How to grow calendulas
All you need to know about growing calendula, in our Grow Guide.
Calendula marigolds, also known as pot marigolds, are an old cottage garden favourite, often used as a companion plant to help attract pollinating insects. Calendula flowers from June to September from a spring sowing, or from May to July from an autumn sowing. The flowers are edible and the petals make an attractively colourful garnish to salads and other dishes. They are also said to also have healing properties – calendula has been used to treat skin ailments such as rashes, wounds and sores, and has also been used to reduce pain and inflammation. Their petals can be harvested and used fresh or dry in tea, and can also be used to make a balm.
A hardy annual, calendula tolerates some frost and is therefore easy to grow.
How to grow calendula
Calendula can be sown direct where plants are to flower and need very little attention. Simply scatter seed on prepared ground in spring and ensure the soil remains moist. Deadhead spent blooms in summer or allow the flowers to develop seeds for resowing the following spring.
Where to grow calendula
Calendula works well as a bedding annual at the front of a border display, and in pots. In the greenhouse and vegetable patch, grow calendula among your tomatoes, beans and other crops to attract pollinating insects.
How to plant calendula
They are best grown from seed and sown where it is to flower. Sow the seed thinly in patches or rows, 1cm deep, and cover lightly. Thin seedlings to 10-15cm apart.
You can also sow seeds in pots or buy them as potted plants to plant out later. These can be used in bedding and container displays.
How to care for calendula
They require very little care. Water in dry conditions and feed fortnightly with a high potash liquid fertiliser, such as a tomato feed, to keep plants producing flowers. Deadhead spent blooms to further encourage the production of flowers but bear in mind that calendula seeds can be saved to sow the following year, so it's beneficial to leave some seeds to develop at the end of the season.
How to propagate calendula
If left, calendaula tends to seed itself. Avoid hoeing the ground and you should find new plants around the original, the following year. However, you can also collect and store seed to sow the following spring. Ensure you allow the seedheads to fully develop on the plant before collecting them (they will turn brown and papery as they mature). Remove them from the plant and lay them on a sheet of paper indoors, to dry for a few days. Once dry, separate the seeds from the seedhead and place them in a clean, labelled envelope. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place such as the fridge, and simply sow them the following year where you want them to flower.
More like this
How to make calendula balm
Calendula cream is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It's great for soothing mild sunburn, minor skin rashes and itchy skin, and can help heal minor cuts and grazes.
If you've not used a certain herbal remedy before, check whether you're allergic by applying some to the inside of your arm. If you have no reaction after 24 hours, you can assume it's safe to apply.
You will need:
- Fresh calendula flowers
- Emulsifying ointment
- Bowl to fit on top of the saucepan
- Small saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Small palette knife
- Piece of muslin or jelly bag
- Glass jar or other container with a fitting lid, plus a label
- Pair of strong rubber gloves
Pick calendula flowers
Pick the flowers when fully open but not fading. Wash under cold, running water and pat dry with a paper towel. Melt the emulsifying ointment in a china bowl over a pan of boiling water – take great care as the ointment will get extremely hot. Once it's melted, add the glycerol and water. This makes it solidify slightly. Stir until re-melted.
Add the flowers to the mixture
Add the calendula flowers, stir well and simmer for three hours. Stir from time to time during this period and check the water in the saucepan doesn't boil dry.
Strain the mixture
Strain the mixture through a jelly bag into a bowl. Once strained, stir the molten cream constantly as it cools to prevent it from separating.
Transfer the calendula balm into a jar
When set, use a small palette knife to transfer the mixture into a glass jar. Label the jar and store it in the fridge or a cold larder. Use within two months.
Varieties to grow
Calendulas bear single or double flowers, mostly in shades of yellow and orange, through summer.
Calendula officinalis 'Indian Prince' bears deep orange flowers with crimson centres and backs. A favourite for cutting. H x S: 45cm x 30cm
Calendula officinalis ‘Calexis Yellow’ bears double, spiky flowers of bright yellow. An orange variety is also available. H x S: 40cm x 30cm
Calendula officinalis ‘Snow Princess’ is creamy white, the palest calendula available. H x S: 40cm x 30cm
Calendula officinalis 'Touch of Red Buff' – an unusual and contemporary beige-pink with darker brown petal tips, ideal for cutting. H x S: 60cm x 30cm
Calendula ‘Power Daisy Yellow’ is a new type of calendula. It has a low growing, bushy habit and flowers prolifically over a long period through summer and into autumn, with no need to deadhead. H x S: 40cm x 40cm