October's Birth Month Flower - Calendula

Calendula, also known as a marigold, might not have the best meaning symbolically, but it does have many medicinal and garden uses.  Calendula is the European variety of marigold, while there is also an American variety that looks very similar.  Of all the birth month flowers, this one is the most diverse.

Growing Calendula

Calendula is valued in the garden for its ability to attract bees and deter garden pests.  Planting calendula or marigolds next to your vegetables helps keep away common pests, especially near tomatoes.

Calendula are very easy to grow.  Simply sow seeds in sunny or mostly sunny locations.  They grow best in rich, well-drained soil.  You can deadhead the flowers to encourage more blooms, but if you allow the flowers to dry, you can harvest them and plant again in the spring.  You can also buy seedlings from the nursery.

Calendula Folklore

Calendula was named by the early Romans.  They noticed that the plant was in bloom on the first day of every month.  This nonstop blooming was a sign of joy to them, so they planted it to spread happiness.  Early Christians named the calendula “Mary’s Gold” and placed it near statues of Mary.  In ancient India, calendula is strung into garlands and placed around the necks of sacred statues.  Ancient Mayan priests washed their hands and faces with a tea made from Calendula leaves and flowers before they called on the spirits.  They also used it in Day of the Dead celebrations, strewing the flowers over graves and home altars.

Marigolds have contradictory meanings.  In the language of flowers, the calendula suggests sorrow, despair, grief and misery.  However, if you pair them with poppies, a bouquet tells someone that you will soothe their grief.  They are the traditional graveyard flower, yet with their everblooming blossoms and flowers that follow the sun, they represent life and joy.  It also has been believed that dreaming of marigolds will bring you prosperity.

Medicinal Uses

Until recently, calendula was on of the most widely used herbal medicines.  They are edible, but their aroma resembles hops in beer.  Yellow petals are used in chicken feed to produce a darker yolk in the egg.

Extracts of calendula have been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.  It has been used with some success to treat acne, control bleeding, and soothe irritated stomachs.  It also was shown to reduce tumors in mice.