Pot Marigolds - Growing and Using the Flowering Herb Calendula

Pot Marigold (Calendula)
© Marie iannotti

Overview and Description:

Although Calendula is commonly called "Pot Marigold", they are not in the same genus as the common marigold, Tagetes. (However they are part of the same family, Asteraceae, along with daisies and chrysanthemums. You can see the resemblance in their daisy-like flowers.) Pot marigold refers to the gold flowers that bloomed during the festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary (marigold) and its use in cooking , or pots.

Many gardeners simply grow pot marigolds for their cheery bright flowers and profuse blooming. They are most commonly thought of as yellow and orange, but there are more subtle pink and cream varieties.

Pot marigolds will bloom throughout the growing season. The leaves are slightly fussy and not the most attractive part of the plants. Although the petals have a slightly bitter flavor, they have no fragrance. They’re used in all kinds of recipes, from butter to wine, but they are mostly favored for their intense color.

Botanical Name:

Calendula officinalis

Common Names:

Pot Marigold, Calendula

Hardiness Zones:

Pot marigolds are short-lived perennials in USDA hardiness zones 9 and higher. They are commonly grown as annuals.

Exposure:

All types of calendula will bloom best if grown in full sun to partial shade.

Mature Size:

Most varieties of pot marigolds will grow about 8 - 18 inches (h) x 2-4inches (w).

The size will also depend on how much you cut and use them.

Bloom Period:

Most plants begin blooming within 2 months of seeding.

Design Suggestions:

Pot marigolds make nice edging plants and grow well in containers. If you’d like to use your calendula blossoms in cooking, be sure to grow them organically.

This is easy to do, if you grown them in the vegetable garden, but you should also keep that in mind if they are planted in flower border or pots.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Calendula officinalis ‘Pacific Beauty Mixed Colors’ - This is a more heat tolerant variety of the traditional yellow and orange plants.

  • Calendula officinalis ‘Sherbet Fizz’ - Soft blush tones with darker red undersides.

  • Calendula officinalis ‘Resina Calendula’ - High resin content makes it popular for oils and tinctures.

Growing Tips for Pot Marigolds:

Pot marigolds can be direct seeded in the spring, or even summer, or they can be started indoors as transplants. They’re very easy maintenance and once established in your garden, they will self-seed, but they don’t generally become a nuisance.

Rich soil and a full sun location will keep your calendula blooming, although they will adapt to most any soil conditions. Calendula will slow down in extreme heat and warmer climates (zones 8 and up) will have more success growing them as fall or early spring flowers. In more temperate areas, watering regularly will help keep them going in the peak of summer and your pot marigold will bloom until frost.

Don’t be afraid to cut blooms from your pot marigold.

It will only encourage more budding, which is a good thing. In addition to their culinary uses, pot marigolds are used in herbal medicine, as a dye plant and even as a cut flower.

Problems: Virtually problem free.

Harvesting: Collect calendula flowers in late morning, after the dew has dried. Pick flowers when they are fully open and check often, because they come and go quickly.

You can use the flowers fresh or you can dry and store the blossoms for later use. Cut the flower heads off and spread them out on a screen, in a shady, dry spot. Turn them occasionally until they are papery dry and store in canning jars until ready to use.