Marigold – characteristics, cultivation, use and curative effects


The marigold (Calendula officinalis) is used as a medicinal plant for anyone with skin complaints or for wound treatment. But as an ornamental plant it is now grown in many gardens. There, the marigold with its orange to yellow flowers is the point of attraction for useful insects and, at the same time, for the natural defense against pests.

Profile of Marigold:

Scientific name: Calandula officinalis

Plant family: composite family, asters

Other names: calendula, pot marigold, ruddles, common marigold, Scotch marigold

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: June – October

Harvest time: July – October

Location: sunny to full sun

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and loose soils

Use as a medicinal herb: wound healing, joint pain, eczema, pimples, dry skin, dermatitis

Use as aromatic herb: salads, decoration

Plant characteristics and classification of Marigold

Origin and distribution of marigold

Where the marigold originally came from can not be said with certainty today. However, the botanical structure and numerous studies suggest an origin in the Mediterranean region. It is believed that Crusaders brought the plant to Europe towards the end of the 11th century.

Today, the plant, also known as calendula, is wild in many European countries. There it grows mainly in regions that have nutrient-rich and well-loosely soils.

Economically important cultivation areas of the calendula can be found today in Egypt and Hungary.

Plant order of marigold

The common marigold (Calendula officinalis) is a typical member of the asters family (Asteraceae). It is closely related to other important herbs such as dandelion or chamomile. To the genus of marigolds is known today 13 species, which are usually divided again into different subspecies (varieties). Relatively well-known, but by far not used to the extent is the field calendula (Calendula arvensis).

In the course of time many varieties or varieties are available for Calendula officinalis, which sometimes differ significantly in terms of growth height, flowering time and flower color. Known varieties are among others:

  • Calendula Oranja
  • Cosmidium
  • Prince of Orange
  • Neon

Characteristics of marigold

The marigold is an annual herbaceous plant, which can reach stature heights up to 80 cm (32 inches). However, it is usually much smaller with between 40 and 50 cm (15 and 20 inches). Marigold forms taproots, which usually have a spindle-shaped appearance with finely branched fibers.

Striking are the elongated, lance-shaped and rich green leaves of marigold. These sit on the nearly four-edged and tomentose hairy stems, which carries the leaves in an alternate arrangement. The leaf tip is round and entire, while the middle of the leaf sometimes looks wavy. The leaves are studded with fine, felty hair.

Particularly characteristic are the orange to yellow basket flowers, which can reach a diameter of up to 5 cm (2 inches). The flowering period of marigold is usually between June and October. Keep in mind that the flowering time of a single flower basket is relatively short and is given a maximum of 7 days. The flowers contain up to 40 bracts, between 40 and 140 ray florets and between 30 and 100 ligulate flowers. The flowers do not emit a special scent.

After the flowering period, the fruit develops from the flowers of the ligulate flower, which are called “achenes”, according to their plant family. This refers to winged closing fruits that contain worm-like, light brown to dark brown seeds.

marigold - blossom
marigold – blossom

Marigold – cultivation, sowing and care

The marigold is cultivated in many gardens as an ornamental plant. The cultivation and care of the plant are relatively easy to accomplish. Where it is grown, it can provide effective protection against some pests such as e.g. wireworms, snails or nematodes. In addition, the marigold is considered the point of attraction of beneficial insects such as bees or butterflies.


The demands on the location are not particularly high. Marigolds especially like sunny to full sun places with nutrient-rich, slightly moist and rather loose soil. Very loamy locations should be mixed with some aggregate before planting or sowing. It should also be ensured that the soil is slightly calcareous (pH of the soil should be between 6.5 and 7). As a wild plant, marigold is even a indicator plant for calcareous soil.


The seeds of marigolds need light for successful germination. The best time to sow the marigold in the field or garden is between the end of April and the end of May, but sowing is possible until August. It is important that no more night or ground frosts are to be expected. Since the seeds are quite large, they should be pressed into the soil about 1.5 to 2 cm (1 – 2 inches). The germination period of the seeds usually lasts between 10 and 15 days.

Sowing advices summarized for the marigold:

Sowing time: April – August

Sowing depth: 1.5 – 2 cm (1 – 2 inches)

Germination time: 10 to 15 days

Location: open land and balcony possible

Pre-culture: not necessary, but possible

Seed distance: about 25 x 25 cm (10×10 inches)


The cultivation of marigold on the balcony or terrace is possible. Ideal are balconies in a southern location, which have a daily sunshine duration of at least 4 hours. As a substrate should not be used pure potting soil, otherwise the risk for plant diseases is increased. It is best if commercial potting soil is mixed with about 30% quartz sand or fine-grained pumice.


No special measures are required for watering and fertilising. The marigold can survive some dry periods, but should always be poured when the surface of the soil is visibly dry. Too frequent watering should be avoided, otherwise there is a risk of waterlogging, which the marigold would not survive.


Inasmuch as the marigold grows in a nutrient-rich or pre-fertilized place, no additional fertilizer is needed during the growing season. However, if the famous medicinal herb grows in the same location over the years, the use of compost or other long-term fertilizers (such as pellets, horn shavings) before sowing is recommended. Exceptions are very sandy locations, where the nutrients are leached out. Here should be occasionally fertilized shortly before flowering.


The marigold is hardy and can withstand temperatures down to -15 ° C (5 °F). However, so that marigolds can still bloom in the cold season, they must be seeded relatively late. Since the marigold is an annual plant, hibernation can sometimes be overestimated anyway. Exceptions are special breeds that can carry flowers over the cold season.


If the marigold is also used for healing purposes, the best time for harvesting is right at the flowering season. Notice that only flower heads are used. Whereas lovers of wild herbs are mostly interested in the leaves that can be harvested year-round.

Pest and diseases

Although marigolds can keep pests away, they are sometimes themselves victims of pest infestations. Very often, mildew is observed, which settles like finely atomized flour on the leaves. The cause of this fungal disease is mainly due to humid and rather wet summers. Poorly drained soil and a dense planting favor the formation of mildew.

marigold - single flower
marigold – single flower

Marigold and its use

The marigold is primarily known as a medicinal plant. Nevertheless, the calendula has long been used as a salad plant and for coloring food.

Marigold in the kitchen

The marigold is mainly used in the kitchen for salads. The taste of the leaves can be described as savory to spicy, the bitter character of the edible marigold leaves is more pronounced on older leaves. Also the petals are edible. Freshly picked, they give a decorative eye-catcher to green wild herb salads, for example with dandelion and sorrel. Since the flowers have little taste, they are sometimes used for coloring food. Already in antiquity, the golden yellow plant color was used as a substitute for saffron, e.g. to color rice.

Even at Easter, the marigold enjoys increasing popularity. As an alternative to artificial colors, Easter eggs can be dyed orange with the marigold juice.

Marigold as a medicinal herb

The marigold is probably one of the best known medicinal herbs. Today, the plant is mainly used in the treatment of wounds and various joint complaints. But the marigold is not only useful for external ailments, but also for many internal ones.

The healing abilities of the famous medicinal plant have been known for a long time, even if it has been used and appreciated differently. Hildegard von Bingen, for example, used the marigold to treat stomach and intestinal complaints, although the plant was not necessarily considered the ultimate for it. While in the herbal books of the late Middle Ages and early modern times, the marigold was used as a sweat-inducing plant and for the relief of eye and tooth discomfort. Powdered marigold flowers were recommended for toothache. Marigolds inlaid in alcohol, on the other hand, have been used to treat reddened eyes. Overall, it should be noted that at that time the curative effects of calendula known today were not known to the same extent.

Today, the marigold is used primarily in the external application. The medicinal plant contains many medically valuable ingredients, such as essential oils, saponins, mucilage, flavonoids and carotenoids, which allow a broad spectrum of activity. One of the main agents is alpha-cadinol, a so-called sesquiterpene known for its antifungal, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective properties.

List of healing effects

  • wound-healing
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • partly antiviral
  • antifungicide (antifungal)
  • antispasmodic
  • bile flow promoting
  • antioedematous
  • immunostimulant
  • partially tumor-inhibiting

The marigold, like the arnica, is one of the few medicinal plants that is used intensively today in both medical and alternative medical procedures. Many households have marigold products as a typical home remedy in stock.

Marigold flowers are used for the following complaints and diseases

  • biliousness
  • boil
  • burns
  • conjunctivitis
  • decubitus
  • dermatitis
  • diaper rash / diaper dermatitis (nappy rash / nappy dermatitis)
  • dry skin
  • eczema
  • indigestion
  • mastitis
  • menstrual cramps
  • mucosal inflammation
  • pimple
  • wound cleansing
  • wound healing

The marigold is usually used today in the form of ointments, wraps, teas, butter, compresses and homeopathic remedies. Marigold ointment is used primarily for the treatment of wounds of all kinds as well as joint injuries, abscesses, bruises and ulcers. Therefor the ointment is applied evenly to the affected area and gently rubbed. Compresses and envelopes can be used for the same complaints. Those are also known in many places as a home remedy and can be easily produced.

Marigold tea is occasionally drunk for internal discomfort. Often also mixtures of calendula with yarrow and stinging nettle are known, which are drunk especially for the stimulation of bile, liver and kidney.

Preparation of marigold tea

The flowers are best picked on a sunny day and bring them home in an air-permeable container. Dry it on a warm day on a spread towel. But avoid too strong, direct sunlight. Once the flowers are dry you can either keep them whole or you can pick the individual petals and store them. You should not drink more than 3 cups per day.

When brewing the tea, proceed as follows:

  • Put two or three marigold blossoms into a cup or a teenet
  • Cover the flowers with 250 ml (8.5 fl oz) boiling water
  • Leave the flowers in the water for five to ten minutes
  • Strain the tea or remove the tea filter

Marigold extracts as well as hydrolates of the plant are today predominantly used in cosmetic products such as e.g. face lotion. The main application area here is the prevention of dry and stressed skin.

Homeopathic remedies such as globulis are mostly used for skin problems such as acne, eczema or rashes, as well as ulcers and to stimulate wound healing. Used here are mainly the potencies C4 (skin problems) to D6 (ulcers).

Side effects are usually not expected when using marigold or marigold products. There are exceptions for people who are known to have an allergy to plants from the asters or daisy familes. There are currently no risk descriptions for pregnancy and lactation period.

Buy Marigold – What is there to pay attention to?

Marigolds have a broad target audience and are very popular with hobby gardeners and people with certain external complaints. As a result, both fresh marigolds and numerous processed marigold products for medical applications are commercially available.

Some plant centers and hardware stores offer fresh marigold flowers in the spring, suitable for further cultivation in the garden or balcony. When buying such plants, the leaves should be carefully checked for mildew and any fertilizing or nutritional deficiencies (such as chlorosis (yellow leaves). Also the respective variety should be closely examined, since the peculiarities among the varieties are sometimes very large (for example flowering time, water requirements, etc.).

Marigold seeds are available in most plant markets, supermarkets and online. The prices are very much based on the respective variety. Seed of marigolds, which can bloom until winter, is usually more sought after and therefore more expensive.

There are quite a few products available for the medicinal field. Probably the most frequently sold product should be marigold ointment. If ointments or creams are to be used primarily for skin care or to treat skin irritations, the ingredients of the product should be carefully checked. Perfumes, alcohols and synthetic dyes should definitely be avoided.

Inasmuch as there is interest in marigold tea or homemade home remedies, dried marigold blossoms can be ordered via herbal-specialized trade as well as online. The dried flowers should logically not be older than one year and be shipped in airtight packaging. The prices for the dried flowers are usually between 9 and 15 EUR/$ per kg (2 pounds).

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