Calendula officinalis, also known as pot marigold, can benefit soil, repel pests, and aid healing. Here are seven reasons to grow this herb.
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I’ve been growing calendula throughout my garden for years and can hardly contain my excitement to tell you all about it!
Note: This herb (pot marigold) is not related to common garden marigolds, which go by the Latin name Tagetes. Calendula officinalis, written about here, is edible and medicinal, while Tagetes varieties can be toxic to ingest.
Overall, this herb can help reduce garden maintenance while yielding an abundance of useful flowers. Here are seven reasons to grow it.
1: Calendula Protects Soil
This flower grows especially well in the cooler seasons of spring and fall, though it grows all summer long in mild climates, too. Since it has thick, fibrous roots and grows in thick patches, it can be used as a cover crop or as a living mulch to protect the soil.
Sow seeds mid-summer for a fall cover crop that protects soil throughout the winter. Or sow seeds in the fall for a spring cover crop/mulch.
It grows thickly and then dies back on its own. When it does, it enriches the soil with biomass. Or you can simply pull it in time for planting and compost it. Personally, I leave it planted on the perimeter of my crops as a trap crop (see #2 below).
A thick crop of calendula can also be used as a cut flower. The bouquets are a beautiful sight! 🙂
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2: Repels Pests
One late summer a few years ago I noticed the stems of my pot marigold plants covered in aphids. I was alarmed and naturally worried that the aphids would be attracted to the crops around them. When I inspected the crops, I couldn’t find a single aphid—they were all on the calendula!
This herb truly lives up to its reputation as a trap crop—”trapping” pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and thrips by exuding a sticky sap (resin) that they find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops.
This resin is the medicinal component of the plant (see #6 below!).
See: 6 Flowers to Plant in the Vegetable Garden
3: Calendula Attracts Beneficial Insects
The flowers provide nectar and pollen that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The nectar—along with the pests that it traps—attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings.
Learn more about the life cycle and habits of bumble bees!
These beneficial insects even stay to mate, increasing the number of beneficials in the ecosystem! (They will mate and stick around where there is abundant food.) As a matter of curiosity, did you know that ladybug mating can last up to two hours???
Here is what I found on the calendula in my garden recently (warning: beetle sex!):
4: Enhances Fruit Tree Guilds
For all of the reasons mentioned above, calendula is an excellent multi-functional plant for the permaculture garden. In fact, Gaia’s Garden suggests using it in fruit tree guilds and food forests.
5: Calendula Dazzles the Edible Landscape
Rosalind Creasy, in Edible Landscaping, encourages the use of pot marigold in the edible landscape because it brings such a bright, cheery flash of color. I’ve used it for years in my landscape, and I love that it is both beautiful and low-maintenance.
6: Aids Healing
This flower has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties, and is often used to soothe a long list of skin ailments including—but not limited to—cuts, scrapes, bruises, bee stings, insect bites, fungal infections, eczema, and rashes.
That’s why I use the flower petals to make healing calendula oil, soothing salve, and in hypo-allergenic personal care products like soap, lotion, and body butter for sensitive skin.
According to The Backyard Homestead, the petals, easily dried and stored, make a delicious medicinal tea.
The Herbal Academy shares 14 other medicinal remedies using calendula.
If you can’t grow as much calendula as you would like, you can buy dried calendula flowers for your medicinal and culinary needs.
7: Calendula Adds Color to Culinary Creations
The cheerful flower petals—fresh or dried—can brighten up salads, cream cheese, or cooked vegetables.
According to Homegrown Herbs, the petals are also used as a natural food coloring for common foods such as cake frosting or broth. They can substitute for high-priced saffron to make golden-colored rice.
How to Grow Pot Marigold
This herb is a self-sowing annual that grows in USDA zones 3-9. I collect dried seed heads each season so I always have a supply of seeds!
Resina calendula is a variety of Calendula officinalis which is known to have the most potent amounts of medicinal resin and is grown specifically for medicinal purposes.
If your goal is something other than medicinal (attracting pollinators, repelling pests, etc.), then any variety of Calendula officinalis will be fine.
I like the Pacific Beauty Calendula Seed Mix by Seeds Needs, as well as the organic Resina Calendula (Pot Marigold) Seeds from Botanical Interests.
Sow seeds any time by scattering them on top of the soil and watering them well.
Calendula is such a joy, and I love sprinkling it around the garden each season. How do you grow and use Calendula officinalis?
I love growing calendula, but I lose plants to what looks like blight. I live in Virginia. Do you have any suggestions how to get my plants to last through the season?
It may be that–like other crops–calendula would do well to be on a rotation in your garden? Perhaps taking a year or two off would reduce the incidence of the blight, which in general is usually caused by a bacteria or fungus that remains in the soil from year to year. Without its host plant, the pest should die off or move on.
Keep in mind that right about now is when all of my spring calendula is going kaput. I guess that’s the plight of the annual flower to not last through the entire season. I’ll save the seeds and cut back all of the scraggly-looking calendula and patiently wait for the young fall calendula to grow up greener and prettier.
Thank you. That make a lot of sense. I have some calendula growing in my back yard. It is doing very well. I have never grown it there.
Maybe we’re on to something 🙂
LaVerne Merrill says
I had calendulas that dropped seeds and came up profusely for 20 years–till I got tired of them. Now it would be nice to have them back. No blight.
This is my first time growing Calendula. Thanks for the great recipes!
Great info. as always. Last fall I grew calendula for the first time. It overwintered here and was so cheerful. I have starts coming up from the seed I saved. Easy plant to grow. Good to know about it’s “trapping” capabilities. It will have a spot in the veg garden near the cabbage plants. I use the flower petals in my chicken’s feed. It’s supposed to make the egg yolks brighter. 🙂
Cool! I didn’t know about the egg yolks, but it makes sense!
I think it may be to HOT here in Cadiz for the Calendula. We have very, very
warm Springs and the heat only increases as the months roll into summer.
Autumn is also quite warm.
It is true that calendula may have a longer season for gardeners in more mild climates, but I’ve known several gardeners in hot, desert-like climates who do well with calendula. Simply sow seeds a month or two before your coolest and/or wettest season begins. Perhaps this is the winter season for you–calendula makes a great winter cover crop 🙂
(this might be a late response) I’m in sothern california (zone 10) and my calendula does very well in the winter and spring but dies off by mid summer because of the what/dry weather.
I have also learned it reseeds itself if I let some of the seed heads drop. This year I have it popping up all over the place
Is there a specific kind of calendula seed you need to grow in order for it to have medicinal properties?
You’ll want calendula officinalis for medicinal uses. Other varieties will be safe, too, but their focus is less on medicinal purposes and more on aesthetics. Officinalis is the most potent. Great question 🙂
I have been trying to google that question everywhere! Thank you so much for such an on-point answer! Do you have favorite brand?
I’m so glad! I hate when I search for an answer that *should* be out there and I can’t find it. 🙂
That’s what I used last year, and didn’t have a single seed actually become a flower!
Wow! Interesting. The seed packet I bought was so prolific that I was able to start saving my own seeds after that first year! I guess everyone’s growing conditions are different…
Mama Bear says
Looking to get educated here but is calendula Officinalis the same as calendula resina?
‘Resina’ Calendula is a strain of Calendula officinalis used most often for medicinal purposes, and is said to have the most potent amount of medicinal resins.
Cerena Childress says
@Geraldine There are heat tolerant varieties like Pacific Beauty and heat resistant Prince! There are probably others. Check for varieties at southern seed houses and from desert countries. Israel is famous for heat tolerant veggie plants they have developed! Good luck and happy gardening!
When we bought our first house, I was seven months along with our third baby and could not do more that spring than rake up an inch or two of topsoil and throw in some seeds. What I had on hand was calendula. It came up bravely, bloomed madly until the hottest weather, and in September resumed blooming until Christmas. When I finally pulled the plants out the following spring, I was astounded to see that the smeary red clay I had barely disturbed the year before had turned into friable dark loam to a depth of six or seven inches. I can only think that it was the calendula that did it.
I grew calendula at our last home and want to plant it here. I dried some of the petals for tea but don’t know what to mix with it. I don’t like the taste of calendula alone. Suggestions?
I would try it with ginger tea , or maybe fennel. 🙂
I didn’t know anything about Calendula before, but I will add it to my garden this year – thanks so much for the info.
Good day, I, live in South of Thailand, the Samui Island, I do miss Calendula so much. Its so easu to grow it in the Czech Rep. Do you think, it could grow over here? Most of the year, we’ve got a summer season, with temperature around 28-30 ‘C, with a lot of humidity.. Thank you for you reply
Cathy Tiffany says
I just found your site after googling “bumblebees sleeping in flowers”! Good article from you and I just read the one about Calendula; thanks for the info! I’m glad I found your site; I love in central Ohio and have extensive habitats and gardens, so I’m sure I’ll find your site useful!