treatments to treat their skin. Calendula makes the High Vibe Gardening list because it’s a very low maintenance plant. I invite you to join me as we get to know more about amazing Calendula.

Table of Contents

Single Calendula Plant in my main garden which was planted near my tomatoes.

Both are easy to grow but….

Placement of Calendula is very important when planning your garden. They like full sun and like mini sunflowers, they turn their heads to follow the sun’s warmth. Unlike other plants, they don’t really need a lot of nutrients in the soil, so this makes them an ideal choice to plant in less established gardens as long as the water drains. After they are established, they are drought tolerant and only need occasional watering. This is why I plant them next to my tomatoes who like similar conditions. Too much water can encourage powdery mildew. In fact, too much fussing over them can cause them to grow slower. This is what makes them such a great choice for High Vibe Gardening.

Marigolds are easy to grow from seed too, but most people purchase plants from large garden centers. However, they are more sensitive to cold temperatures and frost compared to Calendula which can grow in Zones 2-11. It’s considered a perennial but in colder areas of the country where there are hard frosts, Calendula treated as an annual or biennial. In my Zone 6 garden, a light frost slows down their blooms, but it takes a hard frost to kill them. I have to treat them like an annual and sow new seeds every year. So, it’s a good thing they are easy to grow from seed. I prefer to direct sow mid-May when I don’t have to worry about frosts. It’s a lot easier to purchase seeds than find established plants. Collecting seeds from your established plants is really easy and you can save yourself a lot of money in the future.

As a High Vibe Gardener, I do my best to snip off the flower heads and dry them on a cookie sheet for when I make an olive oil infusion. If I miss some, I don’t sweat it. These flowers I will let go to seed and snip them off when the seed head is fully formed on the plant and also dry on a cookie sheet too to plant next year.

Calendula attracts beneficial insects

Calendula also lures unwanted insects from your garden but also attracts beneficial bugs to your garden which includes ladybugs, lacewings and hover flies. I think all gardeners can agree that it takes an army to protect an organic garden. These allies can help you keep Potato Beetles, Flea Beetles, Corn Ear Worms, Japanese Beetles, Squash Beetles and the dreaded Aphids in check. The stickiness of the flower attracts aphids and keeps them away from other plants. Calendula’s bright colors are like a neon sign to beneficial bugs and pollinators. Calendulas will keep blooming until the first hard frost, and this is something important to consider because it will keep providing for pollinators while most other flowers are finished blooming after a light frost.

Dried Calendula flower heads

Medicinal herb for skin healing properties

Calendula has a long history in the field of herbal medicine. It can be infused in oils, most commonly in olive oil. I use the oil that is infused for six months and make cold pressed handmade soap. My coworker’s husband and a dear friend are both undergoing radiation treatments for different types of cancers use this soap daily. They love how it feels on their skin and their skin that is burned from the radiation treatments has come back pink and healthy. Some hospitals have prescribed Calendula infused ointment for use after radiation treatments.

Dried calendula petals and flower heads

Infusing Calendula is easy. I carefully pick the head when it is in full bloom and lay them out on a cookie sheet to dry for a full week. You don’t want to infuse them unless they are fully dry or your infusion can get moldy. I save the dried flower heads in a glass jar in a dark cabinet for future use. I infuse the whole head of the flower. I will fill a jar 1/2 full and fill it up with the olive oil. The flowers I miss I let go to seed instead. A dehydrator can speed up drying time in a matter of hours.

Don’t worry about the waxy substance on your fingers because that’s where the medicinal properties are. I just wash it off with soap and water. You can use garden gloves to pick them if it bothers you.

It’s a nice neighbor to other plants in the garden

Calendula is considered a companion plant or a plant that is beneficial to other plants. As stated above, it attracts beneficial insects. It’s a companion plant to potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, peas, carrots, asparagus, squash, melons, corn, basil, salad greens and peppers.

Calendulas can be edible, marigolds are toxic

Centuries ago, the petals were used to naturally make cheeses and butter Yellow. -Wikipedia

The petals are edible and can be easily removed from the flower head. I use dried petals to decorate the tops of my cold pressed soaps. I have read that they are used in broths and salads. Some people use them as a cheaper alternative to saffron. I could caution those who have pollen allergies and those who have sensitive digestive systems to check with their allergist before consuming Calendula. Personally, the waxiness of the petals doesn’t inspire me to cook with them or put them in a salad. It’s a texture thing. I will say that I also use some of the flowers in my chicken feed. My girls love them.

Long lasting bloom time

I had a Calendula seed variety packet so my first year, these were the different blooms I harvested.

Healthy Calendula plants will bloom until a hard frost. This provides sustenance for pollinators and beneficial bugs. Even if you are growing Calendula as an ornamental plant, you will get more bang for your buck because they will bloom for a long time. The yellow and orange hues are perfect for autumn.

In India, Calendula flowers are sacred and are used to decorate statues of Hindu deities. -Wikipedia

Display them

If you have a flower garden dedicated to growing flowers you can cut and display in your home, Calendula can give you that bright pop of color in your flower arrangements. Just make sure they are free of any bugs which can be easily rinsed off with water. Calendulas grow well with lavender, salvia, mums, roses, geraniums and alliums.

Summary

There are many beneficial reasons for growing Calendula in your garden this year. Calendula is easy to grow from seed and can be started indoors. While it blooms, it attracts beneficial insects. Calendulas continue to bloom until there is a frost. They are a wonderful companion plants to vegetables and herbs. Harvesting and drying flower heads is easy and offer medicinal properties that are beneficial to our skin. Calendula cream is used by cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments. While marigolds are easier to buy in garden centers, the benefits that Calendula plants offer can be worth it. High Vibe Gardeners are always on the lookout for plants that align with nature and are easy going companions with the plants that have already taken up residence in the garden. Consider giving Calendula a chance at least once and see for yourself if it makes a difference.