Calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers are part of the Asteraceae (aster, daisy, sunflower) family of plants. Calendula (also called pot marigold) is a short-lived perennial or annual plant with lovely yellow to orange flowers. Forming a bushy mound one to three feet high, calendula mixes well with white, yellow or blue flowers. Plant in the middle to back of flower borders or grow in large containers.
Easygoing calendula flowers are not picky about soil or sun. Choose a spot in full to partial sun with any type of soil, provided it is not waterlogged. Calendula flowers require one to three inches of water a week. Space plants six to 12 inches apart. Each calendula plant will form a multi-stemmed bush one to three feet high and wide.
Buy calendula seeds in early to late fall. Store seeds for four to six months at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in a dark location. If you buy packaged seeds leave the seeds in their package until you are ready to plant.
Sow seeds directly into the garden (or into a container) in early spring through early summer. Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of soil or compost and gently press down with the back of a rake. Seeds germinate in 14 to 20 days, depending on cultivar. Thin seedlings when they are large enough to handle.
Landscaping with Calendula
Calendula plants and flowers complement warm (reds, yellows and oranges), cool (blues, purples) and neutral (white, cream) flowers. Place these medium-sized plants in the middle or back of borders. Grow calendula in vegetable plots for a splash of bright color. Calendula flowers have a fairly unpleasant scent, so plant away from gathering spots.
Calendula plants thrive in containers. Plant low-growing, spreading annuals like mother of thyme or bridal's veil to edge the container. Care for container-planted calendulas as you would for their garden-planted counterparts.
Calendula flowers have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties. Use topically in salves or lotions to soothe irritated, chapped or chafed skin and lips and to clean minor cuts and scrapes.
Made into a tea calendula flowers aid in the treatment of gastric ulcers.
Use in a tincture to treat mouth sores or ulcers and sore throats.
Use calendula flower petals in green salads. They provide a splash of color as well as a spicy flavor. Or use the petals as you would saffron, to color and flavor stews and chowders.
Harvest flowers in the morning after dew has dried. Only harvest fully opened flowers. Place them on a screen in a shady spot with good air circulation. Turn the flowers every day until they are dried. Flowers should dry completely in three to six days, depending on humidity.