Calendula, also known as Pot Marigold or English Marigold, is known for its bright orange or yellow colored flowers, as well as the spicy, peppery flavor of the flower petals, which makes it a fantastic addition to any dish needing a pop of color and tang. It is often referred to as “poor man’s saffron” due to its ability to imbue a pleasant bright yellow color into any dish. Calendula petals can be eaten cooked or raw.
We love hardy Calendula here in zone 6, and although it is an annual (zones 4-10), it reseeds itself freely and grows with minimal care or maintenance, making it an ideal addition to any garden and a great choice for beginners.
Growing and Harvesting Calendula
Plant Calendula officinalis in a well-draining area that sees full sun, or partial shade. Calendula prefers rich soil, but it will tolerate poor soils well. Seeds can be sown a few weeks before the last frost in the spring and again staggered throughout the summer for continuous growth and harvesting. Calendula grows to approximately 2 feet tall and requires only normal watering.
The C shaped seeds can be sown near gardens to attract beneficial insects. Calendula is a wonderful attractant to butterflies and is also deer resistant.
Harvest Calendula flowers in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, when blossoms are in full bloom. Choose only full healthy looking flowers for cutting. Blossoms can be dried for later use and will keep their color well. Besides usage as color and flavor in dishes, Calendula can be used as a natural dye for clothing, and has many traditional medicinal uses.
A Healthy Handful of the Many Varieties of Calendula
Art Shades: Large flowers ranging in color from pale cream through bright orange, some with chocolate-colored centers. Tolerates poor soil well.
Ball’s Improved Orange: Pretty, extra, large orange blossoms with yellow centers. Great for cutting.
Bonbon: Very dense, pompom-like flowers, similar in appearance to the common Marigold (Tagates sp.), with mixed colors ranging from yellow to orange. Flowers earlier in the season than most Calendulas. Great for growing in containers.
Calypso: Compact, dense plants, good for container growing. Flowers are the traditional shades of orange and yellow, with black centers.
Candyman Orange: A dwarf variety with large, bright orange blossoms.
Citrus Cocktail: Dwarf, compact plant variety in classic gold and orange Calendula colors.
Dwarf Gem: Another dwarf variety, with full apricot, yellow, and orange flowers.
Fiesta Gitana: Another dwarf variety producing compact blooms varying from pale yellow to deep orange, with dark centers. Great for window boxes.
Flashback: This variety varies in flowers of pastel and bright colors, with the undersides of the petals colored a muted burgundy. Full flowers on long, sturdy stems making it very good for cuttings.
Golden Princess: Large, full blossoms of golden-yellow with short petals and black centers, this is another good variety for cuttings.
Greenheart Orange: Full orange petals are arranged around a lime-green crested center. Good as cutting flowers.
Indian Prince: Dark orange petals with crimson backs to match the crimson centers. Shades of yellow and orange flowers on long, strong stems. Heat resistant. Excellent for cut flower arrangements.
Kablouna: Flowers in shades of apricot, gold, and lemon. Small petals are arranged around large, fluffy, pincushion-like, pronounced centers.
Neon: A very bright orange flower with a dark center.
Orange King: Huge, bright orange blossoms. Tall and good for cut arrangements.
Orange Porcupine: Very similar to the ‘Radio’ variety, with large quilled flowers in bright orange and tall stalks.
Orange Salad: Bright orange flowers often used as a substitute for saffron.
Pacific Beauty: More heat tolerant than most varieties, long, sturdy stems, with flowers in shades of yellow and orange.
Pink Surprise: This variety produces large, light orange-apricot to light salmon pink flowers delicately tinged in pink with light brownish-red centers. Great for cutting.
Prolifera: This variety is taller and more heat tolerant than most calendulas. It also bears many more flowers than other varieties, and reseeds itself well.
Radio Extra Selected: Unusual quill-like blooms are uniformly orange. Hardy, remarkable plant good for cuttings as well.
Sherbet Fizz: Buff-colored blossoms with tightly packed petals tipped with red, with dark red undersides.
Touch of Red: Traditional flowers in the usual shades of cream, yellow, and orange with, as the name implies, a touch of red on the tips of the petals.
Touch of Red Buff: Just like Touch of Red, but only the creamy, buff variety flowers.