by Tom Petruno, Herbalist
Calendula is a high producing plant, and when planted early in the spring, is generally easy to grow, delivering tons of flowers for your herbal preparations.
You can read more about the benefits of calendula and why you should grow and harvest it in my previous post, but in short, it’s a magical flower that has great external and internal healing properties. It also protects your garden from pests!
In general, the same is true of calendula as is with most plants - the more you harvest, the more the plant produces.
Basil is a good example, as the plant establishes you want to be harvesting leaves and pinching off the tips of stems. It stimulates the plant’s growth. Calendula is in that category.
How to Harvest and Dry Calendula
You want to harvest the flowers at the peak of their bloom, when they look the nicest, basically. Once the flowers are fully open you can start to harvest from this plant.
The time to collect is in the morning, exact time varies, but once your plants are free of the morning dew, you want to snip the flowers off.
Cut the flowering stem back to the next set of significant leaves. This is important because if you leave too much stem that has no real purpose other than the flower you took you are opening the flower up to some sort of rot or other infection. You want the plant to keep flowering, so you don’t want to leave extra, useless stem where the plant diverts energy and isn’t a flower!
Calendula flowers and stems are sticky! This is good, the stickier the better. Don’t rinse your flowers, you can try and brush away or blow away bugs, but they will likely close if you wash them.
Trim off any excess stem on the bottom of the flower.
Then, with the brushed off flower tops, you’re ready to dry them. I have found that the best way to dry calendula is to put them on a window screen that is not in use, with the top side of the flowers down. (Flower butts sticking up towards the ceiling) We have used a clothing drying rack and then laid a window screen horizontally on top of that for air circulation. This way, you can lay out a lot of flowers, keep them up and away from small hands/tails/mouths, and get good airflow.
Keep them out of direct sunlight in a dry location. I like mine to dry at room temperature and it takes a week or two depending on the humidity where you live.
They are done when they are nice and crispy. They should retain a nice orange color and the petals will pull out very easily from the center of the flower.
Store them in a glass container with a snug fitting lid out of direct sunlight.
And you’re done! Your dried calendula flowers are ready to be stored and used in your herbal preparations. Enjoy!
Tom Petruno is a trained plant spirit herbalist, homesteader, stay at home dad, lover of wild foraging, and homebrewing enthusiast. Oh yeah, he's also Sarah's husband. He also writes for the Tom's Tidings section of the monthly The Shaman Life subscription program.
LAST UPDATED: October 6, 2016
Disclaimer: The information presented in this post is for educational reference and is not to take the place of consultation, diagnosis, treatment and care by a healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Consult your doctor if you believe your health is at risk.