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October 18, 2017 Back to Picks >

The bright yellow and orange calendula, also known as “pot marigold” for its culinary usefulness, is a beloved annual often seen in colonial-style gardens. A wonderful addition to our cool-season plantings, it attains 8 to 20 inches in height and should be planted in our zone 8 and 9 from September through February. It adds brilliant color to the garden from November through May, when the heat and humidity of our summers end its local growing season.

The calendula needs sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. For best results (and to fend off powdery mildew), keep the foliage dry by avoiding placing where a lawn sprinkler is at work. Regular fertilizing will increase blooms and extend the calendula season.

Historically, the calendula has had numerous medicinal uses; also, and most interestingly, the flowers have been used to lighten and brighten hair, and its dried petals are used in soaps. In the kitchen, the petals are used in fish and meat soups, rice dishes, salads, and for coloring cheese and butter. Because of its ability to 5 provide color and seasoning to many foods, calendula petals have been referred to as “poor man’s saffron.”

The calendula may reseed in the garden. It likes well-drained compost-rich soil, in a sunny spot, but a bit of shade in the late afternoon is a good idea. This traditional work horse of the herb planting suits almost any type of garden design, and mixes well with herbs as well as other garden favorites — happy in window boxes and containers as well!