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Growing, Harvesting, and Drying Calendula Flowers – With Recipes and Suggestions for Use

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Using calendula is very simple and straightforward.

This beautiful flowering plant has been widely used throughout history for health, beauty, and as a seasoning or edible decoration in culinary applications.

Medicinally, it has been used to aid digestion, calm aching teeth and joints, speed healing of bruises, burns, and wounds, soothe cramps, and reduce fever. Calendula can be used to make cosmetics and it also makes a wonderful natural dye.

For all these reasons, it is a plant you will always find in my garden.

This post was originally published on June 16th 2016 and updated on May 10th 2021.

Close-up of fresh calendula blossoms with text overlay.

Growing Calendula

An easy flower to start from seed, calendula can be planted in very early spring.

The stems themselves are not very attractive and can become quite woody and leggy without regular pruning. When the flowers have dried on the stalk they also become unsightly. To remedy this problem I grow them in the same beds as marigolds whose foliage is much more green and lush, thus hiding some of calendula’s dullness.

Many fresh calendula blossoms of varying oranges and yellows.

The calendula flowers are beautiful though and will remain so with a little care throughout the season. Once the calendula begins to bloom you can start harvesting the flowers. Alternatively, you can leave the flowers on the stalk to enjoy the colorful blooms.

When the blossoms start to fade, you can deadhead (remove) them to keep the plant looking tidier. This also encourages new blossoms to form.

Once the flower heads start to dry the seeds begin to form. If you leave them on the stalk they will reseed generously, but they don’t look particularly pretty. I always leave a few heads to dry on each plant and collect seeds from those for the following year.

Harvesting Calendula Blossoms

To harvest your calendula flowers start by plucking the entire flower head from the stem. Collect them in a basket as you go. Make sure to pick fresh blooms that have not started wilting.

Fresh calendula blossoms of varying oranges and yellows.

When you have finished picking the flower heads, start removing the petals carefully from each flower and collect them on a clean piece of white paper.

Freshly picked calendula petals.

If there are any bugs or dust on your petals you will want to clean them before drying. The best way to do this is to gently add a handful to a plastic kitchen strainer and give it a few gentle taps. All the small friends or dirt particles will fall through, leaving your cleaned petals behind.

Calendula petals in a strainer.

Drying Calendula Petals

Lay several clean sheets of white paper on a flat surface, protected from wind and sun. I choose to dry my petals inside on my craft table. Carefully separate the petals into a single layer on the papers. The less they touch the more color they will retain and the better they will dry.

Calendula petals spread on a white paper to dry.

The drying time of the petals will vary in different climates, but a good estimate is 6 to 8 days. When they are fully dry they will look like this:

Close-up of dried calendula petals on a white background.

Store your dried calendula petals in an airtight container. I used a pretty weck jar. Now your calendula is ready for all the projects!

Dried calendula petals in a glass jar.

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Calendula Salve

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Jane A

Tuesday 1st of August 2017

Why do you harvest flowers when fresh, and not dried? I have a hard time picking the few fresh flower blossoms that grew. Can't they dry on the stem?

Butter For All

Tuesday 1st of August 2017

Hi Jane, Calendula easily goes to seed. In my experience the flower petals wilt and they lose there color quickly. The best time to pick them is right at the peak bloom. I agree they can be stubborn but try pulling the flower head off right at its base. You should feel a slight pop if you are doing it correctly. I hope this helps! -Courtney