Discover the joys of growing calendula! This easy-to-follow guide will help you cultivate vibrant blooms and a healthier garden with this beneficial companion plant. Learn how to grow calendula flowers in your garden these simple tips. Perfect for beginners!

Calendula is a beloved garden flower that brings both beauty and practicality to your outdoor space. With its happy, vibrant blooms and low-maintenance nature, calendula is a favorite among gardeners of all skill levels.

But its appeal goes beyond aesthetics. This easy-going flower is a powerful ally in the garden, working as a beneficial companion plant, attracting pollinators, and even offering potential pest control.

I’ve been growing it for several years and appreciate it for both the aesthetics and the garden benefits it brings. Regardless of what you grow, this pretty flower is worth incorporating in your landscape.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this guide will provide you with all the information needed to successfully cultivate calendula from seed to bloom.

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Growing Calendula: A Closer Look

Calendula (Calendula officinalis), often referred to as pot marigold, is a versatile and vibrant flower that graces gardens with its cheerful blooms.

It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 2-11, making it suitable for a wide range of climates. (If you are not sure what your hardiness zone is, check here.) It prefers cool temperatures and can even tolerate a light frost, allowing for early spring planting and a long blooming season that typically extends from early summer through fall.

Calendula plants vary in size depending on the variety but most reach a height of 12-24 inches and a spread of 12-18 inches. They exhibit a bushy growth habit with multiple stems and abundant foliage.

The daisy-like flowers are the highlight of the plant, showcasing a captivating array of warm hues, including yellow, orange, gold, and apricot. Some varieties even boast bi-color or striped petals, adding to their visual appeal. The flowers can be single, semi-double, or double, further enhancing the diversity of calendula’s appearance.

Beyond its ornamental value, calendula possesses other notable attributes. Its lance-shaped leaves have a slightly hairy texture and emit a distinct aroma. The plant is renowned for its resilience and ability to self-seed, often returning year after year in the garden.

  • Common Name: Pot Marigold
  • Plant Type: Annual/Perennial
  • Hardiness Zone: 2-11 (annual)
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Requirements: Well-drained, average
  • Height: 1-2 feet
  • Width: 1-1.5 feet
  • Flower Color: Yellow, orange
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Bloom Time: Spring to fall

Why Grow Calendula?

Calendula offers a multitude of garden benefits making it a valuable addition for both novice and experienced gardeners alike. Their cheerful, daisy-like flowers add a burst of color and charm to any garden. Its long blooming period ensures a vibrant display throughout the growing season.

Calendula is remarkably low-maintenance, thriving in various conditions with minimal care. It’s perfect for borders, beds, cut flower gardens, and container gardens. As such, it’s a great choice for beginners or those seeking a fuss-free flowering plant.

Calendula is often planted as a companion to vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes to help ward off insects. Its bright flowers also attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, which prey on common garden pests. Last year, I noticed it behaved like a trap plant attracting aphids which kept them away from my vegetables and cutting flowers planted nearby.

But that’s not all! Calendula’s vibrant blooms are a magnet for bees and butterflies that are essential pollinators for a healthy garden ecosystem.

And finally, if you garden in an area that is heavily populated by deer, calendula is a wise choice. It’s generally considered deer-resistant which means you won’t have to worry about deer browsing on your pot marigold flowers.

Thus, if you’ve never grown it before, it is worth learning how to grow calendula!

Growing Calendula as a Companion Plant

Calendula’s benefits extend beyond its ornamental value and ease of cultivation. It’s a versatile companion plant that can enhance the health and productivity of your vegetable and flower gardens.

Growing Pot Marigold as a Pest Deterrent

While scientific research is ongoing, anecdotal evidence from gardeners and some preliminary studies suggest that calendula may help deter certain pests, including aphids, whiteflies, nematodes, and asparagus beetles. Its strong scent and root exudates are thought to disrupt the lifecycle of these pests or mask the scent of more susceptible plants.

Attracting Beneficial Insects with Calendula

The bright, cheerful flowers of calendula attract a wide range of beneficial insects, such as bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and ladybugs. These insects play a crucial role in pollination and pest control, contributing to a balanced and thriving garden ecosystem.

Growing Calendula Improves Soil Health

Calendula’s deep roots help aerate the soil and improve its structure, making it more conducive to plant growth. Additionally, the decomposing roots release nutrients back into the soil, enriching it for other plants.

Companion Plants for Calendula:

  • Tomatoes: Calendula is often planted alongside tomatoes to help deter tomato hornworms and whiteflies.
  • Cucumbers: Calendula’s scent can help mask the smell of cucumbers, making them less attractive to cucumber beetles.
  • Potatoes: Calendula may help deter potato beetles and nematodes that can damage potato crops.
  • Carrots: Calendula is believed to repel carrot flies, which can cause damage to carrot roots.
  • Asparagus: Calendula can help deter asparagus beetles, a common pest of asparagus plants.

While the scientific evidence for calendula’s companion planting benefits is still emerging, many gardeners have observed positive results when interplanting it with other crops. So if you’re looking for a natural way to enhance the health and productivity of your garden, calendula is a valuable companion plant to consider.

Lush garden beds filled with a stunning variety of larkspur, calendula, and snapdragons in shades of purple, pink, and yellow, complemented by green foliage and a whimsical out-of-focus terracotta pot in the background. How to support tall flowers with netting method.

Choosing Calendula Seeds

Selecting the right calendula seeds is crucial for a successful and rewarding growing experience. You’ll find a wide variety of options available, each with unique characteristics and attributes. The first decision you’ll face is whether to choose heirloom, hybrid, or organic pot marigold seeds.

  • Heirloom Seeds: These seeds have been passed down through generations, preserving genetic diversity and often offering unique flavors and colors.
  • Hybrid Seeds: These seeds are the result of cross-breeding different parent plants to achieve specific traits, such as disease resistance, increased vigor, or unique flower colors. .
  • Organic Seeds: Organic seeds are produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Once you’ve decided on the type of seed, it’s time to explore the vast array of calendula varieties available. Some popular choices include:

  • Ivory Princess: This variety features creamy-white petals with a hint of yellow at the center, offering an elegant and sophisticated alternative to the more common warm-toned varieties.
  • Pacific Beauty: This variety is known for its large, vibrant blooms in shades of yellow, orange, and apricot. It’s a reliable bloomer and a favorite among gardeners for its long-lasting flowers.
  • Resina: This variety is prized for its high resin content, which is used in herbal remedies and skincare products. It has smaller, more compact flowers than some other varieties but makes up for it with its medicinal properties.
  • Touch of Red: This variety adds a unique twist with its red-tipped petals, creating a striking contrast against the traditional yellow and orange hues. It’s a beautiful addition to any garden and attracts pollinators with its bright colors.

When choosing calendula seeds, consider your personal preferences, the specific needs of your garden, and the desired characteristics of the flowers. Research different varieties to find those that best suit your needs and aesthetic preferences. I enjoy growing Ivory Princess and Pacific Beautify in my flower garden.

Vivid calendula with layers of white-tipped, yellow petals and a fiery red center, standing out among green leaves and buds in a garden. Calendula is a great plant for attracting ladybugs to your garden.
Calendula flowers

Preparing the Planting Area for Growing Calendula

Creating an optimal planting area for your calendula will set the stage for healthy growth and abundant blooms. These hardy flowers are adaptable but thrive in specific conditions.

Light Conditions

Calendula flourishes in full sun which means it needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, it can tolerate partial shade, especially in hotter climates where afternoon shade can protect the plants from excessive heat stress.

Soil Conditions for Growing Calendula

Calendula prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. The ideal soil pH for calendula is slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. While calendula is adaptable to various soil types, including sandy or clay soils, amending the soil with compost, leaf mold, and other organic matter can improve drainage and fertility, promoting healthier plants and better blooms.

Testing Your Soil Before Planting Calendula

Before planting calendula, it’s a good idea to conduct a soil test. This will provide valuable information about the nutrient levels and pH of your soil, allowing you to make any necessary amendments. Kits are available at your local cooperative extension and garden nursery.

To conduct a soil test, collect soil samples from different areas of your garden and mix them together. Send the composite sample to a local extension service or use a home testing kit. The results will guide you in making necessary amendments, such as adjusting pH levels or adding nutrients, ensuring that your bearded irises have the best possible growing conditions.

Planting Calendula Seeds

Calendula offers flexibility when it comes to planting, allowing you to choose the method that best suits your climate, schedule, and preferences.

Direct Seeding Calendula Seeds

Direct seeding is the simplest and most common method for planting calendula. Calendula seeds can be directly sown into the garden after the last frost in spring. The seeds should be planted about ¼ inch deep and spaced 6-12 inches apart. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination which usually occurs within 7-14 days. Thin the seedlings to 12-18 inches apart once they have a few sets of true leaves.

I use this method for planting pot marigold seeds. Because my gardens are usually mulched by this time, I start them in peat pots with potting soil and then transplant them to the beds after germination.

Starting Calendula Seeds Indoors

For an earlier start and potentially longer blooming season, you can start calendula seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost under grow lights. (Follow the directions on your seed packet for proper timing).

Use a seed-starting mix and sow the seeds ¼ inch deep in individual pots or trays then cover with a clear dome. Provide warmth and moisture for germination by placing them on heat mats under grow lights. Once the seedlings emerge, remove the cover and heat mat. Bottom water only while the seedlings grow and keep the soil from drying out.

Harden off the seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions before transplanting them into the garden after the last frost.

I don’t start my calendula seeds indoors because they are really simple to direct sow and I prefer not wasting the indoor growing space on them.

Winter Sowing Calendula Seeds

Winter sowing calendula seeds involves planting them in containers during the winter months. Fill containers with moistened seed-starting mix, sow the seeds, and close the containers. Place the containers outdoors in a protected location, where they will be exposed to winter weather. The seeds will naturally germinate as temperatures warm in spring, and the seedlings can be transplanted into the garden once they are established.

No matter which method you choose, ensure that the soil is well-prepared and the seeds are planted at the appropriate depth and spacing for optimal germination and growth.

A vibrant garden scene filled with assorted colorful flowers, including tall yellow snapdragons and mixed purple blossoms (larkspur), surrounded by fresh green foliage.

Caring for Your Growing Calendula

Once your calendula seedlings have emerged or been transplanted, they require minimal care to flourish and produce an abundance of cheerful blooms.

Watering Tips for Thriving Calendula

Calendula prefers consistent moisture but not waterlogged soil. Water deeply and regularly, especially during dry periods. The idea is to ensure the soil remains evenly moist without oversaturating them.

Always water from above as watering overhead promotes fungal diseases. And it’s a good idea to water calendula deeply once a week during hot weather. How much or how little you water will really depend on your climate. Every garden is different, so keep an eye on yours and monitor drainage.

Mulching Your Calendula

Applying a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, shredded leaves, or wood chips, around the base of the plants helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Mulch also adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes, improving its structure and fertility. Aim for a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around calendula plants.

Weeding

Keep the area around your calendula plants weed-free to minimize competition for nutrients and water. Regular weeding also helps prevent the spread of pests and diseases. I love to use this hand weeding tool that gets around my pot marigold flowers with ease and removes them from the root with great accuracy.

Fertilizing Calendula Flowers

Calendula is not a heavy feeder and generally doesn’t require frequent fertilization. However, amending the soil with compost before planting and applying a slow-release fertilizer once or twice during the growing season can promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Staking Pot Marigold

Most calendula varieties don’t require staking, as they have a naturally bushy growth habit. However, taller varieties or those grown in windy locations may benefit from staking to prevent them from toppling over. Use stakes and soft ties to gently support the stems without damaging them.

Deadheading Calendula Flowers

Deadheading (or removing spent flowers) encourages the plant to produce more blooms and extends the flowering period. Simply pinch or snip off the faded flower heads at the base of the stem. Regular deadheading can significantly increase the number of flowers your calendula plants produce. So the more you cut, the more they’ll bloom!

Growing Calendula in Pots

If you are short on growing space, you can totally grow calendula in pots on patios, balconies, and other small spaces. With the right care, you can enjoy these beautiful flowers even without a traditional garden plot.

Choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep and wide to provide ample space for the roots to develop. Make sure the container has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Terracotta, plastic, or wooden pots are all suitable options.

Use a high-quality potting mix that is well-draining and rich in organic matter. You can create your own mix by combining equal parts garden soil, compost, and perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.

Plant calendula seeds directly into the potting mix, following the same depth and spacing guidelines as for direct seeding in the ground. Water the seeds gently and keep the soil consistently moist until germination.

Place the container in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Container-grown calendula may require more frequent watering than those planted in the ground, especially during hot weather. Check the soil moisture regularly and water when the top inch feels dry to the touch. It’s a great idea to run drip irrigation so watering is set and forget.

It’s recommended to feed container-grown calendula with a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer label for proper dosage and application. However, I like to use a slow-release fertilizer after seedlings have 2 sets of true leaves so I don’t have to keep fertilizing them every few weeks.

As with garden-grown calendula, regular deadheading will encourage continuous blooming and prolong the flowering period.

Lush garden scene with vibrant snapdragons in shades of yellow, pink, and purple, complemented by blue larkspur and yellow straw flowers. The image captures a variety of snapdragons in full bloom, beautifully arranged with terracotta pots hanging whimsically in the background, creating a picturesque summer garden. Growing snapdragons from seed for cutting flowers
Snapdragons and larkpsur

Pest and Disease Management for Calendula

While calendula is generally a resilient plant, it can occasionally be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Vigilance and prompt action can help keep your plants healthy and thriving.

Common Pests of Calendula

  • Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects suck sap from the leaves and stems of calendula, causing them to curl and distort. For organic pest control, knock them off with a strong spray of a garden hose. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control serious aphid infestations.
  • Spider Mites: These tiny arachnids can also cause damage by sucking sap from the leaves, leaving them with a stippled appearance. You can spray the plants with a strong jet of water to dislodge spider mites or using insecticidal soap for more severe infestations.
  • Whiteflies: These small, winged insects congregate on the undersides of leaves, feeding on sap and leaving behind a sticky honeydew that can attract sooty mold. Use yellow sticky traps to monitor and control whitefly populations.

Disease Prevention for Pot Marigold

  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves and stems of calendula. You can prevent powdery mildew by providing good air circulation around the plants, avoiding overhead watering, and applying a fungicide if necessary.
  • Leaf Spot: This fungal disease causes brown or black spots to appear on the leaves of calendula. Removing and destroy infected leaves and applying a fungicide if the problem persists.

Monitor your calendula plants regularly and take prompt action at the first sign of pests or disease to ensure a healthy and productive garden. Remember to use organic pest control methods whenever possible to protect beneficial insects and minimize environmental impact.

An ornate stone fountain surrounded by vibrant flowers including pink, purple, and yellow blooms, and greenery in a lush cottage garden setting. clay pots are playfully arranged in the background with dahlias, snapdragons and larkspur and calendula, a great companion planting idea. Growing calendula in your flower garden helps attract beneficial insects and pollinators for a healthy ecosystem.

Protecting Calendula Seedlings from Wildlife

Young calendula seedlings are vulnerable to various wildlife, including rabbits, deer, squirrels, and birds. While calendula is generally deer-resistant as a mature plant, the tender seedlings can be tempting to these herbivores.

Physical Barriers

Cover your seedlings with netting or create a small fence around them to deter rabbits and deer. Make sure the netting is secured to the ground and tall enough to prevent animals from jumping over it.

Individual cloches or protective covers can be placed over each seedling to create a barrier against pests. Cloches can be made from various materials, such as plastic bottles, glass jars, or commercial plant protectors.

Repellents

Some gardeners find success using scented repellents, such as soap shavings or hot pepper spray, to deter animals. However, these methods may need to be reapplied frequently, especially after a lot of rain.

There are various commercial repellents available that are designed to deter specific animals. Be sure to choose a repellent that is safe for use on edible plants if you plan to harvest your calendula flowers for culinary or medicinal purposes. Read this article where I reviewed several repellent sprays that work pretty well.

Other Strategies

If possible, time your planting to avoid peak periods of animal activity. For example, rabbits are often more active in the spring when food sources are scarce. Planting strong-smelling herbs, such as chives or garlic, around your calendula seedlings may help deter some pests.

Harvesting Calendula Flowers

Knowing when and how to harvest your calendula flowers is key to enjoying their vibrant colors and potential uses. The best time to harvest is in the morning when they are fully open after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day intensifies.

This ensures that the petals have developed their full color and flavor. To harvest, simply cut the stem just below the flower head with a sharp, clean pair of snips or pruning shears. Leave a few inches of stem attached to the flower head to help prolong vase life.

Harvesting calendula regularly encourages the plant to produce more blooms throughout the season so don’t be shy about doing it. Aim to harvest flowers every few days during peak blooming periods to keep the plant productive. If you are harvesting for culinary purposes, only choose flowers that are free of pests and diseases.

After harvesting, you can use the calendula flowers fresh in salads, teas, or other recipes, or you can dry them for later use. To dry the flowers, spread them out in a single layer on a clean, dry surface in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Once the flowers are completely dry, store them in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

A vibrant cut flower garden featuring tall pink snapdragons, purple larkspur flowers, and yellow pot marigolds in full bloom, with lush green leaves. The backdrop includes a black lattice fence and trees, creating a peaceful, lively scene of nature.

Saving Calendula Seeds

One of the joys of growing calendula is its ability to self-seed, ensuring a return of these vibrant blooms year after year. However, you can also take a more active role in seed saving to preserve specific varieties or share them with fellow gardeners.

Calendula seeds are super easy to collect and save. Allow some flower heads to mature and dry on the plant. As the petals fade and drop, the seed heads will turn brown and dry out. The seeds are ready to harvest when they are dark brown or black and easily fall off the seed head when touched.

To collect the seeds, gently remove the dried seed heads from the plant and place them in a paper bag. Shake the bag to dislodge the seeds, then separate the seeds from any debris. Spread the seeds out on a clean, dry surface in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight to allow them to dry completely.

Once the seeds are dry, store them in a labeled envelope or airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry place. Properly stored seeds can remain viable for several years.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can calendula grow in the shade?

While calendula prefers full sun, it can tolerate partial shade, especially in warmer climates where afternoon shade can be beneficial. However, for optimal flowering and growth, it’s best to plant calendula in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

How long does calendula take to bloom?

Calendula typically takes about 6-8 weeks to bloom from seed. If you start seeds indoors, you can expect earlier blooms than if you direct sow them in the garden. Some varieties may bloom even faster, while others may take a bit longer.

Can I use calendula flowers for culinary purposes?

Yes, calendula flowers are edible and have a slightly peppery, tangy flavor. They can be added to salads, used as a garnish, or infused into oils and vinegars. However, it’s essential to ensure that the flowers are grown organically and free of pesticides if you plan to consume them.

Is calendula a perennial or annual?

While calendula is often grown as an annual, it can be a short-lived perennial in warmer climates (zones 9-11). In colder regions, it will typically die back in the winter and may reseed itself for the following season.

Final Thoughts on Growing Calendula in Your Garden

In conclusion, cultivating calendula in your garden is a rewarding endeavor that offers a wealth of benefits. Its bright, happy blooms bring beauty and life to any space, while its low-maintenance nature makes it easy to grow for gardeners of all levels.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, calendula plays a vital role in promoting a healthy garden ecosystem. By attracting pollinators, deterring pests, and improving soil health, it contributes to the overall well-being of your plants and fosters a thriving environment.

Whether you choose to plant calendula in a traditional garden bed or containers, its versatility and adaptability ensure success. With its vibrant colors, long blooming period, and potential benefits as a companion plant, calendula is a valuable asset to any type of garden.

So why not invite calendula into your garden and experience the joy of cultivating this beautiful flower? You’ll be amazed by its beauty, resilience, and the positive impact it has in your landscape.

If you have any questions or experiences you’d like to share about growing calendula, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy gardening!

For more information about growing calendula in your flower garden, read this article from the Utah State University Extension.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these posts:

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Enjoy your day! xo

Stacy Ling bricksnblooms logo

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2 Comments

  1. Stacy, I have never grown calendula but use the dried blooms in my nesting beds for the chickens. Dried rose blossoms, lavender and calendula sprinkled on the hay, keeps the bugs away while they are laying eggs. I need to try and grow my own. Thanks for the post.