(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 31, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Also known as English marigold or pot marigold. The name pot marigold comes not from its tolerance of growing in pots but because the outer petals of the flowers can be used in cooking. They are used for both flavour and colour.
Calendula officinalis, not to be mistaken for that other marigold, Tagetes erecta, especially when it comes to the medicinal properties. Calendula is harmless and has been used herbally for centuries. That other Marigold has not. This is why scientific names are so very important in the plant kingdom.
It is easily in the top 10 of my favourite annuals. I look forward to the distinctive light green leaves in the spring. Once I see those leaves popping up I know it won't be long before I have flowers, roughly 7 weeks until they bloom. Wait for an overcast day, and they transplant easily.
This Mediterranean native will grow happily in any soil, although they prefer well-drained. My main perennial bed is mostly sand and they do just as well there as they do in a compost-filled, half whiskey barrel planter.
Calendula grow best in cooler weather. Those of you in the South should cut the plants back when it gets really hot and they will grow and bloom again when the temperatures cool in the fall. Moderate water demands, I rarely water mine, except for the ones in planters. Calendula will not tolerate a frost.
English marigold grow equally well in full sun or partial shade. Plant them in full shade and they will bloom but be leggy. I plant them everywhere. They are a perfect plant for bordering a sidewalk. Their bright colour pops when placed singly here and there, as well as tucked in amongst the perennials. Wonderfully bright, and more dramatic, when used as a grouping of many plants. They also do well in containers. Reaching a height of only 24 inches, they become bushier, but still compact, as the season progresses.
Don't ask me what variety I grow, they have been coming back from seed every spring for so many years I can't remember what I started with. They are yellow and double and I love them nonetheless. I have tried the newer varieties in different colours but find the newer ones, especially the single orange, terribly susceptible to aphids. They are supposed to be a good companion plant in vegetable gardens on account of their insect repelling ability.
They will bloom freely all summer long if they are kept deadheaded. Just remember to stop deadheading a few weeks before your first hard frost so they will have time to produce seeds for the next year.
Calendula are wonderful and long lasting as a cut flower.They are perfect for winter sowing. They grow well in most conditions. Happy, bright little plants that add colour to the garden almost all summer long.
Give Calendula a try in your gardens!!
Photo credits go to bigcityal, Scorpioangel, Weezingreens and Joy.