Showing posts sorted by relevance for query calendula. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query calendula. Sort by date Show all posts

The Difference Between French Marigold and Pot Marigold (Calendula Officinalis)

I love marigolds. They're cheerful, hardy and colorful. As herbs go, when I find one with relatively large, appealing flowers, it's a keeper. There's some confusion where marigold is concerned, though.

This happens with plants from time to time, which is one reason every plant has a specific scientific (Latin) name. Depending on its geographical origins, a plant may have a dozen or more common names, so common names can be -- confusing. Many plants can have the same name, whether they look alike or not.

The Difference Between Calendula and French Marigold

In the case of marigold, pot marigold (Calendula), a native to Europe, and French marigold (Tagetes), an American native in the same family as the daisy, are very different plants. Calendula is edible and often appears on lists of attractive edible flowers. *Most French marigold varieties are not edible.

Calendula is also a common herbal remedy used in skin preparations (among other uses). French marigold is a nice companion plant in the garden, makes an effective bug spray and looks lovely in a border. It doesn't have the herbal range of calendula. Depending on the cultivars involved, both pot marigold and French marigold can look pretty similar.

If you're filling a flat with spring flowers at your local nursery and come upon a display of wonderful plants marked "MARIGOLDS," you're probably looking at French marigolds (Tagetes).  They're very popular annuals in gardens across the country. They aren't fussy and bloom throughout the summer months. There are also many French marigold cultivars that can look like anything from intricate lemon yellow puff balls to russet daisies.

Your best bet if you're looking for pot marigold is to search for it by its scientific name, Calendula Officinalis. In all likelihood, if your nursery carries it, you'll find it in a small display of herbal or specialty plants.

How to Grow Marigold Calendula

Calendula is also an easy to grow annual. It reaches a height of about 18 inches and has longish, medium green, slightly hairy leaves. Although you can purchase plants, pot marigold is easy to direct sow from seed in spring after the last threat of frost has passed.

Provide calendula with a sunny location and soil that drains well. Although it's tolerant of neglect, when you fertilize it as you would other spring annuals, you'll have brighter, more prolific blooms. Calendula is somewhat drought tolerant, but if you experience punishing summers in your area, provide plants with a little afternoon shade and a layer of mulch. Dead-head plants regularly (remove spent flowers) to encourage flower production. Once calendula is established in the garden, it self-seeds readily and comes back year after year.

When thickly planted, marigold looks attractive and cheerful. It is also available in multiple shades from buttery yellow to dark russet, and with somewhat different petal configurations depending on the cultivar. Online suppliers also offer pot marigold "variety" seed packs with multiple cultivars represented in one packet.

Using Marigold Calendula

Calendula was named for the Virgin Mary, and was once commonly dried and added to winter dishes to give them color and enhanced aroma. It was often added fresh to salads, too. This was at a time when manor house salads could number 100 ingredients or more. It's also a culinary coloring agent. A calendula rinse will color Easter eggs and tint rice and mayonnaise an attractive yellow. It's sometimes called "poor man's saffron." Whole dried flowers retain much of their color, too, and look attractive in potpourri or added to decorative candles.

Medicinal Uses for Marigold Calendula

Calendula is an antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. You'll find it as an ingredient in herbal skin ointment recipes to treat:

  • Dry skin (It makes a nice moisturizer.)
  • Minor skin irritations
  • Chapped lips (Tried this and it is great)
  • Diaper rash
  • Insect bites
  • Eczema
  • Sunburn

Although research is still ongoing, calendula has been used to treat conditions like fever, nosebleeds, varicose veins, muscle spasms and hemorrhoids, to name a few. At this writing, there isn't enough evidence for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the National Institutes of Health to rate its effectiveness in these treatments. Follow the links at the bottom of this page for more information about other medicinal applications for calendula.

Even though calendula is considered safe, it is contraindicated if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, sensitive to plants in the Asteraceae/Compositae family or are currently taking sedative medications like CNS depressants. For updated information about the safety of herbal preparations, please visit MedLine Plus (a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) or WebMd.

If you think you'd like to make a calendula moisturizer or lip balm, the recipes for both are easy and fun. (I'll walk you through them in an upcoming post.) You might want to try growing your own calendula this season and then supplement your harvest with purchased (dried) calendula flowers, if necessary. If you're just getting into making herbal remedies, dried marigold and dried lavender buds are two versatile ingredients you can use in lots of preparations.

French Marigold
I'll leave you with a quick literary reference. Marigold petals open at sunrise and close at dusk, a habit Shakespeare describes in A Winter's Tale:

    The Marigold that goes to bed wi' the sun
    And with him rises weeping.

*French marigold has a few edible cultivars. If the French marigold you have in your garden -- or are interested in planting -- is not marketed or labeled as edible, then it is probably not safe for human consumption. Don't confuse it with edible calendula.


Clevely, Andi, Katherine Richmond, Sallie Morris, Leslie Mackley. "Cooking With Herbs and Spices. Hermes House. 2003.

 Discovery Health. "Calendula Herbal Remedies." Brett, Jennifer, N.D.>

Garden Guides. "Calendula Flower Information."

Houdret, Jessica. "Practical Herb Garden." Hermes House. 2002.
MedLine Plus. "Calendula." Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health.

WebMD. "Calendula Overview."


Photo 1 -
Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 2 -
By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 3 -
By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 4 -
By Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 5 - By Andrew Bossi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Medicinal Herb List - 5 Medicinal Herbs You Should Plant This Year

Fresh cut aloe vera leaf
Medicinal herbs can be pretty useful once you get your head wrapped around the idea of looking for your medicines in the garden instead of at the pharmacy. Growing and learning to use fresh or dried herbs effectively can make minor ailments less irksome and offers a real sense of control over some of life's unexpected hiccups -- and minor burns, sleeplessness, headaches, bug bites, bruises, dry skin and stomach upsets. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:

"Herbal and other plant-derived remedies have been estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be the most frequently used therapies worldwide."  [CDC]  Now, that's saying something.

Let's explore five herbs you should really be growing for their medicinal properties. I've focused this list on easy to grow and use herbs. One comment I get from readers occasionally is that there's lots of general information about herbs, but info about easy, practical applications for those plants are sometimes thin on the ground. If there are already plenty of demands on your time, the idea of spending a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing your own moisturizing lip balm may seem a bit ambitious. Brewing a five minute tea to help you get a better night's sleep might be just the thing to turn you on to the world of herbal remedies, though.

There isn't much point in growing an herb if you can't find good ways to enjoy it. Each item here includes a few of the maladies that particular herb can treat, as well as at least one simple recipe or recommendation for a specific medicinal application. Think of it as a basic herbal first aid primer: fast, easy, effective -- and pretty fun when you think of how useful you can make your herb hobby with a little snip and prep.

These herbs, and many others besides, are worth a spot in your garden:

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera or Aloe barbadensis)

Let's start with one of the easiest medicinal herbs to grow and use. Aloe vera is a perennial in the succulent family.  It's well known for its ability to treat burns, and if you haven’t used fresh aloe on a minor burn, you're in for a surprise. It stops pain instantly. Aloe can also perform similar wizardry on bug bites, and will treat inflammation, too. Keep the plant in your sunniest window, or outdoors where there's no threat of frost. Water it sparingly, and it will give you years of useful service. Use aloe by removing a leaf and slitting it to expose the viscous gel inside. Apply the gel topically. For fast relief, just cut the leaf and rub it on the burn or bite. One large leaf can be used for multiple applications of gel. Just wrap the leaf lightly in a damp paper towel, cut side down, to keep it from drying out. For more information about growing and using aloe vera, please visit my posts:

How to Grow Aloe Vera 
How to Repot Aloe Vera 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Harvested ginger root

Ginger has a wonderful aroma and tastes great in Asian cooking. Ginger root will also settle an upset stomach. It's so effective it is sometimes recommended to treat the nausea experienced by chemotherapy patients. Many experts also recommend it for motion sickness. In fact, some cruise ships routinely offer crystalized ginger at meals and as a general aid to guests in the process of acquiring their sea legs.  Crystalized ginger is a tasty treat, but you can also get the benefits of this tuberous rhizome in a fast, simple tea.

Ginger Tea Recipe

  1. Thinly slice or grate a 1/2-inch piece of ginger into a cup.
  2. Add 8 ounces of boiling water.
  3. Let the concoction steep (sit undisturbed), for five minutes.
  4. Strain 
  5. The tea can be sweetened.
  6. Repeat as needed. 
Dormant ginger ready to sprout
Ginger is easy to grow outdoors in temperate climates. It likes shade and moisture. Humidity helps, too. If your area gets frosty or downright cold in winter, dormant ginger can be overwintered indoors, or a batch of chubby root can be harvested in fall.

Ginger root can be preserved indefinitely in a jar filled with Sherry or white wine and stored in the fridge. Just wash, peel and slice roots into manageable pieces first. That way you'll have a ready supply of homegrown, medicinal (and culinary) ginger all year.

You can also start ginger by planting produce department ginger root in spring. Although some commercially available culinary ginger is treated and will not sprout, I haven't had a problem getting mine going. If you have, try ginger from small Asian or other specialty or gourmet markets. Their products are often supplied by organic growers. The next time you have a sour tummy, try a little ginger tea. If you find it effective and want a slightly more challenging recipe, make your own crystalized ginger. It isn't that difficult.

For more information, visit: Growing and Harvesting Ginger

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)

Lemon balm is actually one of my favorite herbs. It is also one of the top three herbs used as sleep and relaxation aids. A member of the mint family, lemon balm is a frost hardy perennial that grows like a weed, so you won't have trouble getting it acclimated to your garden. Since it grows in profusion, you'll also have plenty to share. Some herbalists call lemon balm "herbal valium" because it can help dial stress down to manageable levels. For sleep, it may not have the powerful punch of some herbs, but it will take the edge off, allowing you to relax naturally. Lemon balm is often used in combination with other sleepy time herbs like valerian, chamomile, passionflower and lavender. Of them, valerian root is the most potent, but the smell can be off-putting for some and valerian can cause drug interactions. A relaxing tea made with lemon balm and, say, chamomile is just the thing, though.

Lemon Balm Tea Recipe

 As a sleep and relaxation aid:

  1. Add two tablespoons of packed, fresh lemon balm (or 1 tablespoon dried) to 8 ounces of boiling water. Steep 5 minutes
  2. Add sugar or honey as needed.

For a more concentrated and effective brew, cut back to one tablespoon lemon balm, and add one teaspoon dried chamomile blossoms and one teaspoon dried passionflower leaves. (Double the last two ingredients if using them fresh.) Both organic chamomile blossoms and passionflower leaves are available dried through common suppliers like Amazon.

For more information about lemon balm, visit:

How to Grow Lemon Balm  

 Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Also known as pot marigold, calendula is a natural anti-inflammatory with anti-bacterial properties. It can also provide pain relief for minor injuries. Calendula is used to treat:

  • Small cuts
  • Blisters
  • Scratches
  • Insect bites
  • Burns
  • Bruises
  • Chafing
  • Diaper rash
  • Sunburn

A salve or cream made with calendula is handy to have around. It offers a number of other benefits when used internally, but we like it for this list because it's wonderfully effective as a skin treatment and easy to prepare.

You've probably seen or grown marigold for its bright orange or yellow flowers. The flats of marigolds available from your garden supply outlet in spring are probably French marigold, not calendula. It's important to make this distinction because some types of French marigold can be toxic. Calendula is readily available from most herbs seed and plant suppliers, and dried (medicinal quality) flowers are also available online. Calendula is easy to grow in the garden. It prefers a sunny location and soil that drains well.

I've included a recipe for the simplest type of calendula salve. It uses petroleum jelly, an ingredient many herbalists dislike because it's a petroleum byproduct. I add it here because it's a common ingredient used in many skin care products that's probably in your medicine cabinet right now. If you make a simple calendula salve with it and like the results, you can easily produce a richer, more natural cream using oil and beeswax for your next calendula project.

Calendula Salve Recipe 1

  • 1 heaping tbsp. dried calendula petals
  • 1 small tub petroleum jelly (approx. 3.75 oz.)

  1. Add petroleum jelly to a double boiler, small slow cooker or heavy pan.
  2. Melt on low heat.
  3. Bring to a simmer and add calendula petals.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Cool slightly.
  6. Strain through cheese cloth into a small, heat resistant container with a tight fitting lid. (A canning jar works well).
  7. Apply topically as needed.

Keep the container in a cool, dark location. (The mixture should be shelf stable for up to 6 months or so.)

Calendula Salve Recipe 2

  • 4 rounded tbsp. dried calendula petals
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp. beeswax (either grated or pastilles - little buttons of beeswax that melt easily)
  • 8 drops therapeutic or food grade essential oil - optional (Use a variety you enjoy. Popular options include lavender, rose, vanilla and lemon.)

  1. Combine oil and calendula in the top half of a double boiler or in a small crockpot. You can also use a large, clean aluminum can placed in a saucepan filled with water to below the level of the ingredients in inside (which helps discourage tipping). The combo will act as a makeshift double boiler, and you can discard the can later.
  2. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
  3. Continue simmering for three hours, replacing the pan water (carefully) as needed.
  4. Cool slightly and strain the oil through a triple layer of cheesecloth, or a coffee filter, placed inside a large strainer or colander.
  5. Return the oil to the double boiler or other container, and add the beeswax.
  6. Heat until the beeswax melts. Stir to incorporate, and pour the salve slowly into a small tub or heat proof jar (like a canning jar).
  7. Allow to cool and harden.
  8. Store in a dark, cool location for up to six months.
  9. The recipe can be doubled or tripled.
The Difference Between French Marigold and Pot Marigold

White Willow (Salix alba)

White willow isn't a small plant or shrub. It's a tree, and one with pretty impressive bark. The salicin in white willow bark has been used for centuries as a pain medication. Salicin is very similar to the active ingredient in aspirin, and although the chemistry between modern aspirin and white willow bark is somewhat different, willow bark is considered an effective alternative to conventional aspirin for the treatment of common conditions like headaches, muscle aches and osteoarthritis arthritis. Some users can tell them apart by function, suggesting one or the other as being a better fit for a specific type of pain. This anecdotal information can be contradictory, so the best option is to try white willow bark yourself and see how it fits into your pain management goals.

To harvest white willow, strip the bark from young branches in spring by peeling it off gently. Dry bark thoroughly in a dark, well-ventilated location. You can also use your oven, a dehydrator or even the back seat of your vehicle on a hot summer day. Break or tear strips into small pieces, and store them in an air tight bag or other container.

You may not want to grow a 40 foot willow tree in your backyard to extract some bark for tea every now and then, but you might be inclined to maintain a small specimen in a largish pot, keeping it trimmed back. To see if this is something you might like to try, white willow bark is also sold as an herbal supplement in capsule form. Give it a go, and if you find it effective, grow your own.  Special note: Although they are somewhat different, willow bark can cause the same stomach upsets and interactions as regular aspirin, so use caution. It is also contraindicated in most of the same instances as aspirin, including use by children. Do not take aspirin and willow bark at the same time, and avoid willow bark if you are currently taking: choline magnesium trisalicylate or asprin-like salate (Disalcid).

Willow Bark Tea

  • 6 tsp. willow bark
  • 24 oz. water
  • 1 small cinnamon stick

  1. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive pan and bring to simmer.
  2. Simmer for 15 minutes
  3. Strain through a coffee filter or triple folded cheesecloth.
  4. This recipe (24 ounces) is enough for three 8-oz. cups of tea evenly spaced throughout the day. Allow at least four hours between cups.
The tea can be consumed hot or cold, and may be sweetened as needed.

White willow (also known as European willow) isn't the only option. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, both crack willow (Salix fragilis) and purple willow (Salix purpurea) are often included in commercial herbal willow preparations.

I've chosen herbs for this post that are relatively mild but effective, easy to find, grow and use. We'll move on to some of the more complex medicinal herbs in other posts.  If you give these common herbs a chance, you'll discover they really can be beneficial and convenient medicinal aids. A little hands-on use will likely inspire a greater regard for and interest in the medicinal side of herb gardening. I hope so.

Although the herbs referenced above are considered safe when taken in small amounts and in accordance with accepted practices, discuss any new herbal or other treatment regimen with your physician. This is particularly important if you're pregnant (or nursing), are currently taking prescription medications or are treating a young child or the elderly.

Before you embark on any herbal regimen, it's a good idea to get the most current information, too. There are a number of trusted sites online that discuss the latest research and current best practices for herbal treatments and dietary supplements. Blogs like this one show a brief snapshot, but are not meant to take the place of thorough research or the recommendations made by medical professionals. This probably sounds a bit alarmist since many herbs are common plants used in food preparation. When used medicinally, herbs are often concentrated, as in essential oils, or taken in bulk as supplements. This takes them out of the realm of minor ingredients and into territory that demands respect and caution.

The trusted websites below will help you get information about specific herbs used for their medicinal properties: 

National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplement
Medline Plus - A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine
WebMd -  Although not considered a definitive resource, this is a good place to start. Just perform a search for a specific herb.
Mayo Clinic - Accesses the section on supplements
Medicine Net - Herb toxicities and drug interactions
University of Maryland Medical Center - Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide

You can also perform a general web search using the term "latest research" and the name of the herb in question. I like to use a special section of Google called "Google Scholar" because it’s drills down on academic, scientific and other reliable content. You can find it here: Google Scholar  

Lemon Balm Photo:  Forest & Kim Starr [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Best Flowering Herbs

Flowering Herbs Like Lavender Can Brighten Up Any Landscape
I like flowers, but I love herbs. I've always felt that way. I was chatting with a work friend years ago when she asked if I gardened. When I said I did, she started asking about my experience with favorites like irises, rhododendrons, dahlias, begonias, peonies, tulips and a number of other flowers I'd never heard of. I was impressed. There was the liberal use of Latin names (if you know 'em, use 'em), and talk of flower size (it was apparent bigger was better), color intensity and the benefits of hybrids. There may even have been some talk of grafting.

She was clearly earnest in her love of flowering plants, and I was a little embarrassed and stymied by her knowledge and obvious enthusiasm. I didn't know much -- well, anything -- about the plants she was rhapsodizing over. I probably couldn't have picked one out of a lineup, and I certainly didn't know anything about their care. Plant names with three syllables or more taxed my vocabulary beyond its Anglo-German limits.

 Flowering Herbs are the Best of Both Worlds


Our chat was a revelation. People garden for lots of different reasons. She was a flower person, studiously polite but unimpressed by my description of a garden bed full of common sage, mint and thyme -- none of which produce flowers worthy of a photo op. When it became painfully clear I was ignorant about even the most basic aspects of growing landscape flowers, she gave me a suspicious look -- like I wasn't a real gardener after all -- and went on her way.

My fascination with herbs was a head scratcher for sure. I wasn't even much of a cook. In those early years, I collected different herbs the way people collect postage stamps, with avid glee but no plans for pursuing their practical applications. This was in California where I had over 100 varieties growing in uncontrolled profusion in a ramshackle garden on the outskirts of a eucalyptus grove. It was heaven. The smell of all those scented geraniums (and their small but worthy flowers), mixed mints and the citrusy artemisias (I forget the variety) were heady enough to threaten olfactory overload when the afternoon sun hit them. It was the best perfume, and worth every inch of garden space those plants appropriated from their flower festooned cousins.

Today, I know a lot more about herbs as well as flowers, vegetables and landscape plants than I did then. In fact, I know enough to add a few flowering herbs to my landscape to satisfy myself as well as those naysayers that claim herbs are just weeds with benefits -- the unlovely mongrels of the garden.

To heck with that! Here are 10 herbs that are as pretty as they are useful. You'll buy them for their herby benefits, but enjoy them for their beauty, too.

Lavender (Lavandula, various)
White Lavender

This one tops our list because lavender is widely considered one of the most attractive, aromatic and, well, romantic herbs around. Although you may be familiar with its distinctive purple flowering spikes, lavender is also available in white and yellow varieties. They're not as dramatic, but if you enjoy unusual specimen plants, give one a try. Easy to grow in (very) well-draining soil, lavender can hold its own in a cutting garden and in a place of honor around showier plants. Lavender is also considered good luck, and who couldn't use a little more of that.

Planting Lavender

Lemon Scented Geranium

Scented Geranium (Pelargonium, various)

You're probably familiar with geraniums. They crowd garden center shelves every spring in reds, pinks and that electric peach color that almost defies description. There are also scented geranium varieties that have smaller, often variegated flowers in scents from lime to rose. The leaves are usually small as well, and may be dappled green to brown. The specifics vary based on the variety you choose, and I admit the scent is the big selling point for these plants. Scented geranium flowers are also captivating, though, and come in white, pink, lavender and purple. They can look so delicate they appear almost artificial.

Scented geraniums may be dried and added to potpourri, and when picked fresh, make pretty, long lasting members of spring flower arrangements. In the garden, they are an easy care option that somehow looks more sophisticated than the geraniums you're used to. Think of them as a 21st century take on a classic.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
Evening Primrose

Evening primrose shows to best advantage when the sun is sinking toward the horizon. This wonderful herb also solves the problem of what to plant in a shady garden spot denuded by previous colonization failures. Growing to 5 feet or taller, evening primrose needs space, but will reward you with many yellow flowers from June to September or thereabouts.

The oil extracted from evening primrose seed is currently being study for the treatment of conditions as diverse as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. If you're into herbal remedies -- and pretty flowers -- give evening primrose a try.

Herbs That Grow in the Shade

Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda)

Honey bees have faced challenges from pests and pesticides in recent years. Planting a little bee balm in your garden is a vote of confidence for these industrious pollinators. The bright red flowers of bee balm attract plenty of bees, but they also entice hummingbirds and butterflies. If you like natural garden entertainments, bee balm will bring your flowerbeds to life with lots of visitors.

Give bee balm full sun and dappled afternoon shade in areas that experience punishing heat. Like lavender, bee balm needs well drained soil. Add this plant to your edible flower list, too. Dried bee balm also makes a refreshing tea, and the aromatic leaves and dried flowers can spice up potpourri. Don't expect high performance right away. Bee balm usually starts blooming the second year. Be patient. It's worth it.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

From a distance, feverfew looks like a fern that's sprouted petite daisies (or chamomile clones). It's an attractive shrub best known for stopping migraines before they take hold, and for helping to control toothache pain.

Feverfew grows to a height of around 20 inches and is not persnickety about accommodations. It can be invasive, though, so keep an eye on it.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)


It's easy to please this flowering vine. Passionflower will tolerate poor soil, partial shade (although it prefers sun) and benign neglect. It doesn't like drought conditions, though. In return for a little attention, it will reward you with large, purple blossoms that look like they belong in a tropical paradise. Passionflower will thrive in an arbor, along a deck or fence, or twined around a mail box post. As an added incentive for growing this exceptional plant, the leaves of the passiflora incarnata passionflower make a relaxing, sleep inducing tea.

How to Grow Passionflower

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Pineapple Sage

This elegant member of the sage family is a pretty adorable garden plant. It produces jade green leaves and small, deep red, trumpet shaped flowers. Together, they will make you nostalgic for Christmas. For total irresistibility, pineapple sage really does smell like pineapple. Although the fragrance dissipates when the leaves are cooked, stems from this plant make a beautiful garnish and an appealing ingredient in fruit salad.

How to Grow Pineapple Sage

Pot Marigold (Calendula)

Pot Marigold (Calendula)

Marigold creates some confusion because there are two distinct plant varieties with the same common name. The garden center marigold you know and admire is probably French marigold, a useful border plant with interesting yellow to orange or russet flowers. Pot marigold, or calendula, looks similar to some French marigold cultivars, but has antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal medicinal properties. Calendula can be  used to make soothing lip balms and skin creams, for instance.

Dried calendula petals can produce a serviceable dye for fabrics -- or Easter eggs -- and fresh calendula petals look lovely when added to salads or tossed into fresh vegetable dishes. For two plants that look pretty similar, why not choose the one that does triple duty in the garden, kitchen and craft room? Calendula may be hard to find in your garden center, but it's easily propagated from seed.

Different Marigold Varieties

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

You probably already know rosemary has a resinous, piney aroma that can enhance the flavor of lamb and pork dishes. It makes a nice shrub, and can be trained into a hedge, too. This evergreen has needle like leaves, and is predominantly a deep green in color. There are creeping rosemary varieties, and some newer cultivars are hardy to zones 6 or possibly even 5 in sheltered areas.

It may surprise you to discover that blooming rosemary can be a riot of color in shades as pale as cream and as vivid as deep blue. Its flowers are tiny, but there are so many of them that a rosemary bush in bloom can look positively bejeweled. Add a little dew for sparkle, and flower power doesn't get much better anywhere.

Growing Rosemary


Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

Meadowsweet produces clusters of milky white flowers that have a sweet but not overpowering almond scent. Blooming from June to September, this plant will give you your money's worth in the garden and in cut flower arrangements that smell as good as they look. Meadowsweet likes moist conditions and can grow to over four feet, so position it at the back of your flowerbed and give it room to spread.This charming herb has numerous aromatic, culinary, curative and craft applications. If you want to take your gardening hobby in new directions, it's definitely a candidate for further study.

Flowering herbs offer color, curb appeal, scent and extras like flavor and medicinal value. Try one or two in a flowerbed and you'll see just how beautiful a "weed" can be.


Lavender Plant- Flickr
User: Duncan (Lavender at Kensington sunken garden)

White Lavender - Flickr
User: FarOutFlora

Scented Geranium - Flickr
User: Melanie J Watts

Evening Primrose
Yellow Evening Primrose - Flickr
User: Maia C

User: Brewbooks

Bee Balm
Bee Balm Flower - Flickr
User: Audrey

Feverfew - Flickr
User: Melanie Shaw

Passionflower - Flickr
User: Sarowen

Pineapple Sage - Flickr
User: Marie Shallcross

Marigold (calendula) - Flickr
User: Fluffymuppet

Rosemary - Flickr
User: Georgie Sharp

Meadowsweet Spray - Flickr
User: Gailhampshire

Edible Flower List - What You Should Know and Grow

Edible Flower List

I have to say I'm a proponent of the more practical aspects of gardening: You know, eat what you grow; stick with plant varieties that are somewhat self-sustaining for your area like native species that don't need coddling; and nurture plants and herbs in your landscape like ginger, mint and sage that can be used lots of ways (think home remedies, pest control, cooking and crafting). You get three or four for one without any added work, water or fertilizer.

When I started reading about edible flowers, the idea was a hard sell. I mean, culinary flowers have some frou-frou appeal, but only if you're going to plant them for other reasons anyway, right. Toss some marigold (calendula) into a salad and a bed of lettuce will look prettier, sure. Anything else seems like a lot of work for not very much in return.

Uses for Edible Flowers

It turns out that isn't true, though. Edible flowers can be remarkably handy. You can use them to decorate your table, increase the appeal of the foods you prepare, and enhance beverages and desserts. You can also turn bumper crops into potpourri, dried flower arrangements, wreaths and sachets. A plain bottle of garlic infused oil (or vinegar) looks pretty nice. Throw in a few flower petals and peppercorns and you have the makings of an attractive and delicious hostess gift. To make it even easier, there are lots of edible flowers to choose from, and many of them are prolific and easy to grow.

Edible Blossoms - Imagine the Possibilities
Edible Flower List - Mums
Green Tea and Mums

If your kids hate vegetables, don't be too surprised. Kids' taste buds are different from adults in a number of ways. There's evidence to suggest that youngsters taste bitter and sour flavors more strongly than adults do. When that tossed salad with spinach and broccoli is hopelessly unpopular, sprinkling some pink rose petals or pineapple sage blossoms on it may encourage you kids to give it a go. I'm not saying adding flowers to all your regular dishes will turn mealtime into a veggie extravaganza, but it could make introducing new things more entertaining and successful. Hey, it's worth a try.

Edible flowers can be sweet, peppery or citrusy. They can taste mildly of cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla.  They can also be crunchy like lettuce, as refreshing as a slice of cucumber or as cool as melon ball.  If you've wanted to come up with an attractive salad for that potluck dinner at work (or church or your quilt guild) edible flowers sass up a salad with lots of color, interesting fragrances and often a flavor bump that's fun and unexpected -- and it's a sure bet your presentation will get high marks.

There's something else, too.  Where an herb or vegetable like sage may have too strong a flavor for your taste, the flower from that plant will likely be a milder version with a more subtle appeal in dishes like flavored butters or soft cheeses.  Give one a try.  I have some suggestions at the end of this article.

Tips for Using Edible Flowers

We have a good list of edible flower options below, but before you take a look, pay attention to these rules for safe edible flower use:
  • Never assume a flower is safe to eat. Know the plant and check the literature to make sure it's okay. Just because the leaves or seeds of a plant are safe doesn't necessarily mean all the plant parts are edible.
  • Avoid eating wild flowers. It may sound alarmist, but you don't know what wild plants have been growing in or around, so prefer home grown plants you can vouch for.
  • Avoid plants that have been sprayed with pesticides. This includes your prize winning roses. Set aside a spot in the garden for edibles and grow your culinary flowers (vegetables and herbs) in that location.
  • Identify what you grow. If you grow lots of flowers in your landscape and plan on adding some edibles, label them for easy identification later.
  • When in doubt, pass. Common names for plants can get confusing because there can be many plants known by the same common name. Because plants can appear simultaneously in widely differing geographic locations, regional communities over the years (decades and centuries) have come up with their own pet names for them. Adorable names can be recycled and refer to different plants over time and long distances. For instance, Calendula is known as pot marigold and Tagetes is known as French marigold. Calendula is edible while some varieties of French marigold are not.
  • Wash flowers thoroughly before using them.
  • Edible Flower List
  • Take them for a spin. Flowers will stay fresher longer if you spin or blot them dry after washing.

Edible Flower List and Recommendations

What follows is a list of common edible flowers. I've tried to avoid varieties that can lead to marigold-like confusion:

  • Angelica (Angelica archangelica) - Good on fish, in salads or with egg dishes.
  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) - Nice in fresh garden salad
  • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) - Market artichokes are actually the flowering portion of the artichoke plant.
  • Arugula (Eruca Sativa) -This slightly bitter salad green bolts easily when temps soar, but that's a good thing.  The hidden surprise about arugula is that its cross shaped flowers taste almost better than its spicy leaves.  Take it from Baia Nicchia, who made me aware of omitting this tasty flower in the first draft of my list.
  • Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) - Use as a tea or sprinkled on fresh salad or steamed peas.
  • Borage (Borago officinalis) - Sugar and use as a decoration on baked goods. Borage flowers taste like cucumber.
  • Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) - Like artichokes, broccoli florets are flowers.
  • Burnet (Sanquisorba minor) - Has a mild cucumber flavor.
Calendula (Marigold)
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis) - Use on rice, pasta, egg dishes and salad.
  • Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus - Dianthus) - Remove the bitter white base of the petal and use the rest in desserts.  Carnation petals are aromatic, spicy and mildly sweet. Nice.
  • Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) - White flowers that have an anise flavor.
  • Cilantro (Coriander sativum) - Sprinkle flowers on salads, tacos and bean dishes.
  • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium) - Blanch and use in place of bitter greens (like arugula) in salad.
  • Citrus Blossoms (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) - Toss in fruit salads.
  • Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus) - Use as a garnish.
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) - Pick young blossoms and steam them as a side dish.
  • Dill (Anethum) - Very nice sprinkled on broiled salmon or served with shellfish.
  • English Daisy (Bellis perennis) - Use sparingly as a salad garnish.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - Has a mild anise flavor, and makes an effective garnish. I like sprinkling it on white sauce pizza.
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybrida) - Another wonderful garnish that's also edible. Dancing ladies look very pretty on a plate with a cupcake.  Just a suggestion.
  • Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) - Sorrel flowers are tart and lemony. Use like lemon: on steamed veggies, as a salad topping or in sauces (add at the last minute).
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - Eat the petals raw for a mild gingery flavor that's very refreshing.
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) - A few petals can take the place of bitter greens in salad for a very attractive presentation.  Hibiscus makes a tasty tea additive, too.
  • Johnny-Jump-Up
  • Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) - The flowers have a sweet flavor. They can be used as a garnish in salads or in sangria or other chilled drinks.
  • Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola tricolor) - Can be used as a garnish or as a flavoring in salads.
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - This one has a floral flavor that's sweet and peppery.  It's one my favorites. It's appealing in sweet as well as savory dishes. You can also flavor sugar with it and use it as a seasoning in baked goods.  Yum.
  • Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) - Lemony taste. Good in egg dishes and salads.
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) - Sweet, spicy and peppery.  The flavor of nasturtium flowers have been compared to watercress. Wonderful in salads and simple sandwiches.
  • Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) - An exotic flower with little flavor but lots of drama. It has real presence as a large garnish.
  • Pansy (Viola X wittrockiana) - Very attractive sugared on baked goods.  Pansy is also colorful in salads. It has a rather mild flavor but may be in bloom in autumn when other flowers have finished for the season. Check the introductory photo for an idea of how to use pansy as a decorative garnish. Wow.
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) - Passionflower has an interesting aroma and a mild flavor. Its exotic appearance makes it another flower that can be used to make a big statement on a serving platter.
  • Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) - Petals are tasty in salad, tea, punch and lemonade.
  • Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) - The bright red flowers are very pretty in salads and have a faint, sweet pineapple aroma.
  • Primrose (Primula vulgaris) - A good flower to try first in recipes like fruit and vegetable salads.  It looks pretty but has a very mild, sweet flavor. It integrates easily in many dishes.  Experiment.
  • Rose (R. gallica officinalis - Rosa rugosa) - Remove the white section at the base of the petal before eating. Rose petals taste like a cross between apples and berries with a hint of black peppery punch. Good raw in salad, frozen in desserts or cooked in jelly.
  • Savory (Satureja hortensis) - Peppery with a little heat.
  • Scented Geranium (Pelargoniums) - Lots of varieties.  The type will give you an indication of the flavor, i.e. lemon, orange, rose, etc. Citronelle geranium varieties are not edible, so pass on those.
  • Squash Blossom (Curcubita pepo) - Zucchini and pumpkins produce prolific blossoms that are delicious fried in an egg and flour batter. It may sound silly, but these are a delicacy.  I have a recipe for fried squash flowers if you're interested. Check the recipe section in the sidebar on the left of this page.
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annus) - Steam unopened buds as you would an artichoke. Once open, sunflowers taste slightly bitter but work well in salads. Choose miniature varieties for whole-flower garnishes.
  • Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) - Sweet with a hint of cinnamon. These flowers are tiny, though, so use flowing sprigs.
  • Thyme (Thymus) - If you think thyme has a moldy flavor, try using the small flowers in egg dishes.  Delish. Like woodruff, the flowers are so-so tiny but worth a nibble.
  • Tulip Petals (Tulipa) - Tulip petals taste a bit like cucumber. Some folks are allergic, so test before eating. (Eat the petals only.)
  • Violet (Viola) - Sweet flavor. Freeze them in ice cubes or sugar them as a cake or cupcake decoration. Also good in ice cream and sorbet.
  • Yucca Petals (Yucca) - Slightly sweet. Tasty in salad.
Edible Flower List - Hibiscus

Special note:  Many herb flowers have a more subdued flavor than the herbs themselves.  If you think a particular herb is a bit overpowering in your recipes, try using the flowers petals instead.  Some good examples are:

  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
  • Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
  • Mint (Mentha)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Savory (Satureja hortensis)
  • Thyme (Thymus)
Okay, that's it for today.  Check your seed catalogs for some edible flower options this year.  You'll enjoy the variety, and it'll make mealtime an adventure.

Oh, and if you have extra flowers, consider pressing them into a scrapbook or using them to dye fabric for napkins (or Easter eggs).  These are just a couple of fun craft or school projects that use plants as raw material. Wow, what a great idea:  Grow some of your supplies instead of buying them.  How crafty!

Herb Mother is stirring up a sweet coating for borage blossoms.  It's a good first project.  Take a look if you get the chance: Candied Borage and Other Sweetness



Clevely, Andi, Katherine Richmond, Sallie Morris and Leslie Mackley. "Cooking with Herbs and Spices." Anness Publishing Limited, 2003. 

Green, Aliza. "Starting With Ingredients." Running Press Book Publishers. 2006. Newman, S.E. and A. Stoven O'Connor "Edible Flowers." Colorado State University. 11/2009. (3/8/12). 

Organic Authority. "101 Herbs, Vegetables, Edible Flowers; Fruit to Plant in Your Kitchen Garden." (3/5/12). 

What's Cooking America. "Edible flowers are the new rage in haute cuisine." (3/8/12). 


PansyWiki.jpg  By Miss O'Crazy [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

GreenTeaMumsWiki.jpg  By Saad Akhtar (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

DandelionWiki.jpg Anne Burgess [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

HibiscusWiki.jpg By Lalithamba from India (Hibiscus cannabinus L.  Uploaded by pixeltoo) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo  Johnny Jump Up By Matti Paavonen (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Calendula By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Planting Herb Seeds

Many herbs can be grown from seed, but that's not always a good idea.  Here's an example: It's easy to obtain lavender seed, but most lavender species are spotty and unreliable when it comes to germination.  The plants are fragile when they're small, too.  Below I have a list of popular herbs and some suggestions (yea or nay) about starting them from seed.

Here are a few general tips first:

New plant cultivars are coming out all the time, so making a blanket statement about any plant is risky.  A few years ago, I'd have shouted from the rooftops that growing rosemary where they're a risk of frost is a lousy idea.  Now there are frost tolerant varieties that can survive in areas as cold as zone-5.  The recommendations below have worked for me.  If you want to have a fun, successful experience in the garden, stick with seeds that are easy to propagate and buy small plants of other varieties you may want to try.

Lemon Balm
The expert resource for tips on growing a plant seed variety is always the seed supplier.  Those little graphics and recommendations on the backs of seed packets are important.  They tell you when to plant seeds, how deep to plant, how much water to provide and how much light the seeds (and plants) need.  Save the packets. When you're transplanting seedlings, they'll also give you information on how far apart to place plants in you flowerbeds.

When in doubt about what will grow in your area, check for zone recommendations on seed packet and in online plant descriptions.

Another excellent resource is your local nursery. Landscape experts in your area know what types of plants grow best in your climate. Take a look at what they're selling, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

You can also check with your local USDA Cooperative Extension Office for plant or planting recommendations.  This free regional service provides lots of information useful to gardeners. For more comprehensive information about regional growing zones and to find the phone number for your Cooperative Extension office, follow these links:


Herbs That Are Easy to Grow from Seed

Basil - Separate plants if you plan on planting more than one variety; they hybridize easily

Borage (Borago officinalis) - direct seed in the garden)

Calendula - start indoors in early spring. Calendula is pot marigold.

Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - start indoors in early spring

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) - start indoors in early spring

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - can be started indoors or direct seeded (Chives self-seeds readily once established.)

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum ) - direct seed after the threat of frost. (also known as coriander)

Dill (Anethum graveolens) - direct seed after the threat of frost

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - direct seed after the threat of frost

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) - start indoors or propagate from root cuttings

Mint (most varieties) - start indoors from seed or direct sow in late spring after the threat of frost

Sage (most varieties) - start seed indoors or direct seed in the garden

Relatively Easy Herbs to Grow from Seed

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) - Comfrey is relatively easy to propagate from seed, but the most common method is through root division.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) - direct seed in areas with a long growing season

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) - start from seed indoors in spring

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) - start from seed indoors in late winter

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) - start from seed indoors early in spring or sow directly in the garden after the threat of frost

Rue (Ruta graveolens) - start from seed indoors in spring

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)- start from seed indoors in spring

Soapwort (Saponaria -) - start from seed indoors in spring

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) - start from seed indoors in spring

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) - start seeds indoors in spring

Thyme (multiple) - start seeds of German or French thyme varieties indoors in spring.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - start from seed indoors in spring

St. John's wort

Special Needs and Challenging Herbs to Grow from Seed

Lavender (multiple) - Seeds germinate slowly and seedlings can be hard to cultivate. It's easier and less disappointing to start lavender from cuttings taken in spring or to buy seedlings.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) - seeds germinate and grow slowly.  It may take four years or so for plants to reach maturity. Buy plants if possible.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) - slow grower. Buy plants if possible.

Parsley (Petroselinum - multiple) - Soak seeds in hot water (not boiling) overnight before planting indoors in spring.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - seeds germinate slowly and seedlings can be hard to raise. Plants may take up to three years to reach a useful size. Buy plants or start new plants from tip cuttings.


Other Propagation Methods

Bay (Laurus nobilis) - propagate from stem cuttings

Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) also known as bergamot - propagate from root cuttings

Garlic (Allium sativum) - grown from a bulb (or clove), garlic is easy to start outdoors in spring, but it will take two seasons to mature.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - grown from a rhizome in spring

Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) - propagate from root cuttings in spring or purchase plants

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) - propagate by division in spring or purchase plants

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) - propagate from cuttings or division

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) - purchase plants and divide them in the fall

Pineapple sage
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) - purchase plants in spring.

Tarragon, French (Artemisia dracunculus) - propagate by division or cuttings, or purchase plants

Thyme, English - propagate from cuttings or purchase plants.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) - propagate by division in spring or fall, or buy plants

Calendula Photo - Calendula2_Wiki_Public.JPG  By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons