Plant Spotlight on Pot Marigold
January 30, 2023
Calendula officinalis is a short-lived perennial in mild winter climates that is treated as a hardy annual in cold winter climates. Calendula is commonly called pot marigold or English marigold, although it isn’t a marigold at all. Pot marigold (Calendula) and the common marigold (Tagetes) are not the same genus, however both plants are in the sunflower/daisy family.
If you are unsure about which plant you are looking at, give the flower a good sniff. If you get a strong, pungent fragrance, you’ve got Tagates (marigold). Calendula (Pot marigold) doesn’t share that same sharp marigold scent. Another clue is that Calendula leaves are egg-shaped (ovate), while tagetes leaves are divided (pinnate). Its common name came from calendula’s historical use in soups and stews – hence the “pot” marigold. Pot marigolds are perfect for container gardening and the long-stemmed cultivars make fabulous cutting flowers.
Calendulas may produce single or double-petaled flowers.
Zones: 2-11 as an annual / 7-11 as a short-lived perennial
Sun/Shade: Full sun/part shade
Height: 12”- 24” inches tall
Width: 18” – 24” wide
Bloom Time: Early spring to heavy frost.
Bloom Color: Gold, orange, cream, and yellow flowerheads.
Wildlife: Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Calendulas are deer resistant.
In cold winter regions, start the seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before your last frost. The 3”- 5” inch seedlings should be acclimated to the outdoors a couple of weeks before the last frost date in your area. Then they can be transplanted into the garden or container. In mild winter areas seeds can be directly sown into the garden bed in late fall for the earliest spring flowers.
Calendulas like to be positioned in full sun or part shade. Their ideal soil is ‘sandy loam’ if you can offer it. However, they will tolerate most soils if the drainage is good. Water them evenly and pinch off languishing flower heads to create a bushier plant and encourage repeat flowering. Calendula appreciates a nutritious soil, so top dress the bed with compost every now and again. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this will sacrifice blooms.
Depending on the variety, plants grow to 1’ - 2 ½’ feet tall. It’s possible for calendulas to bloom in the summer if temps stay below 85 degrees. But where summers are hot, figure on fall or spring blooms. It’s also possible for mild winter areas to have flowers from fall to the following spring.
From the short, compact bedding varieties to the tall cutting types, there’s a wide variety of calendula choices.
- ‘Citrus Cocktail’ (C. officinalis) is a compact, dwarf variety with yellow, orange, and gold daisy-type blooms. It reaches a short (yet bushy) 8” inches tall at maturity.
- ‘Snow Princess’ (C. officinalis) unopened blooms start out as lemon yellow then transform into a nearly pure white with a dark center as the petals unfurl. Matures to 24” tall.
- ‘Pacific Beauty’ (Calendula officinalis) series consists of individuals that bloom in yellow, orange, or gold. Flowers can be semi-double to fully double. Matures to 12” -24” tall.
- ‘Touch of Red Buff’ (C. officinalis) is a showstopper with its coffee-cream petal fronts and a crimson on the back. Matures to 24” tall.
- ‘Pink Surprise’ (C. officinalis) produces double-flowered blossoms that are peachy and pink-tinged. Matures to 18”-24” tall.
One big bonus is that pot marigolds are deer resistant. They are also tremendous pollen producers and a valued food source for pollinators. Both the flower petals and leaves are edible. Typically it’s the flower petals that are used in culinary dishes like stews, soups, and salads, as well as egg and fish dishes.
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