Grown for centuries in medicinal and herbal gardens, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) is the most recognized and cultivated of the 15 or so species of plants in Calendula. Native to areas of southern Europe, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, Calendula may be annuals, perennials or subshrubs prized for their showy daisy flowers.
Variable in form, the plants may be bushy, spreading or erect. They have simple, alternate leaves (without indentations) with or without petioles (leaf stalks) that may be smooth or fuzzy. Leaf shape may be oblong, linear or elliptical. The daisy flower heads are borne singly and consist of a central eye of tiny, tubular, disk florets that may be yellow, red, purple or brown surrounded by a single or multiple ring of linear or egg-shaped ray petals in shades yellow, cream or orange. Some double flowered selection exist in cultivation. The fruits resemble sunflower seeds with hooks. These can attach to clothing or fur to facilitate dispersal. Exceptions include the field marigold (Calendula arvensis), a weedy European species that produces very unusual ring-shaped seeds.
Cheerfully bright when in flower, Calendula are easy-to-grow. Most thrive in climates where summers are not too hot and humid and winters are somewhat mild. Nearly all prefer full to partial sun and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. Commonly cultivated varieties are surprisingly drought tolerant once established. All are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. Regular deadheading will encourage repeat flowering. The petals of Calendula officinalis flowers are edible and add spicy flavor to salads. Pot marigolds are great in mixed borders, containers and herb or vegetable gardens.
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