The flowers of pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), in shades of lemon yellow, creamy white, and deep orange, flourish in cool, temperate climates. They bring glowing accents to gardens or containers and provide long-lasting cut flowers. While pot marigold is native to the Mediterranean, it’s been grown in European gardens since the 1100s, when it was a popular herb used for medicinal and culinary purposes. You’ll notice the aromatic scent of its deep green foliage if you brush past it. Don’t confuse this annual with the garden marigold (Tagetes species), which also has bright orange and yellow flowers.
Common name: Pot marigold, English marigold
Botanical name: Calendula officinalis
Plant type: Annual
Height: 12 to 30 inches
- Sun: Sun to part shade
- Soil: Moderately fertile
- Moisture: Average
- Mulch: Apply 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch around plants to deter weeds.
- Fertilizer: Usually none is required. If necessary, apply balanced organic or slow-release plant food in spring.
- Pruning: Deadhead to encourage more flowering.
- ‘Art Shades’ has a mix of apricot, orange, and cream blooms. Grows 24 inches tall.
- Dwarf Double Gem Mixed Colors has double, 3-inch flowers in a blend of lemon yellow, apricot, gold, and orange. Grows 12 inches tall.
- ‘Orange King’ has double, orange flowers. Grows 18 inches tall.
- Plant seedlings or plants after the last frost date.
- Combine with other cool-season flowers such as blue bachelor buttons, purple larkspur, and red poppies.
- A cool-weather performer, pot marigold’s flower production diminishes in the hot summer temperatures in Zones 7 to 9. Cut back to promote fall flowering.
- Plant in the fall when its rich orange and yellow hues complement other fall-flowering plants.
- Some may reseed in the garden.
Pests and diseases
- Aster yellows, powdery mildew, and fungal leaf spots occur.
- Slugs, snails, and whiteflies may attack the plants.
- Indoors, start seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost in a soil-less mix.
- Direct-sow in spring just before the last frost date or in fall. Protect fall-started seedlings from cold where not reliably hardy.
All in the family
This family is still sometimes called by its older name, Compositae. The flowers have a unique arrangement not seen in other families. They typically have one or both of two kinds of florets. The outer perimeter of a flower head (like the sunflower) is composed of florets possessing a long strap-like petal, called ray florets. The inner portion of the flower head is composed of small flowers with tubular corollas, called disc florets. The Asteraceae family is one of the largest, and includes heliopsis, asters, African and French marigolds, coneflowers, and thousands of other perennials and annuals, plus a few shrubs and trees.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.