Calendula—or pot marigold—is a recent favourite found in bouquets

Calendula adds a bright pop of colour to your garden early on in the season, and although its growth can slow down over the summer, if you keep harvesting the flowers, it will continue growing for you right through the fall. But this flower is so much more than a long-blooming bouquet star—and one you’ll definitely want to add to the to-grow list for next season.

Is it an herb or a flower?

Calendula is well-loved by gardeners because not only is it beautiful and decorative, but it’s also edible; in fact, many call it a flowering herb. Calendula has a mild and sweet taste and is a great addition to salsas, teas, or to dress up your charcuterie plate. Dried to save for the winter months, calendula adds a nice immunity boost to soups and stews, and it tastes similar to saffron when cooked.

Using calendula topically

On top of being edible, calendula has also been used topically for centuries and continues to be a common ingredient in natural skin care products. It helps to heal infections, and soothes sunburns, stings, rashes, wounds, acne, eczema, chicken pox and cold sores. It carries natural antiseptic properties and anti-inflammatory properties, helps to promote cell repair and growth, and is incredibly gentle and is recommended for babies and toddlers for diaper rash, cradle cap and other skin irritations. You can make a simple eco-friendly calendula salve to use for any of the aforementioned conditions.

Calendula even attracts pollinators (and repels pests)

Like many flowers, calendula is a big hit with butterflies and bees. It’s a beautiful and beneficial flower to plant in your garden if you want to attract pollinators to help with your vegetable plants, or if you’re just looking to feed and sustain these essential beings. Along with attracting beneficial insects, calendula also makes for a great companion plant in the veggie garden. It’s known to repel common pests that like to feast on your veggie plants, and its roots may help increase the activity of beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil.calendula with butterflyPhoto by Anastasiya Romanova on Unsplash

So, how do you grow it?

Now that you’re sold on the idea of calendula, let’s talk about growing this beautiful flower. There are many varieties and colours available to start from seed, and all are edible and have the same properties. Plus, it’s such an easy plant to grow.

Its seeds are spiky “C” shapes that you can either start early in the season as seedlings for transplanting, or direct seed right into the garden. Calendula grows best in full sun, doesn’t like to be over-watered, it’s cold- and heat-tolerant, and one of the earliest blooming and latest blooming flowers (it's even known for growing right up until the first frost and longer).

Now onto the harvest

Don’t worry about over-harvesting calendula. The more you pick, the more that will come. The best time to pick the flowers for tea, for dehydrating, or to eat, is when they first open up. Once the flower begins to dry, you can “deadhead” the flower by pinching or clipping the flower and composting it, or you can let it dry and go to seed for next year. Be mindful when letting calendula go to seed because if you don’t snag the seeds when they’re dry, a good gust of wind will come by and scatter the seeds all over your garden.

You’re going to love growing this flower for so many reasons. Whether it’s to add to bouquets, to spice up your dishes, or to use topically, calendula will be your new must-grow for the garden.