Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a Mediterranean annual that has become a popular garden plant in much of the world. It has pale green leaves and bright yellow or orange ray blooms at the top of long single stalks that keep going from spring to autumn.
Leaves are pale green, slightly hairy and long and narrow, but wider and rounded at the end. The plant is branchy, slightly sticky and aromatic. Calendula grows about a foot tall, though flower stalks can be taller if it’s really happy.
Other Names pot marigold, English marigold, poet’s marigold, Husbandman’s Dial, Marybud, Merrybud, Marygold, Summer’s Bride
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History and Folklore
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all loved calendula and used it for culinary and healing purposes. It was considered a cure for just about everything during the medieval period. During the Renaissance, it was a popular garden flower and commonly used as a pot herb earning it the name pot marigold.
Shakespear honored the flower in a verse in A Winter’s Tale
“Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun
And with him rises weeping: these are flowers.”
It was said that if the marigolds didn’t open by 7 am there would be a thunderstorm.
One medieval belief about marigold was that it would strip a witch of her will.
Calendula likes a full sun position but doesn’t like too much heat. It will grow readily from seed and will reseed if allowed to do so in mild climates. Those who live in colder climates should gather the seeds in autumn and replant the following year.
Seeds should be planted right in the garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed and barely covered. Thin to 12 inches apart. Although they are tolerant of poor soils, calendula prefers to be planted in a nice bed of compost and some mulch around its roots once it gets going in the summer.
They do well in pots and window boxes too. However, many people find their aroma to be too overpowering for indoors.
Calendula are attractive to aphids, making them a good diversion plant for more delicate plants. They are also susceptible to mildew if it is too hot and humid. Use a soap spray to get rid of aphids and a gentle fungicide will take care of the mildew.
Harvesting & Storage
Pick flowers as soon as they open as they get progressively more bitter the older they get. Dry upside down in a dark place with good ventilation. Once they are dry, remove the petals and store in a sealed jar away from light and heat which can damage the oils they contain.
Marigold is associated with the Sun.
Calendula symbolizes love and constancy and is great for wedding bouquets and decorations. It is the traditional “he loves me, he loves me not” flower and is useful for love potions.
Wreaths of marigold hung over a door are said to keep evil and negativity from entering.
Dried petals can be strewn to consecrate an area or burned in consecration incense. They are also a good addition to dream pillows.
Calendula makes for long-lasting cut flowers, but the scent is overpowering for some.
Petals can be used to make a lovely yellow dye. It has been used to lighten hair.
Calendula is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic and is often added to healing and skin soothing salves.
Calendula petals can be used as a food coloring agent and has traditionally been used to color butter and cheese. It can be used to make yellow rice without saffron. They are also good in salads or sprinkled over cakes for a festive look.