We first discussed the healing powers of calendula in our blog post on Why Calendula Belongs In Your First Aid Kit and Your Skincare Routine . Calendula is truly a healing powerhouse. Its powerful role in protecting and repairing the skin, including on a DNA level, and soothing irritation and redness, are well known and supported by peer-reviewed scientific research. It is used for everything from dermatitis to acne and from cleaning wounds to healing digestive ailments. But did you know that you can grow this magical ornamental and therapeutic “marigold” yourself in your own home garden to enjoy it for both its beauty and for its healing properties? Here’s what you need to know to grow these glorious golden blooms:
- Order calendula seeds from a reputable organic seed vendor. Healing calendula is known colloquially as “pot marigold” and scientifically as Calendula officianalis (C. officianalis). This is not to be mistaken for other more common varieties of marigold which are a different genus and more widely available at garden centers.
- Plant the large, curved calendula seeds in a deep pot with potting soil. If planting in a garden, it can tolerate even poor soil, although it will thrive in well-worked and fertile soil and produce more blooms. It can be planted in full sun or partial shade and does well even in foggy areas where it stays cool during the day. The seeds germinate easily (germination takes 7 to 14 days) and can grow in almost any climate in the United States, except the very most arid or arctic.
- Seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost or can be direct-seeded outdoors in the spring. Whether planting indoors or out of doors, plant seeds ¼” below the surface of the soil and water regularly. If started indoors, the plants should grow to 4-5 inches and show some leaves before being transplanted 6” from each other. Plants will grow to a height of 2 to 2 ½ feet.
- Harvest flowers in the hottest part of the day during the summer when the flowers are entirely dry and the healing resins are at their highest level. Harvest throughout the season as flowers bloom by snapping flowers off the plant. Dry flowers them by hanging them in an area with good airflow or placing on a drying screen or in a dehydrator at low temperature. Drying should occur out of direct sunlight. It will generally take 7-10 days to fully dry flowers.
- Use the dried or fresh flowers in tea or in a tincture. Fresh flowers can be cut for decorative use but are also edible. They can be served raw in a salad, added to soups for color and flavor, or mixed in with goat cheese for a lovely presentation. Dried flowers can also be used to infuse oil for external use as a skin treatment. Keep in mind that some people are allergic to calendula and it is advised that it be avoided internally during pregnancy.