Pot marigold, or Calendula officinalis, has its origins in medieval Europe, where it was blended into soothing salves and stirred into restorative elixirs.
Estimates place its introduction to the United States at the time of the European settlers’ arrival in the 1600s.
Also called English marigold, C. officinalis looks like the true marigold flowers of the Tagetes genus that includes the French marigold, T. patula, and the African marigold, T. erecta.
Calendula and Tagetes varieties are members of the Asteraceae family of plants that includes daisies, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers.
A Three-Season Bloomer
If you’re looking for a flower that makes a colorful splash in the garden from spring through summer and well into fall, this is the plant for you!
To grow pot marigold, begin with viable seed. For this plant, that means it should be no more than a year old to ensure germination.
I like to start annuals indoors , so my C. officinalis cultivation is usually underway by late March. Then, when all danger of frost has passed, I transplant the sturdiest seedlings outdoors, and keep them moist and weed-free until well established.
As the plants enlarge, I pinch back leggy stems to encourage bushy growth, and deadhead spent blossoms to ensure a continuous display of color throughout the growing season.
Pot marigold is an annual that self-sows, so if you don’t deadhead and your climate is accommodating, you may find that it behaves like a perennial. If you want to give it a try, remove spent blossoms sporadically, or not at all, to allow seed to form and scatter.
You may grow this plant successfully in almost every zone, in dwarf and full-size varieties, for a profusion of yellow and/or orange flowers that are not only pretty to look at, but edible, too.
Harvest whole flowerheads on a sunny afternoon for use in herbal preparations that soothe and heal, recipes that call for golden color, or a tangy garnish.
Individual petals may be separated, dried, and stored in an airtight container in a dry location. Before use, inspect petals closely for mold, which may develop as the result of moisture buildup, and discard if necessary.
C. officinalis Plant Facts
- Average to loamy, well-drained soil
- Colors ranging from yellow to orange
- Culinary and medicinal herb
- Deadhead for continuous blooms
- Easy to grow
- Full sun to part shade
- Height 1 to 2 feet
- Single and double blossoms
- Start from seeds or plants
- Zones 2 to 11
Where to Buy
Choose orange, yellow, or mixed colors. Mature height is 12 inches, making this dwarf variety the perfect choice for containers or garden beds.
Welcoming and Beneficial
How can you go wrong with a vigorous annual that blooms continuously all summer and into the fall?
And, one with orange and yellow flowers has tremendous curb appeal.
Think back to art class and the color wheel. Opposites make for striking combinations, so find a couple of cobalt blue containers, fill them with pot marigold, and prepare to be amazed!
In addition, this plant is a well-respected “beneficial botanical,” with culinary and medicinal uses. C. officinalis is on the FDA List of Substances Generally Recognized as Safe, and scientists from around the world have made extensive studies, describing its properties as ”bioactive and free radical scavenging” and “protective and cytotoxic.”
For information on other herbs for the kitchen and medicine cabinet, see our article, “The Top 5 Mediterranean Herbs: Growing, Eating, and Healing.”
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Product photo via True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!