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Marigolds (Calendula officinalis)

Marigolds - Edible flower

French and signet marigolds can be planted anytime through midsummer, but the tall American marigolds are best planted right away in the spring (after danger of frost has passed) because they are slower to mature. See local frost dates. Sow seeds directly into the garden once the soil is warm in the spring. You can start seeds indoors, but they germinate so easily outside that there’s really no advantage. Marigolds sprout within days in warm weather and plants bloom in about 8 weeks.

Choosing and preparing a planting site

  • Marigolds thrive in full sunshine and can often withstand very hot summers.
  • If planted in shade and cool, moist areas, they are prone to powdery mildew and won’t bloom well. 
  • Though they grow in almost any soil, marigolds do best in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. 
  • Prepare the soil by digging down about 6 inches to loosen it. Remove stones. 

How to plant 

  • Optional:Add some slow-release (granular) fertilizer in the planting hole. A 5-10-5 works fine.
  • Moisten the soil then sow seeds 2.5cm apart and no more than 2.5cm deep.
  • While still small, thin the seedlings. Space French and signet types 30cm apart. Larger American varieties should be at least 40cm apart.
  • If planting transplants, thoroughly water each plant after planting in the garden.
  • If planting in containers, use a soil-based potting mix. Either mix in slow-acting granular fertilizer at planting time or plan to water with diluted liquid fertilizer periodically. Take care to space properly; marigolds grown in containers can become crowded.

Marigolds make good companion plants for potatoes, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, aubergines, squash, melons, asparagus, sweet corn, chilies and peppers. Cabbages are adversely effected by marigolds and yet, they repel cabbage white butterflies and cabbage moths. Marigolds also help keep nematodes, whiteflies, and tomato hornworms at bay. Marigolds make a fine companion for any plant plagued by these pests, including tomatoes, corn, potatoes, beans, and hot-house and greenhouse plants.

Marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron, and are great in salads as they have a citrus flavor.If youeat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, and desserts or in soups.

Health and medical benefits of marigolds

Benefits and uses formarigolds include treating conditions, such as rashes, allergies, eczema and dermatitis; pain, swelling and redness caused from muscle cramps, muscular injuries or sprains; eye inflammation and itchiness caused by conjunctivitis; and fungal infections, including athlete’s foot, candida, ear infections and ringworm.

Due to their antioxidant properties, uses for marigolds include:

Homemade Skin Treatment: Ointment can be used to soothe sunburns, warts, bites, acne and ulcerations, in addition to healing wounds, dry skin and blisters.

Digestive-Soothing Tea: A tea can be made with marigold flowers to lower symptoms caused by inflammatory bowel diseases/colitis. Marigold tea is also beneficial for treating gastritis, acid reflux and ulcers, as well as reducing stomach or menstrual cramps.

Immune-Boosting Formula: Marigold (calendula) drops or extract are sometimes used to manage symptoms of coughs, sore throats or fevers.

Eye, Genital or Skin Infection TreatmentSalves made with marigold have long been used to treat fungal infections of the genitals, feet, eyes, mouth, skin, and also to lower hemorrhoids, anal tears and candida.

Some of the active ingredients found in marigolds (calendula) that give it these capabilities include: (4)

  • Plant sterols known as calendulin
  • Calendic acid
  • Polysaccharides
  • Linoleic acid
  • Carotenoids
  • Flavonoids
  • Triterpenes saponins, such as triterpenoid
  • Tocopherols
  • Oleanolic acid glycosides


Lowers Inflammation and Free Radical Damage

Research shows that calendula’s dozens of active chemicals make it a natural cytotoxic, hepatoprotective and spasmogenic herb that’s been demonstrated in both animal and human experiments. Extracts taken from the flower have been shown to lower C-reactive protein and cytokine levels and protect cells from being damaged by free radicals — one of the primary causes of aging and cell deterioration.Calendula not only controls oxidative damage from free radicals that can affect delicate tissues, such as those of the eyes, but also defend against infections of the skin, GI tract and genitals caused by viruses or bacteria. In addition, research also shows that calendula marigold helps fight growth of bacteria in wounds and might even be able to reduce symptoms associated with chemotherapy and cancer treatments.

Reduces Eye Inflammation and Conjunctivitis: Findings from animal studies show that calendula extract is capable of treating conjunctivitis and other chronic ocular inflammatory conditions.These extracts have demonstrated antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and immuno-stimulating propertiesthat not only reduce eye infections, but protect vision by guarding delicate tissues of the eyes from the effects of UV light, deterioration/aging and oxidative damage. (7)

Has Natural Antiseptic Properties:One well-researched use of marigold/calendula extract is applying it in drop form to the inside of the ear canal to help treat bacterial ear infections and decrease pain. It’s been found that calendula drops can lower inner-ear swelling and inflammation within just a couple short days of use, even without the use of antibiotics in some cases.Due to its antifungal properties, calendula can also be used to treat vaginitis/vaginal infections and jock itch. Applying an ointment or cream containing marigold/calendula, probiotic “good bacteria” like Lactobacillus sporogenes and lactic acid to the affected area of the groin/genitals for four weeks can help decrease symptoms, including pain, itchiness, burning when urinating and dryness.

If you are going to use Marigolds to treat an existing health condition please consult with your healthcare provider first.