Starting Calendula in seed flats in the house or in a greenhouse will allow you plant them out early, and you'll have blooms to harvest by late May.
Calendula plants (bottom) ready to be planted out in the garden.
Calendula makes a pretty display in the garden. Keep the flowers trimmed (deadheaded) so that fresh flowers will develop on the plants.
Gather Calendula flowers in the late morning on a sunny day.
Calendula flowers ready to go into the dryer.
Pack dried Calendula flowers in a jar and keep them dry.
A native bee on a Calendula flower
Last year we added some easy to grow medicinal herbs and flowers to our greenhouse product line for our market customers who are interested in growing their own medicinal plants. One plant that I like to recommend to people is Calendula. This beautiful, sunny plant has so many features that make it really practical and useful to include in your garden or on your small farm. It's easy to grow from seed, looks beautiful in your garden beds, is edible and it has medicinal properties as well. Here at the farm, we grow Calendula for making herbal teas, and for use in our beeswax-based cosmetics. It is one of our favorite annual flowers to grow. Let's take a look at growing and harvesting Calendula, start to finish!
You'll find many varieties of Calendula available from seed suppliers. If you want to use your Calendula for medicinal use or in homemade cosmetics and skin care products, make sure you buy Calendula officinalis. Selecta cultivar that has a high level of the resins that impart healing qualities to the flowers, such as Alpha. If you're not going to use the flowers for medicinal use, but just want some pretty and practical flowers to brighten up your garden, many varieties are available in different colors and plant sizes. Calendula does well in pots too, and looks great on your porch or deck.
Calendula is easily started from seed. You can sow Calendula directly in your garden, but for the best results, try starting your seeds indoors in your house or greenhouse. Baby plants will emerge in about a week. Keep them in the house/greenhouse until they are about 4-6 inches high and then plant them in a sunny location with good drainage. Calendulas are not fussy plants, and soon you will have lots of beautiful flowers making a nice display in your garden. You will probably see some pollinating insects such as small native bees on your Calendula too. Calendula plants will bloom nicely for most of the summer, and perform well if you remove the flowers regularly. Harvest young flowers that have opened completely, but don’t leave them on the plant too long. If you harvest the flowers regularly, the plants will continue to set new buds and flower all summer long. The sunny yellow-orange blooms can be used as cut flowers in floral arrangements, or you can preserve them.
If you’re going to use Calendula flowers for tea or in skin care products, harvest the flowers in the late morning on a sunny day. Gather the newest looking flowers that have just opened. Clip the stems right below the flower head, and put them on a drying tray. You can air dry them (keep them out of the sun but make sure there is some air circulation around them). In an electric dryer, the flowers will dry in about 12 hours using low heat.
Once dry, pack them into jars, and you’ll be ready to use your Calendula for tea, or for making infused oils to use in salves and creams. Enjoy!