How To Grow And Care For Calendula Officinalis (Pot Marigold)

One of the most widely grown flowers in the world is Calendula officinalis or the pot marigold. It’s so wildly grown that no one knows exactly where this plant comes from, though some people think it originated in southern parts of Europe.

Not sure what the fuss is about? Here’s everything you need to know about the pot marigold.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About The Pot Marigold

Pot marigolds are fantastic plants that will grow as perennials in warmer places, and as summer annuals in colder areas, allowing them to be grown across the world without difficulty.

They also have a great ability to naturalize in areas they aren’t native to, in warm areas.

They provide a plethora of color and cheer into any garden, with bright, almost luminous orange or yellow blooms, though they can come in white, too.

They look perfect as part of a mixed flower border, filling containers with color, or even as companion plants to crop plants, helping to attract pollinators and keep away pests.

If you give it the right conditions, you may also grow it as an annual on your windowsill, though you’re better off choosing a cultivar that’s been specifically bred for indoor use. 

The pot marigold is fairly short-lived as a perennial, but it is easily grown from seed and fairly inexpensive. 

If the conditions are right, and you live somewhere warm, you might see pot marigold flowers throughout the year.

Pot marigolds also have a lot of historical medicinal value, used to treat headaches, toothaches, and topical skin problems, which is why they are still used in cosmetics to soften and hydrate the skin.

They are also classed as a culinary herb, where the petals and young leaves make a great garnish in salads. The orange pot marigolds can make a cheaper alternative to saffron in any dish you might imagine.

How To Grow Calendula Flowers

Calendula flowers are one of the most beautiful flowers, perfect for beginners and seasoned gardeners alike. 

As long as there is plenty of sunlight and soil that drains well, pot marigolds will thrive in nearly any type of garden. In USDA zones 9 to 11, the pot marigold is a perennial.

If you do live somewhere cold, expect to treat them as an annual plant, where you will need to sow new seeds every year, or overwinter them indoors and treat them as a houseplant until the risk of frost is over.

Many gardeners recommend growing calendula, not just because of their gorgeous looks, but because they help ward off pests from crops, attract pollinators, and flower well into summer and fall if the weather allows.

These plants don’t need rich soil to thrive, and spoiling them with soil that’s rich in organic matter can even lead to stunted growth. 

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm, plant calendula in an area that gets some afternoon shade to screen them from the brightest part of the day.

When To Plant Out Pot Marigolds

Pot marigolds will grow perfectly well from seed, division, or you can even buy established plants. It is cheaper to grow them from seed, and you can enjoy the plants for longer, too.

If you’re growing calendulas from seed, grow them indoors in spring or fall, waiting until all risk of frost has passed before you transfer them into the garden. 

To sow calendula seeds, scatter them thinly in a seed tray with damp compost, and put them somewhere bright and warm, avoiding direct sunlight.

You could sow them outside where you want them to grow, but you should do this just before the last frost.

You may also find that your calendulas will self-seed, too. If you don’t want them to grow where they have self-seeded, simply transplant the new plants elsewhere into your garden.

Getting The Best Out Of Calendula Flowers

While calendula flowers aren’t complicated, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re getting the absolute best out of these plants.

Sunlight And Position

Calendula flowers like a bright and sunny position, preferably somewhere sheltered. If you do live somewhere warm, grow them in dappled sunlight in the afternoon. 

Otherwise, grow them in full sunlight, where the colors of the flowers can really shine through.

It’s important to provide calendulas with well-drained soil, as they are particularly vulnerable to root rot. 

If your garden soil is always damp or soggy, consider growing these beautiful plants in containers instead, where you can control the drainage.

Watering And Fertilizing Needs

Pot marigolds like soil to be dry rather than soggy, so make sure you let the soil dry out in between watering. 

When you plant out your calendulas for the first time, water the base of the plant to encourage the roots to settle into the soil.

Once they have established, they will need less water, so only water them when they really need it during dry spells, otherwise, the rain will take care of this for you.

Calendulas don’t require regular fertilizer to thrive and often do better in poorer soils. 

If you’re growing these flowers in containers, you might want to give them the occasional feed once a month during the summer, as containers will run out of nutrients faster than soil in garden beds.

Use a balanced liquid fertilizer, and never feed plants when the soil is dry.

When To Cut Calendula Flowers

If you’re planning on using the flowers of a pot marigold in the kitchen, in homemade cosmetics, or you just fancy some cut flowers, make sure to cut them in the morning, when the dew has evaporated, but before things warm up too much.

If you want to dry the flowers for later use, lay each one on a screen somewhere dark and dry, turning the flowers every few days. Make sure there is enough space for each one for the air to get to them.

You can also put them into a clean mason jar without drying them, covering them with a carrier oil, and making sure there are no air pockets. Place on a sunny windowsill and leave for about two weeks to infuse.

Why You Should Deadhead Calendulas

There is not much maintenance involved when it comes to growing pot marigolds, but one thing you should actively keep doing during the flowering season is to redhead spent flowers.

This will help make sure that you are getting as many flowers out of the plant as possible while preventing disease. 

If you do this often enough, you can expect flowers from spring well into fall if the weather allows, and even into winter if the weather is warm enough. 

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that is warm all year round, you may find that your pot marigolds slow down producing flowers during summer, just to give them a bit of a rest.

Once the weather gets a little cooler again, the flowering rate will speed back up.

It’s worth knowing that you don’t need to prune pot marigolds, but pinching out large stalks can encourage denser growth if this is a look you are going for.

Pests And Diseases To Watch Out For

Calendula plants aren’t difficult to care for, but that doesn’t mean they are completely invincible. They are resistant to a lot of problems that will kill other plants, but one particular disease they will fall prey to is powdery mildew.

Luckily, this problem is easily prevented by making sure there is enough space for pot marigolds to grow, and plenty of air circulation around the plants.

Another issue you might face when growing pot marigolds is slugs and snails. Largely, your garden’s ecosystem should keep on top of this for you, with birds eating the majority, but if you do see leaves that have been eaten, it’s worth taking a few measures.

Make sure the area is clear of plant debris and weeds, and you could put dried coffee grounds on the soil to help deter them. 

Another method is to plant alliums nearby, as slugs and snails absolutely hate the smell of these plants, and will similarly avoid any neighboring plants, too.

Pot Marigold Varieties To Grow At Least Once

Calendula flowers are easy to grow and thanks to how easy they are to hybridize, there are many different types to choose from. The sheer amount of choice can be a little overwhelming, so here are a few options to get you started.

Calendula officinalis ‘Pink Surprise’

This particular cultivar features ruffled blooms in shades of yellow and gold and can form flowers with delicate pink edges, too.

Calendula officinalis ‘Dwarf Gem’

Perfect for containers, this dwarf cultivar will stay close to the ground, featuring flowers with double petal forms. You can get them in shades of orange and yellow, usually as a mixed seed pack.

Calendula officinalis ‘Prince’

If you live somewhere that’s always on the warm and dry side, ‘Prince’ is a good option, as it is more tolerant of higher temperatures than other cultivars. 

It also helps that this cultivar gets quite tall, producing flowers in sunny shades.

Calendula officinalis ‘Snow Princess’

For pot marigolds in a more muted color palette, ‘Snow Princess’ might be for you. It features ruffled petals in shades of pale yellow and cream, featuring sunny yellow or black centers.

Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’

One of the brightest, boldest pot marigolds you can grow is ‘Neon’, funnily enough. It produces flowers with a huge amount of petals, in the warmest tone of orange you can imagine. 

Each petal tip is edged in dark orange, only adding to this plant’s beauty.

Calendula officinalis ‘Playtime Mix’

If you can’t decide what color to go for, ‘Playtime Mix’ is a great choice, as it features flowers in yellows, creams, and even very light purples, too.

Calendula officinalis ‘Radio Extra’

One of the most striking and unusual varieties of pot marigolds is ‘Radio Extra’. If you’re a fan of cactus dahlias and other flowers with spiky petals, this plant is a good choice, featuring vivid orange flowers with pointed petals.

Calendula officinalis ‘Greenheart Orange’

Another unusual cultivar is ‘Greenheart Orange’, which features dramatic flowers with orange petals, and vivid green central eyes, making for a unique display in any border or container.

Calendula officinalis ‘Bonbon’

If you’re always impatient for pot marigolds to bloom, ‘Bonbon’ is the cultivar for you, as it flowers earlier into the season than others do.

Calendula officinalis ‘Calypso’

An enchanting variety, ‘Calypso’ features double-form flowers, which look perfect on the compact plants. The flowers come in shades of yellow and orange, brightening up any container or front of a border.

Final Thoughts

Pot marigolds are fantastic flowers that you should grow at least once. Not only are they incredibly beautiful, but they are also beneficial for your garden, attracting pollinators while keeping pests away from crop plants and those that are vulnerable to aphids.

You can also use them in the kitchen as a herb to replace saffron and in homemade cosmetics such as skin moisturizers. 

If you get the growing conditions right, you can also grow them inside, where they will provide any bright room with their uplifting color. 

One thing that calendulas are prone to is overwatering, however, so make sure the soil stays on the dry side.

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