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Calendula officinalis - Pot Marigold Companion Planting and Medicinal Uses

Updated on April 11, 2013

Calendula officinalis is the botanical name for the pot marigold we all know and love. Easy to grow from seed, they lighten up our gardens all summer long and continue flowering right through to the first frosts which tend to kill them.

Pot marigolds dislike extremes of temperature. The hottest summer sun can kill them as easily as frost. They originated in the southern European area, near the Mediterranean Sea where they could bloom all winter without danger of frost.

Unfortunately, in the heat of summer they tend to die off in those regions, because it is just too hot and dry for them, even with increased waterings.

They return again, however, because calendula officinalis are perennial.

That said in temperate regions of the world they are best treated as annuals, as they give their brightest and showiest display their first year.

calendula officinalis
calendula officinalis

Calendula are fast growers

Calendula officinalis can grow into flowering plants from seed in just two months, and for this reason they make great starter plants for children or beginner gardeners.

It is heartening to see the results of your labors so soon and children especially are greatly encouraged by growing calendula.

The seeds are larger and easy to handle too, which is an added bonus.

You can either take a rake and open a shallow trench in the area you want them to grow, and scatter the seeds over the areas before pulling the soil back over the top, or you can start them off in an unheated greenhouse about a month before the last frosts.

Calendula transplants well from seed trays straight into the garden so you can do this to start an earlier display than if you had planted the seed directly into the soil.

In temperate climates, you can expect a flowering display from spring right through to autumn. In hotter areas, they may die down in summer.

Plant in full sun to partial shade for the best display, and give them an average amount of water.

Calendula officinalis
Calendula officinalis

Calendula officinalis as a companion plant

Calendula officinalis makes a great companion plant in the garden because it deters insects from attacking crops or flowers that you may be growing for eating or for display.

Everybody says it deters insects. It doesn't.

It attracts them, which is quite different.

In fact, all the garden pests love pot marigold so much, they leave all the other plants alone. (So be very carfeul when you put that marigold in your mouth to chew).

As a keen plant grower, I hadn't bothered much with calendula officinalis for years till I read it was both a good companion plant and good for insect bites.

So a few years ago I planted a row if them next to the strawberry patch, in a nice sunny spot close to the house for collection should I need the odd flower head.

I also planted some in the greenhouse between the tomato plants.

That summer, when the annual whitefly plague descended, they all converged on the calendula and left all but a couple of leaves at the very bottom of the tomato plants alone.

Oh joy!

A whole summer of picking juicy red tomatoes that didn't have the blight of the whitefly sap on them!

Strangely enough the sorry looking calendulas survived through the winter (though the whitefly didn't) and the following year was a year without whitefly.

I have since kept calendulas in my greenhouse and my tomatoes (and all other greenhouse plants) have never since been attacked by either green or whitefly even those those poor calendulas end up covered in them!

The moral of the story is:

grow calendula officinalis in your greenhouse as a completely organic method of pest control.

some of my garden calendula plants with their usual insects flying around. I grow them with night scented stock for evening scent.
some of my garden calendula plants with their usual insects flying around. I grow them with night scented stock for evening scent.

Culinary uses for calendula officinalis

The flowers of the calendula are edible and can be used in salads, and as a coloring agent in many cooked foods.

It can be substituted for saffron in dishes requiring it.

Chop the flower heads up and soak them in milk or water for a time until the liquid has turned golden and use as required.

They will bring a distinct but delicious flavor to the dish.

Calendula officinalis is used commercially in the coloring of butters, margarines, poultry produce, ice cream and candies.

The leaves are unpalatable except when they are very young and succulent when they may be chopped and added to salads to bring a delightful flavor.

calendula officinalis
calendula officinalis

Medicinal uses of calendula officinalis

Calendula officinalis has a really long history as a herbal remedial plant whether eaten, or made into potions or lotions. It has invariably been used for correcting menstrual problems in women, reducing fevers, inflammations and muscular spasms, and has even been used as a cancer treatment.

By far and away its most popular use has been as a topical agent, repairing damaged skin and preventing infection from entering open wounds. Made into lotions it can help acne sufferers and those with chronic itchy skin complaints.

I can vouch that calendula does not even have to be made into a lotion to be effective. Simply remove a flower head, knock off any insects that are in it at the time, pop into your mouth and chew for 30 seconds to mix well with saliva, and apply to any fresh insect sting.

The swelling is stopped on the spot and the pain disappears like magic, and does not return.

For this reason, I always grow calendula officinalis in my garden. It really is the most amazing cure for insect stings and bites ever.


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    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      As an insect bite curer, it is fantastic! Pretty flowers too :)

    • jetta17 profile image

      jetta17 7 years ago

      Stunning flowers. I really enjoyed the medical features. I'll definitely be growing some this spring.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Ditch the Marigolds (rubber gloves) then, because "hands that do dishes can be soft as you face, with mild green Fairy Liquid". Are you singing along yet? If your hands do get rough after a little dish washing, buy some nice soothing calendula cream (just to keep on topic).

    • lyndre profile image

      lyndre 7 years ago from Scotland

      The title brought me here.I am a nosey b*****d ;lol:

      I thought marigolds where what the wife makes me wear to do the dishes :lol:

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      You're welcome Nan. I think marigolds are tagetes, aren't they?

    • profile image

      Nan 7 years ago

      I love flowers and always have planted marigolds, and now you have pointed out another flower to grow along with the marigold. Thanks, beautiful flowers.