The Health Benefits of Calendula & Growing Guide
Calendula is an eye-catching flower in the garden that adds a cheery presence to any outdoor space. But did you know they’re a useful addition to the medicine cabinet as well? They are one of my favorite herbs for many reasons. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the Calendula Officinalis. We’ll discuss the many amazing health benefits of calendula, and how you can include this beauty in your home garden as well.
Calendula Officinalis is an annual flower, originally from the Mediterranean region. When a flower is classified as an annual, it only lives for the duration of one growing season. While it is also commonly known as pot marigold, the calendula is not related to the marigold. The calendula is a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family. The calendula is a simple flower to grow in cool temperatures and is an excellent flower for attracting pollinating bees (something we could definitely use more of).
Medicinal Uses & Other Benefits
Calendula has been used medicinally for generations, dating back to ancient civilizations. The people of Ancient Rome used calendula to treat scorpion stings, and it is still used to treat external ailments to this day. There are many health benefits of calendula. For example, calendula can be used to alleviate illnesses such as rashes, wounds, infections, and inflammation. It is believed that calendula contains chemicals that encourage new tissue growth in wounds and can ease inflammation in the body with its abundance of antioxidants. Because of its skin healing properties, this herb is the perfect addition to balms, salves, creams, and ointments.
The two most popular methods of using calendula medicinally are either by steeping the dried flowers to make calendula tea or applying a calendula-infused topical cream to the affected areas of the body. Calendula ointment can be made at home by soaking the dried calendula in a carrier oil (olive and jojoba are popular choices). If you can’t wait to grow your own calendula, it can easily be found at any retailer that sells herbs. I would highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs and have been personally using them for years.
While the health benefits of calendula cannot be disputed, it is not for everyone. Those who are pregnant are strongly advised to abstain from both consuming calendula and applying it topically, as it increases the risk of pregnancy complications. In addition, those who are allergic to ragweeds or other members of the Asteraceae family should stay away from calendula.
And as always, if you are already being prescribed medication, it is advisable to speak with a medical professional before adding calendula to your medicine cabinet. A medical professional can also offer a consultation to advise you on the appropriate dosage of calendula that best suits your needs.
Climate & Temperature
Despite their preference for sunny weather, calendulas prefer cooler temperatures. In extreme heat (greater than 85° F), calendulas’ growth will become stunted.
These flowers are capable of withstanding temperatures as low as 25° F.
Calendulas’ preferred soil is a well-draining, rich soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. However, they are not picky when it comes to soil requirements. Calendulas are tolerant of poorer soil conditions, though these specifications will guarantee the best flowers possible.
Calendulas thrive on sunlight, so make sure to give them as much as possible. When planting your calendulas, select a space in the garden that receives around 8 hours of sunlight a day.
It is recommended to give your calendula moderate watering on a regular basis. Be sure to avoid overwatering your calendulas by providing them about 1” to 1.5” of water weekly. Don’t worry about forgetting to water calendulas, as they are tolerable of low water conditions and will fare just fine.
Calendula conveniently requires very little fertilization. However, if you want to go the extra mile and you choose to fertilize your calendula, mixing in a rich compost before planting will give your calendula all the nutrients they need for a plentiful bloom.
Tips to Grow Calendula
The best time to begin sowing calendula seeds outside is in the early spring. These flowers grow best in cooler temperatures and lower humidity. Calendulas will bloom after six to eight weeks from sowing. If you want your calendula to bloom even earlier, you can start your plants indoors six weeks prior to your last frost date.
Sow your calendula seeds about 1/4” in the ground. As stated previously, it is important to select a location where the calendula will receive a full day’s worth of sunlight (at least 8 hours). In addition, calendulas ideally prefer moderately rich soil. You can achieve this by working in some compost in the soil before planting.
After the calendula sprouts begin to grow, it is best to thin out the seedlings and make sure that there is 8” to 12” in between each one.
When your calendula blooms have run their course, be sure to deadhead them to encourage more blooming in the future. Deadheading is the process of removing an old flower to make way for new growth. When deadheading the calendulas, pluck below the flower, but above the new leaf growth.
Calendulas are extremely tolerant of the cold, and you can continue to grow your calendulas into the wintertime. They’ll be able to withstand some light frost until a deep freeze kills them.
Pests & Diseases
Some examples of common pests & diseases include:
Aphids & Whiteflies
Whiteflies are true to their name and are tiny whiteflies. Aphids are identifiable by their tiny green or black bodies. Both pests are often found hanging out on the underside of the leaves where they feed on the plant.
Luckily, aphids and whiteflies are quickly treatable. The simplest way to rid your plants of these pests is to hit them with a firm stream of water to knock them off (once they’re down, it’s very unlikely they’ll climb back up). In addition, you can also treat them with regular spraying of insecticidal soap, if you feel comfortable using soap on your plants.
Powdery mildew is a very common disease to find in the garden. It is identifiable by the small, white spots that appear all over the plant. These white spots resemble power, hence their name.
Thankfully, powdery mildew is highly treatable. The best course of action is clipping all infected areas of the plant. Going forward, it is best to give your calendulas proper air circulation and watering. When watering your plants, be careful and try to aim for the bottom of the stem; do not overhead water.
Harvest & Storage
Calendula should be plucked at full bloom, picking off the entire head of the flower. If you plan on using your calendulas for culinary purposes, then you should pluck out the individual petals. You’ll see re-blooming after around two weeks, and you can harvest your calendula many times during one season.
After you’ve harvested your calendula, the best way to get the most use out of them is to dry the flowers. If you have a dehydrator at home, then that’s perfect for drying your calendulas. If you do not own a dehydrator, no worries. Simply lay your calendula flowers on a baking tray and allow them to naturally dry out in the air. This method works best in an area that is dry, dark, and has good air circulation.
Dried calendula will last for one year, as long as they are properly stored in a dry, airtight container.
On the outside, calendula look like pretty garden flowers, but there is so much more to them than just their good looks. Even the people of ancient civilizations knew how beneficial calendulas really were. I recommend growing calendulas at least once in your garden. Not only will you enjoy an increase in pollinating insects, but you’ll also have a decrease in pests. And when it comes time to harvest, you’ll have a natural supplement that will give you a boost of antioxidants and improve your health!
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