Calendula is one of those flowers that you can easily grow in your garden. It is a versatile plant capable of providing numerous health benefits while being a great addition to teas and salves.
Get to know more about the basics of growing calendula through this article.
Quick Facts About Calendula (Calendula Officinalis)
- Botanical/Scientific name: Calendula Officinalis
- Common names: Common marigold, calendula, calendula
- Type of plant: Annual; perennial
- Type of soil and pH: Most types of well-drained soil, neutral
- Sunlight requirement: Partial shade; full sun
- Color of flower: Orange, yellow, pink, white, red
- Size when mature: 1 to 2 feet tall; 1 to 2 feet wide
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 2a to 11b
- Bloom time: Fall, spring, summer
Common Varieties of Calendula or the Pot Marigold
One thing to note about calendula, also called pot marigold, is that it has plenty of varieties and cultivars. The most common and popular ones include the following:
- Pink surprise, which features yellow and gold ruffled flowers – There are also instances when this variety features dark apricot centers and pink edges.
- Citrus cocktail, a calendula variety that tends to thrive and survive well when grown in containers, comes in the form of a short and compact plant featuring orange and yellow flowers.
- Touch of red – This variety blooms a combination of red and orange flowers. Each calendula flower from this variety also has red-tipped petals.
- Prince – This heat-tolerant variety is famous for being so tall. It is also easily distinguishable with its yellow and orange blooms.
- Dwarf gem, which is a compact calendula variety that features double-petal blooms in the shades of apricot, yellow, and orange – This variety works perfectly for containers.
- Greenheart orange – The daisy-like flowers of this variety boast orange-colored petals. You will also notice the lime-green centers surrounding the petals, making the entire plant look unique and unusual.
- Golden princess, which takes pride in its bright yellow calendula blooms – This variety also has a black center that seems to contrast it.
The Best Time and Place to Plant Calendula
You can sow calendula seeds directly in your garden, specifically during the spring after the threats and dangers of the last frost pass by. What you should do would be to mark a row and then drop the calendula seeds every six inches.
After that, you can cover it with around one-fourth to one-half-inch soil. You should then pat the soil gently then begin watering. Expect the seeds to germinate after just a week.
You can expect to find calendula blossoms after around 6 to 8 weeks from germination. You may also start the seeds of calendula indoors. You can just start them three to four weeks prior to the frost-free date in a seed tray.
Once the right time comes, you can transplant them into your garden. To guarantee the continuous display of calendula, it is advisable to sow a few times during the entire spring season. You can do that either in the seed tray that you will have to transplant later or in your vegetable garden.
If you can’t still plant the calendula seeds right away, you can store and keep them first. Put them in a dry area that is away from direct heat and the sun. You can keep them safe while stored for a max of one year.
Basic Tips to Grow Calendula Seeds
Generally, it is easy to grow calendula or pot marigold. Just focus on having the seeds directly sown in your garden. Here’s how you can do it:
- Plant and grow calendula seeds during the early spring – You may also begin sowing the seeds indoors then just bring out the strong, healthy and sturdy seedlings when the right season comes. You can start to grow calendula seeds indoors around six weeks prior to the last date of frost to enjoy having additional early calendula blooms.
- Pick a sunny location – Note that calendula needs sunlight. You can provide them with either partial or full sun. However, it would be much better to let the chosen spot receive full sunlight often.
- Use well-draining and moderately-rich soil – Note that while the calendula plant can tolerate poor soil conditions, it will thrive and perform much better in well-nourished soil. Wait for the seeds to get established, so you can continue growing young plants without the need for extra feeding or fertilizing.
- Wait for the flowers to bloom – This usually happens once the cooler weather accompanied by low humidity comes.
- Once the flowers bloom, you can cut the plants back – This is actually good for the calendula as this will result in new growth and additional flowers upon the cooling of the weather.
One amazing fact about calendula is that it is a tough plant. This means that it can handle the frost. You can expect it to grow calendula successfully and continue letting it bloom until the time when a hardened freeze, unfortunately, kills it.
Another important tip when planning to grow calendula from seeds is that you should let them produce mature seeds. You should then let the seeds scatter in the specific spot where you intend to find several calendula seedlings in the next seasons.
Caring for the Calendula
Once you are successful in your attempt to grow calendula, you should remember that your mission does not immediately end there. You still have to make sure that you give your calendula the care and attention they need.
In this case, calendula care requires you to prioritize the following areas:
Generally, calendula favors full sun. However, you should also remember that it tends to suffer when the hottest season comes. In that case, observe your plant’s reaction. It would be much better if you give it some afternoon shade during extremely hot weather as this can help you grow calendula successfully.
Calendula can thrive well in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. You have to be sure that the soil drains well; otherwise, you will encounter challenges as you try to grow calendula. The plant will risk root rot because of wet and dense soil.
You can also expect the calendula plant to handle various soil pH levels. However, it is still more fond of soils with a slightly acidic pH than a neutral one – around 6.0 to 7.0 pH levels.
Humidity and Temperature
Another vital fact when planning to grow calendula is that it favors mild summer temperatures more. It tends to become weak when the summer season comes to an end, especially if it is in an area with very hot weather.
It is also crucial to note that a hard freeze may put your calendula at risk of dying. With that said, you have to give them protection when there is an expected frost. You can use a frost blanket that you have to put over the plants overnight.
You may uncover the plants once the sun starts to warm up the air. Another protective tip during the cold weather would be to put mulch, preferably around 3 to 4 inches.
Frequent watering is important until you have the assurance that your calendula plant is already well-established. Once the plants become mature, there is a high chance for them to survive even if you only water them occasionally. Avoid watering mature plants too much; otherwise, you may encounter issues as you grow calendula.
It is not necessary to give your calendula excessive amounts of fertilizer. If you plant it in a garden known to have fertile and nutritious soil, you no longer have to give the plants additional feeding.
Feeding may still be necessary if you are using marginal soils, but make sure to use a water-soluble and balanced fiber. Avoid overfeeding, though, as it may cause you to grow a spindly and leggy calendula plant.
For container calendula plants, you need to use balanced and diluted fertilizer. Feed your container plants with it once every month.
Potting and Repotting
It is also a great idea to plant calendula in pots as it can thrive in containers. A lot of varieties can grow and survive well in pots and containers, especially the shorter cultivars.
If you choose to grow calendula this way, ensure that you use organic potting soil that blends well. You may also create one by blending half compost and half garden soil.
Pick a pot with several drainage holes to prevent the plant from becoming soggy. One more thing you should note regarding potted specimens is that they require regular feeding. In that case, you have to use a balanced fertilizer.
Common Pests, Insects, and Problems to Watch Out For
Growing calendula also requires you to learn about the most common pests, insects, and problems that may affect it. Here are just a few of them:
This refers to a fungal disease that looks like white spots appearing on leaves. There is a high possibility for the plant calendula foliage to become quite thick when it happens. Ensure that there is enough airflow in between each plant to prevent the disease from worsening.
You can also resolve this fungal disease with the help of an anti-fungicidal spray. However, if you intend to make tea from your calendula plant, it is advisable to use an organic or homemade spray.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
This type of bacteria may cause dark spots in the plant’s necrotized part. Brown spots that have black wilted or yellow edges may also become visible on the leaves.
This happens because small organisms tend to reproduce in cool and wet garden conditions. Most of them spread through the water droplets that splash on the leaves, specifically coming from the soil.
The only thing that you can do about this problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Avoid watering. Ensure that you water only the calendula roots, instead of the leaves. Provide the plants with plenty of airflow, too.
Another common problem affecting calendula is the attack of aphids. These aphids are problematic as they tend to suck your plant’s life and leave behind a honeydew that may further lead to the growth of fungus.
This can significantly hamper your calendula’s vitality. Control aphids by using neem oil or insecticide.
The problem with blister beetles is that they tend to attack parts of the calendula, which may lead to them incurring extensive damage. You can control this pest with the help of neem oil or pyrethrum.
A piece of advice, though. Ensure that you wear gloves whenever you handle this pest. The reason is that they are capable of secreting toxic agents that make blisters appear on your skin.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does calendula come back every year?
The answer is yes. This is especially true if you decide to grow calendula plants in flowerbeds. The reason for this could be the fallen calendula seeds in the past season.
With that, you no longer have to sow fresh calendula seeds each year. You just have to allow the seeds to grow, reach maturity, and fall as they naturally do.
What month do you plant calendula?
Plant calendula during the months that fall under the spring season. Note that the plant seeds are recognized for being cold-tolerant so you can plant them in the ground a couple of weeks or so before the predicted last frost.
Do not make the mistake of planting calendula too late during the spring season, the time when the temperature is noticeably warmer. If you grow calendula within that period, it may result in weaker plants.
Is calendula a good companion plant?
Yes. It is a highly beneficial companion plant that you can add to your vegetable garden. The reason is that it can attract beneficial insects while repelling unwanted pests, like nematodes and tomato worms.
Should you pinch the calendula?
Yes, it is advisable to pinch calendula to around half of its growth in case the plant looks shaggy. Pinching is also necessary to ensure that you will not cultivate and plant bushy and shaggy calendula.
You may also use your fingernails to pinch off the plant’s wilting blooms. However, note that you can also use kitchen sears or garden pruners.
Are the calendula petals edible?
Yes. You can choose to eat the calendula petals either cooked or fresh. You just have to make sure that you pull the petals from the plant’s sticky bract, which refers to the green component you can find at the flower’s base.
Aside from being edible, the petals are also pretty to look at that they can add more interesting colors to your dish. You can add them to pastas, salads, and drinks. You will also love using them in garnishing pastries.
Growing calendula is very fulfilling and rewarding. Once you know the basics of growing the calendula plant, you can start taking advantage of and enjoying their long-lasting blooms, especially if you let them grow in a light shade area or herb garden.
What’s good about having calendula around is that it has plenty of uses. In some of your recipes, you can use the calendula flower petals as a replacement for saffron. You may even use the parts of the plant to treat minor cuts and scrapes topically.