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How to Grow: Calendula
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Early summer to fall in colors such as white, orange, gold, and yellow
Mature Height x Spread
12 to 30 inches x 12 to 18 inches
attracts beneficials, edible, deer resistant
Calendula is a bright, cheery addition to any annual garden. The small plants produce vibrant white, yellow or orange colored flowers, depending on the variety, from early summer through fall. The plants can even withstand a light frost in fall. The flowers come with single or double petals and some are even bicolor. Not only are the flowers showy, the petals are edible. I love sprinkling a small handful of calendula petals on my summer salads or in soups. The petals can also be used to make a yellow pigment similar to saffron. Calendula craves full sun. They will survive less than ideal light conditions, but won’t bloom as vigorously. Calendula grows equally well in containers as they do in the ground.
Where, When and How to Plant
Sow calendula seeds in the spring in a full or part sun location in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. To get a faster start, sow seeds indoors under grow lights 6 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant seedlings or thin direct sown seeds to 6 to 12 inches apart in beds amended with compost. Calendula grows best in compost-rich soils that are well-drained.
Calendula flowers best during the cooler parts of early and late summer. Deadhead spent flowers to keep the plant looking tidy and to encourage more flowering. During hot weather the plants may stop flowering and foliage look ragged. Cut back the plants to about 3 inches tall to encourage more new growth and they should start to flower again soon afterward. Fertilize calendula with an organic plant food monthly to encourage blooms.
Regional Advice and Care
Calendula are easy to grow annuals with few pests. During periods of wet, humid summer weather, some varieties can developed powdery mildew disease and should be cut back and sprayed with an organic fungicide to control it. Harvest newly opened flowers in the morning after the dew has dried for eating. Single petaled varieties have a less bitter taste than double petaled flowers. You can also dry the petals for later use. Calendula self-sow readily in our climate, so don’t be surprised to see some seedlings next spring. Thin these seedlings to 6 inches apart and enjoy the flower show.
Companion Planting and Design
Calendula look best grouped together in a flowerbed or container. You can also mix and match this annual with blue flowers of lobelia and salvia. Many gardeners grow calendula near vegetables as companion plants to aid their growth and brighten up the veggie garden.
‘Calypso Series’ features pompom-like flowers in orange or yellow with dark colored centers. The plants are dense growers making them great for container growing. ‘Pacific Beauty Mix’ are heat tolerant plants with long-stemmed orange or golden colored flowers. ‘Kablouna Series’ has gold, lemon, orange or apricot colored flowers on powdery mildew resistant plants.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.