Easy to Grow Calendula

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a herb now grown more commonly for its pretty blooms, but it has a wealth of uses. Calendula can really shine in the kitchen. Cooks use calendula leaves and petals (botanically they are florets) steamed as a vegetable and to make pudding, dumplings, wine (better than dandelion wine!), and to flavor cakes and breads. Fresh petals look and taste fine in salads. Calendula makes a lovely golden yellow dye.

You Can Grow That

Planting and Care.

Calendula are perennials in some parts of the world but must be considered annual plants in our area. They will thrive all winter, ripe for the plucking, then pass into the great compost heap in the sky when the weather warms up.

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Calendula prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. It grows well in containers. Pots as shallow as eight inches can be used. Fill with potting soil that has some added sand. Plants do best with six or more hours of sun. Full winter sun is fine.

Calendula can be grown from seed or from seedlings from the nursery. Set seed a quarter inch deep. Try to space any rows around a foot apart. When seedlings are two inches high, thin to eight inches apart.

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Keep the soil relatively moist during establishment. Once plants get larger, you can let the soil dry a little more.

Deadhead. It’s a flower thing, no relation to the rock band. It’s the term for removing spent blossoms to encourage more blooms.

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Remove spent blooms to encourage additional flowers. Mine rarely reach this stage as I use them so often.

If you are collecting the blooms for herbal use, you want to harvest them at peak bloom, before they go to seed.

Avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. In late February you could apply a general purpose fertilizer at half-strength which will help calendula keep blooming until it fries in the May heat.

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Harvesting and Use.

Harvest blooms or deadhead by grasping the stem under the flower and snap the stem where it most readily snaps. Doing this by hand rather than by prunners ensures that the stem is broken at natural abscission areas between the cells. This allows the plant to heal more rapidly. Clippers cut through cells and make it harder for the plant to heal.

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While many tinctures use freshly harvested material, for decoctions it is best to dry the petals prior to use. This helps remove (volatilize) some of the bitter compounds. Calendula decoction or in tincture is used topically to treat acne, or internally to aid in reducing inflammation, controlling bleeding and soothing irritated tissue.

Dried calendula can be used to make a body powder for babies and adults. Finely grind dried petals in a mortar, and mix half and half with corn starch.

Dried then reconstituted petals can be added to soap as an anti-bacterial agent.

A calendula infusion as a rinse helps bring out highlights in brunette and blond hair. Calendula is often used in commercially available products.

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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

This work is copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

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