You’ll see these happy ladies with their bright dresses in cottage gardens and flower beds everywhere. Native to southern Europe, Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a hardy annual that reseeds freely and is a simple plant to grow. What you may not know is that throughout history, it’s been a versatile and widely used herb.
Their common name, “pot marigold,” sounds as if it refers to the fact that they can be grown in pots. While it’s a fact that they grow quite well in containers, the name actually came from one of their many uses — in food. This edible flower was called a “pot herb” and was tossed into the stew or vegetable pot.
Pot marigold is used as an antiseptic, cleanser, skin healer (including mild burns as well as sunburn), and detoxifier. It also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. If that isn’t enough, it’s been used as mouthwash, hand cream, food garnish, and yellow dye.
You can grow calendula in your own garden to enjoy their summer colors knowing that they can be made into an ointment, tincture, cream, or even dried when you want to tap into its medicinal properties. These plants are right at home in a cottage, cutting, rock, or potager garden.
Pot marigolds are at their best planted in a sunny site in your yard or garden. They enjoy loamy soil, but aren’t particularly fussy and will grow in nearly every type of ground unless it’s boggy. You can start them from seed or plant as seedlings from a nursery. Either way, they’ll easily reproduce the following year for you.
The 2 1/2″ – 4 1/2″ calendula flowers are best known as bright orange, but there are also varieties with flowers that come in cream, pale yellow, and apricot. Usually, the entire plant spreads to 1 – 1 1/2 feet wide and 1 – 2 feet tall, but there are dwarf varieties available.
Plant calendulas 12 – 18 inches apart and, if you stay on top of dead-heading (removing spent blooms), you’ll have flowers for months. If you live in a zone that has mild winters, you could see blooms from late fall through the spring or, if you’re in a cold winter zone, you’ll have flowers from spring to the middle of summer.