Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
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How to grow calendula flowers: sowing, growing, and saving seed

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How to grow calendula officinalis flowers including a guide to sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use.

This piece is a chapter from the ebook, Calendula: A guide to Growing & Using it in Skin Care

If you only grow one skin care flower, choose Calendula officinalis. Known by many as the Pot Marigold, this cheerful and easy to grow flower has a myriad of uses. The flowers can range in color from a buttery yellow to bright orange and being hardy, new plants can produce flowers from May right through to the first frost. Best of all, the more flowers you pick, the more they produce.

It does incredibly well in most open situations and will grow in practically any garden. It’s a flower that thrives on neglect and will grow better for being left alone. Once they’re in bloom, you can pick the flowers to use in making healing natural skin care.

Complete Guide on how to grow calendula flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #herbalism #calendula #gardeningtips

Calendula officinalis growing guide

• Suitable for all zones
• Fuss-free and easy to grow
• Yellow, orange, and apricot flowers
• Full sun to partial shade
• Most soil types but prefer fertile and well drained
• Plant height: 45-60cm (18-24”)
• Flowers from late spring to the first frost

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Calendula grows in all gardening zones

Sowing Calendula Seeds

Though Calendula officinalis is originally from the Mediterranean, its hardy nature has allowed it to colonize the temperate world. It grows in most soil types and will even tolerate partial shade. They do best in sunny positions though, especially on well-drained soil. Plant them there and they’ll reward you with hundreds of flowers.

Sow the seahorse-like seeds in either autumn or spring. Sowing them in autumn will give the plants a head-start and you’ll see flowers much earlier. Calendula seeds germinate best at between 15-25C (59-77F). You may not see many seedlings emerge if it’s cooler or warmer than this[1].

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Calendula seedlings unfurling from curved seeds

In autumn, sow six to eight weeks before the first frost in a tray or modules filled with one-part perlite (or grit) mixed with three parts multi-purpose compost. Top dress with horticultural grit, water it in, and keep moist under cover in a bright place. The seeds should be sown 1.25cm (1/2”) deep.

You’ll see leaves emerge 6-15 days after sowing. With protection from both the cold and slugs the plants will overwinter well and you can plant them outside after the last frost in spring. If growing in a tray, you’ll probably want to plant them individually in modules before winter.

You can sow calendula seeds in modules in spring too. Use the same instructions above and sow 6-8 weeks before the last frost date if you’re starting them off inside or in a heated greenhouse. If your greenhouse is unheated, sow after the last average frost date.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Six-week old calendula plant

Planting Calendula

Calendula will grow in most soil types but does prefers fertile, well-drained soil. If you want a lot of flowers keep this in mind when you sow or plant them outdoors. They will grow in partial sun but I’d avoid growing them in full shade. Some sources may say that you can but these Mediterranean plants are truly sun loving.

When your little plants are two inches tall, harden them off and plant them outside. They’ll grow to their full potential if you can give them 1-2 feet in all directions.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Sowing Calendula seeds in a drill

Direct Sowing Calendula

Direct sowing in spring is very easy. Between March and May, and well after the last frost, lightly scatter seeds in rows 18” apart. Protect the emerging plants from slugs using beer traps or another organic solution and when the young plants reach an inch tall, thin to about 15cm (6”) apart.

Allow the plants to continue growing and when they’ve hit 2-3” in height thin them to 30-60cm (1-2 feet) apart. You can dig up the extra ones for replanting elsewhere or to give away. Put weaker plants on the compost pile.

The above is general planting guidance. I personally tend to grow my calendula in thicker plantings, either in a row with plants just a few inches apart or broadcast over an area. When broadcast or allowed to self-sow, I don’t thin them out. They sort themselves out without interference.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Calendula plants grow well on their own or in rows

Calendula as a companion plant

Though you may be like me and grow calendula for their own purpose, they can also be dotted around the garden to help other plants to grow. They can attract aphids away from prized vegetables and attract more beneficial plants as well.

In the garden, Calendula is often grown as a companion plant to vegetables that need pollination to produce. The vibrant flowers attract insects that will happily flit over to pollinate zucchinis, pumpkins, and cucumbers while they’re there. Calendula officinalis is a friend to many edible plants including:

• Asparagus – it deters the asparagus beetle
• Squash and pumpkins – their flowers attract pollinators
• Most other veg. Gardeners grow calendula to draw aphids away from vegetables like cabbages, kale, lettuces, and other leafy greens.

The downside to calendula is that their dense growth creates a nice damp place for slugs and snails to lurk. That means you should avoid planting them directly next to anything you don’t want decimated.

Though Calendula is sometimes called a marigold or ‘Pot Marigold’ it’s not closely related to the common marigold you might be more familiar with. That plant is a Tagetes and has different companion planting suggestions.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Calendula can help other plants by warding away some pests and attracting polinators. Image courtesy of Flickr

Calendula growing tips

If you already have mulch of compost or composted manure on the soil you can sow directly into it. Otherwise, apply a mulch of your choice after the plants are a good inch or two tall. Don’t cover the base of the plant but bring the mulch up to within an inch of it. Mulch will keep the soil underneath moist and stop weeds from growing.

Calendula requires very little in the way of aftercare. My main advice on growing them is to not mess with them too much, other than picking the flowers. It’s over-watering and over-feeding that will cause stunted growth and other issues. Let them alone and they’ll happily grow and bloom all summer long.

If your plants are starting to get tall and a spindly, you can trim them back. Use scissors or your fingers to pinch back to a leaf node. Aim to keep your plants under 60 cm (two feet) in height. They tend to stay bushier and healthier that way, need less water, and stand up better in the wind.

Very few pests

As far as pests are concerned, calendula can suffer from aphids later in the season. If you notice an infestation, spray the aphids off using soapy water.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
You can grow calendula in containers if you don’t have enough garden space

Growing Calendula in Containers

Calendula is adaptable and will grow well in outdoor pots, containers, and window boxes. Aside from the harvest of flowers, they’ll also add a splash of color throughout most of the year.

When growing in containers, make sure that the compost is moist but has good drainage. To make a good mix add 1-part grit or perlite with 1-part vermiculite and 3-parts multipurpose. Perlite adds drainage, Vermiculite aerates but also retains water, and the compost contains nutrients and a place for roots to grow.

After planting, press the compost down and top-dress it with horticultural grit. This will help the compost retain water and keep weeds from colonizing the surface.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
The more you pick, the more flowers Calendula will produce

Blooming times

Calendula plants will begin blooming 45-60 days after germination and as long as you keep on top of picking the flowers, they’ll continue flowering.
In fact, they’ll bloom all throughout the summer and autumn if you’re diligent with your dead-heading. In mild climates some will even continue blooming through the winter.

On the other hand, in warm climates or during a hot summer you may find that your plants stop blooming. They’re hunkering down, bearing through the heat, and will start flowering again when it cools down in autumn.

Calendula flowers aren’t just for show, they’re also a skin-beneficial plant and an edible flower. That means picking the flowers in their prime not only spurs more flowers to bloom but you can use the flowers too.

Make your own natural calendula skincare or use the petals to color and add flavor to food recipes.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Single flower types (left) have an open center and are more attractive to pollinators. Double flowers (right) have more petals to harvest

Single and Double Flower Varieties

The flowers themselves will usually be yellow to bright orange and 2-3” in diameter. There are different varieties of Calendula officinalis with some blooming as single flowers and others with double rows of petals.

Some varieties, like Fiesta Gitano, produce flowers in both yellow and orange and in semi-double to fully double petals.

You can also buy calendula seeds as mixes so that you could have single, double, yellow, and orange flowers all in the same row.

Most of the 100 or so calendula officinalis cultivars have been bred for the ornamental market. However, petals from all cultivars are edible and medicinal. It just means that the ones better suited for health and skincare are the more resinous varieties[2].

Erfurter Orangefarbige – double with orange petals. This is the best cultivar for using in herbal and skincare applications.
Resina – single with yellow petals and yellow pistils. Another good cultivar for herbal uses.
Single Orange – single with orange petals and pistil
Indian Prince – double and orange-red with a dark pistil
Pink Surprise – double and yellowy-pink

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Calendula will happily bloom all summer long

Perennial or annual?

Calendula is technically a short-lived perennial and if it isn’t touched by a hard frost it can survive for a least a couple of years. A few of my plants survive each winter (zone 8), though their lower stems sometimes darken and become leggy.

In zones 7 and lower you grow calendula as an annual. This means that it will probably die off and need re-sowing from year to year. Fortunately, they are prolific seed producers and will self-seed if you let them. These self-sown seeds overwinter and will grow a new crop of calendula in the same place the next year.

You can also save seeds and start the sowing process over again the next spring.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
Calendula are prolific seed producers and you can collect a lot in a single season

Collecting Calendula Seeds

Calendula seeds are easy to collect and save off the plant. Once you’ve made the initial investment of seeds you shouldn’t need to buy them again.

Allow some of the flowers to bloom, drop their petals, and transform into green seed heads. As they mature the seed heads will turn brown and they can be cut from the plant before the seeds are released. Cut the seed heads off on their own or with six inches or more of stem.

Cutting with a bit of stem can be easier but will also remove part of the plant that could continue flowering. Tie the cut stems with a string and then place the flower heads in a brown paper bag. Tie it on so that it won’t fall off.

Hang upside down in a warm and airy place until the stems are dry. Give the bag a good shake after this and most of the seeds will fall off. Tease the rest off if need be.

If you’re just cutting the seed heads, scatter them at the bottom of a brown paper bag and leave in a warm, dry place. When fully dry, use your fingers to pull the seeds out of the heads.
Store dried calendula seeds in bags or jars in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. For best germination, use within six years.

Complete Guide on how to grow Calendula Flowers including tips on sowing, growing, saving seed, ways to use it as a companion plant, and the best cultivars for medicinal use #lovelygreens #herbalism #marigold #calendulaofficinalis
The next piece in this series is on harvesting and drying calendula flowers

Harvesting and using Calendula Flowers

This piece is an excerpt from the ebook, Calendula A guide to growing and using it in Skin Care. It’s 49 pages that show how to grow, harvest, process, and use calendula in healing natural skin care. It also includes over a dozen beauty and skin care recipes including calendula soap, lip balm, bath fizzies, and skin cream.

Head over here for further information and your instant download.

[1] Seed germination of calendula in response to temperature
[2] The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer: The Ultimate Guide to Producing High-Quality Herbs on a Market Scale, page 277

23 Comments

  1. HI tanya, thanks for all of this fabulous information, I have been struggling with the interchangability of Marigold and Calendula! Are you able to recommend where I can find Erfurter Orangefarbige seeds in the UK, your link points to the USA? They seem quite hard to get hold of and I would like to ensure I buy from a reputable and reliable source? Thank you!

  2. Hi I love your harvesting video and wondering where you bought your wooden drying rack with white fabric. Or is this something I can make myself with dowels and white cotton fabric?

  3. Hi, I was going to plant them next to my strawberries but now I’m afraid to since you said that about the snails . What do you think? Teija Nelson

  4. Hi Tanya ,
    Your Calendula growing guide was very informative and helpful. I started some seeds indoors with the variety you recommended and they are about an inch and a half tall. We have had a mild winter in zone 8b here in Austin Texas and the seeds I directly sowed in my bed are sprouting too. Cannot wait for them to grow and flower.
    Made some salve with flower tops from a couple of store bought plants and it is now our favorite winter moisturizer 😊.
    You are truly a very inspiring gardener .

  5. Hi! Can you tell me how many calendula plants can go in one container and how big the container should be? Thanks!

    1. How many plants can go in a container is dependent on the container size. It should have a depth of at least a foot and each plant needs about 1 foot in circumference to grow. Saying that, you could plant two or three relatively close together in the middle of a large pot and they’ll grow out from one another.

    1. Hi Betsy — there are various links in the article to where you can find calendula seeds online. On a local basis, pop in to your local garden center and they’ll be sure to have some. Look for ‘Calendula officinalis’

  6. bonsoir
    article tres interressant mais je trouve pas les explications pour les mettres dans les savons faut il garder que les petales les mettres a macerer dans des huiles ou autrement j en est plante j espere quelle font pousser cordialement

  7. Hello .
    Really glad to have landed here . My wife has been trying to grow the calendula within the confinement of a wheelbarrow and she hasn’t been making much progress with them ,hence I decided to come look for information so I can help her out .The wheelbarrow she first used happened to be the true temper and I think its too shallow for this kind of planting offering very limited space.Moving it around was also a task task hence I advised her to use the gorilla dump cart .
    The cart has been quite efficient offering enough space and stability ..
    with all this information i just gathered on how to gro the calendula am pretty sure she’ll be impressed by the outcome on her next trial .

    Thank you so much

  8. ear Tanya
    thank you for send me the recipes,
    I would like to do a soap for washing cloth , with clean oil, without animal fat.
    The easy oils to found here in Argentina. are olive, sunflower, corn, peanut.
    I did try make a recipe but went rong.
    can you post a easy recipe at any time?.
    thank you , your work help me a lot.
    Mirta

  9. I grew calendula for the first time this year and plan to grow a much bigger plot next spring! I saw this pin on Pinterest, great article! I had to search your website though because your pin has been hijacked!

    1. Try growing them in trays of compost first and then potting out. You’ll have a much better germination rate and won’t have as much issues with slugs and other pests getting to them first!

  10. Thanks for the great tips I grow all my flowers every year from seeds I harvest from the flowers. I enjoy doing it and save lots of money

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