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GROW: Calendula - Poet's Marigold

GROW: Calendula - Poet's Marigold

Easy to grow and abundant with healing energy, Calendula belongs in everyone’s garden. Its orange or yellow flowers are bright and prolific; they simply make you smile as you bend down to pluck the resinous medicinal blooms. Calendula was first cultivated in Europe in the 1100s and was used in both the kitchen and the apothecary.

Calendula illustration

Calendula illustration

Called “Poor Man’s Saffron” it was added to rice, soup, stew and bread. Like many herbs during the medieval times, it eventually found its way to the fermentation vats and made a yellow wine and later, an ale. For many years, Calendula’s orange flowers were used to change white cheddar cheese to orange cheddar cheese.

Medicinal Uses for Calendula

Calendula is well-known for an array of medicinal properties: healing and nourishing skin, support of the lymphatic and digestive systems, modulating inflammation and fighting bacterial infections. It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Calendula is used medicinally for:

  • Wound healing

  • Inflamed or cracked skin conditions

  • Eczema

  • Insect bites

  • Skin rash & Diaper rash

  • Burns

  • Fevers

  • Low immunity

  • Gum disease


Salves, wound-healing spray, compress, poultice, tea, infused honey, body butter, cream, facial serum

Step-by-step directions for making medicinal salves can be found in two posts:

Making Herbal Balms Part One

Making Herbal Balms Part Two

Calendula salve is used for wound healing and rash soothing.

Calendula salve is used for wound healing and rash soothing.

PLANT NAME: Calendula (Caldendula officinalis)

Calendula is grown as an annual in most areas and as a short-lived perennial in USDA Zones 8-10. Seeds can be started indoors four to six weeks before the last expected frost or can be directly sown in a garden bed after last frost date. Calendula self-sows but some blooms must be left to seed. Hardy enough to tolerate light frosts, Calendula does not appreciate high heat and will cease flower production once it rise over 90°F.

Potential pests include spider mites, whiteflies, thrips, and aphids so Calendula is often used as a magnet plant, attracting unwanted insects away from vegetable plantings. It’s can be a pollinator magnet for European honeybees and native bees and wasps

The variety Resina Calendula has the highest amount of resin, making it ideal for medicinal use.

HEIGHT: 8 - 24 inches,

WIDTH/SPREAD: 10-12 inches

SPACING: 8-12 inches between plants

LIFE CYCLE: Cool season annual; hardy through light frosts; reseeds easily

MATURITY: 45-60 days

HARDINESS ZONES: All zones; best in zones 3-9

Calendula looks wonderful in a swath in the garden.

Calendula looks wonderful in a swath in the garden.


SUN: Prefers full sun; partial shade in the afternoon. High heat will cease flowering.

SOIL: Requires well-drained loamy soil with added compost

WATER: Regular watering but allow to dry out in between; keep moist during hot periods

CONTAINER: Suitable for growing in outdoor containers

Calendula seeds

Calendula seeds


Direct sow seeds outside in garden bed several weeks before the last freeze date. Can also be started inside 6-8 weeks before freeze date and then transplanted. Keep seeds covered with soil as light can inhibit germination. Allow seed pods to develop and drop for next season.

GERMINATION TEMPERATURE & PERIOD: 55-60 degrees & 7-14 days

BLOOMS: Continuous bloom from late spring to mid-fallThe term ‘calends‘ refers to the plant’s tendency to bloom in accordance with the calendar— every month in some regions, or during the new moon.


Deadhead/harvest flowers regularly to maintain blooms. Pinch back growth to keep plant bushy. Calendula will continue to produce flowers until the first hard frost.

To reseed for next season, do not pick remaining flowers the last 4-6 weeks before the first frost. This allows them to go to seed and drop into the garden bed.


PESTS: Slugs, snails, aphids, beetles, caterpillars, leafhoppers

DISEASE: Powdery mildew; stem rot

Calendula pest that eats all of the petals!

Calendula pest that eats all of the petals!


For medicinal uses, harvest the freshest flowers or buds that are just starting to open. Pick after the morning dew has dried on sunny days. Harvest the entire flower by cutting at the base where the stem is attached; most of the resin is located at the bottom and your hands will feel sticky after harvesting. Leaves can be harvested for culinary use.

DRYING: Lay flowers on drying rack, basket or plate in a single layer. They dry quickly in arid regions but may need to be dried in a dehydrator or oven (lowest temp) in humid areas.

Author: Sue Kusch

Sue Kusch, a former community college instructor and academic advisor, incorporates her experiential wisdom, expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to her BA in Social Sciences and Masters in Education, she completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. She has studied medicinal and nutritional uses of herbs including studies at and East West School of Planetary Herbology since 1997. Sue currently serves as President and newsletter editor of her local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. An avid gardener, herbalist, cook, reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at You can find Sue’s work in at,, Green Living Journal PDX, and Herb Quarterly magazine.

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