Calendula is one of the easiest and most prolific herbs to grow in the garden! It also produces an excellent infused oil. This article is a short introduction as to why you should have calendula in the garden! Written by professional aromatherapist, herbalist, and gardener Sharon Falsetto.
Calendula in the Garden
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a member of the Asteraceae botanical family and is therefore related to sunflower (Helianthus annuus). It certainly resembles sunflower in appearance with its happy, bright flowerhead and a sticky involucre (the important medicinal part of the plant).
Botanically speaking, calendula is a small herbaceous perennial plant (an annual in really cold or hot climates) with flowers which range in color from golden yellow to bright orange. It is a prolific re-seeder, and once established in your garden, it is most likely going to be popping up all over the place. Calendula is not a large plant though, and you will more than likely welcome this valuable medicinal flower in the garden.
Its botanical name – officinalis – is a nod towards its “official” use as a medicinal in days gone by and proof that this small medicinal plant has been around for centuries. Its medicinal properties were at one time valued by the ancients.1
How to Grow Calendula
Calendula can be grown from seed or by purchasing a “starter” plant. I have struggled to grow it successfully from seed when intentionally planting it, but if it reseeds itself in my garden, it seems to flourish just fine! The flowers continually bloom through summer and winter here in zone 8a (northern Arizona), unless a hard frost hits. Harvest regularly for that continual bloom. Otherwise, they tend to set seed very quickly, which is fine at the end of the season but not if you want to enjoy or use all summer long.
Just like sunflower, calendula enjoys a sunny spot and is not too fussy about the type of soil that it grows in. This is an herb which doesn’t require constant fertilizing and mulching (always a plus!). However, start calendula off well, with good nourishing soil, and it will reward you as one of the best workhorses in the medicinal garden. Note that some shade helps calendula produce better flowers and it is not a lover of high humidity.2
Calendula as a Companion Plant and as a Pollinator-friendly Plant
Calendula is lovingly called “a companion plant” which means it’s a great plant to intersperse in the vegetable and flower garden as it gets on with everyone! Bees and other pollinators love calendula. In addition, calendula is good at repelling unwanted pests, especially those attracted to the vegetable garden. Therefore, calendula is perfect for any polyculture garden.
Permaculture with Calendula in the Garden
Permaculture draws on the natural world to design a holistic “health care” system for the garden to create and sustain food and resources in harmony with its environment. If you have an organic garden, you are practicing some form of permaculture.
Calendula is a hard permaculture worker in the garden. It is a protector of good, garden soil. Why? Because:
- Its “thick, fibrous roots” can either be used as “living mulch” or a cover crop.3
- Calendula adds biomass to the soil due to the fact it is a “thick” grower and then dies back.3
Harvesting Calendula from the Garden for Medicinal Uses
This small, hardy herb is a giver for medicinal purposes as well. Calendula flowers are harvested for an infused oil in aromatherapy use and herbal medicine because this plant is great for healing bruises and as a skin emollient.4 How to make a good calendula infused oil will be coming up in our next article!
Calendula is also imbibed as a tea due to its soothing properties. Again, the flowers are usually harvested for this purpose.
You can address a variety of skincare problems5 with calendula, including burns and wounds, both with the infused oil and as a tea (applied externally in a compress). More recently, a CO2 extract of calendula has been made available commercially.
Learn More About Calendula with Sedona Aromatics
- Permaculture Research Institute website, Calendula, accessed from: https://www.permaculturenews.org/2018/03/30/calendula/
- Almanac website, Growing Calendula: How to Grow Pot Marigold, accessed from: https://www.almanac.com/growing-calendula-how-grow-pot-marigold
- Tenth Acre Farm: Permaculture for the Suburbs website, 7 Reasons to Grow Calendula officinalis, accessed from: https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/7-reasons-to-grow-calendula/
- Author’s personal experience.
- Mishra, A. K., Mishra, A., Verma, A., & Chattopadhyay, P. (2012). Effects of Calendula Essential Oil-Based Cream on Biochemical Parameters of Skin of Albino Rats against Ultraviolet B Radiation. Scientia pharmaceutica, 80(3), 669–683. https://doi.org/10.3797/scipharm.1112-18
About the Author:
The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and, more recently, a herbalist, gardener, and botanical perfumer. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer, semi off-grid, homestead property.