Say “C” (Sí) for calendula! It is Cheerful, Charming, and Can easily be grown!
We have had a few rainy weeks and cloud cover and as I mentioned last week, I just don’t thrive with lack of light. Luckily for us, calendula (Calendula officinalis) thrives in our Southwest winter weather.
Calendula has a long history of human use as an herb – with a wealth of uses. Calendula can really shine in the kitchen. Cooks use calendula leaves and petals (botanically they are florets) steamed as a vegetable and to make pudding, dumplings, wine (tastes better than dandelion wine!), and to flavor cakes and breads. Fresh petals look and taste fine in salads. Calendula makes a lovely golden yellow dye. But all that information is better shared on the cooking site I write for – SavortheSW.
Planting and Care.
Calendula are perennials in some parts of the world but must be considered annual plants in our area. They will thrive all winter, ripe for the plucking, then pass into the great compost heap in the sky when the weather warms up.
Now that it’s (almost) December grow calendula from seedlings from the nursery. In October next year start calendula from seed (or from seedlings from the nursery).
Plants prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. It grows well in containers. Pots as shallow as eight inches can be used. Fill with any high quality potting soil. I add some sand to my soil because most herbs like well-drained soil.
Plants do best with six or more hours of sun. Full winter sun is fine.
Keep the soil relatively moist during establishment. Just like it sounds – establishment is the time between transplanting and getting their roots established in their new home. Once plants get larger, you can let the soil dry a little more.
It’s a flower thing, no relation to the rock band. It’s the term for removing spent blossoms to encourage more blooms.
Deadhead by grasping the stem under the flower and snap the stem where it most readily snaps. Do this by hand not pruners! This ensures that the stem is broken at natural abscission areas between the cells. It helps the plant to heal more rapidly. Pruners cut through cells and make it harder for the plant to heal.
Avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. In late February you could apply a general purpose fertilizer at half-strength. Fertilizer in spring will help calendula keep blooming until it fries in the May heat.
Plant your calendula where you can enjoy them – and do keep them well away from hungry furry wildlife. They are edible by more than just humans! The flowers are great for pollinators!
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today” (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I will get a few pennies.
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