A beautiful fall flower, calendula can be used medicinally in herbs and salves but also makes a great addition to a bouquet of flowers. Calendula can grow all summer long, but I find that it really pops in the fall when other flowers are dying back. While the stem does have a sticky sap when harvested, I appreciate calendula and the ways it adds to the farm.
I planted calendula one of the first years we grew vegetables and flowers. I got a mix from Eden Brothers and was excited to grow this flower for its herbal properties and as a companion plant among my tomatoes. The flowers grew, I got busy with the farm, and the flowers went to seed. The next year, those seeds popped up in the same bed and were happy and healthy. I let them keep growing as volunteers and haven't looked back. While I have not been harvesting them to make salves and tinctures, I love their vibrancy during a season that is starting to fade in color.
Care & Maintenance
Calendula has been an easy flower to grow for me. It grows best in a sunny area with well-draining soil.
I have found that calendula does well when it self-seeds, but you can direct sow seeds in rows 1/4" deep in the spring. Cover the rows lightly with soil. Once seeds have sprouted, thin the rows to a seedling every 8 to 10". You can thin seedlings by simply snipping them off at the base near the soil.
Plants take 60-90 days to mature. While maturing, make sure to water seedlings regularly. Once established, the plants can reach up to 24" and are drought tolerant.
Harvest plants regularly for their blooms. Make sure to leave some blooms on the plant if you want to let them go to seed for the following year.
Harvest calendula in the morning or evening into a clean bucket filled with clean water. Harvest flowers when they are 1/3 of the way open. Use clean snips to harvest the flower at the base of the stem. A stem of calendula will have shorter stems branching off of it with more buds below the main flower. Follow the main stem deep into the plant, cutting it off at the base or right above a branching stem. Remove the leaves and shorter branching stems before placing the stem into the water. Calendula should have a vase life of 6-7 days.
Other things to consider
There are so many positive qualities to calendula. It is a great companion plant to tomatoes and carrots. It is hardy from growing zones 3-10. Calendula has medicinal properties and is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant (1). It is deer and rabbit resistant, which makes it an excellent flower if you have issues with critters. I hope you are inspired to grow calendula in your garden.
This post is part of a year-long series on flowers and plants that we love and grow on the farm. Check out other flowers that we love.