We are often told to pinch out the growth tips of certain plants to encourage bushier growth, this is most certainly true for flowers like sweet peas but should you pinch out calendula? let’s have a look and find out.
Should I Pinch Out Calendula?
You can pinch out the main growing stem (terminal bud) to promote bushier growth. You can do this once the plant is established and about 10cm tall.
You can also trim back large Calendula to keep it more compact in the middle of the summer. Do this with some scissors or secateurs and just cut back to above a leaf and keep your plant bushier and compact.
You should also regularly deadhead calendula throughout its flowering period, this will encourage new growth and also stop the plant from going to seed.
Calendulas are prolific self-seeders and will happily self sow in place, if you want this to happen then let a few flowers go to seed in the autumn. If this is something you would rather avoid then make sure you thoroughly deadhead all of the spent flowers.
Calendula Officinalis (pot marigold)
Calendula is an annual herb that is edible and is commonly used in herbal remedies for all kinds of afflictions.
While being an annual it does have a strong self-seeding habit so grows almost as if it was a perennial. Plant some in a garden bed and expect them to readily self-seed and come back year after year.
They are really easy to grow and not too fussy at all. Provide them with a nice sunny spot in good, well-draining soil and they will reward you with ample bright orange blooms.
How to Grow Calendula
Calendula can be easily started from seed. Like all annual flowers (technically Calendula are a herb but they are normally grown as flowers), you want to start them early if possible to get the best summer displays.
Sow a few seeds per pot in early spring in a sheltered spot. A greenhouse or sunny windowsill is ideal.
They are good germinators and not overly fussy, just plant them under a thin layer of compost. You can use seed compost or just general purpose compost to sow Calendula.
As with most small seeds I find it better to water the soil to get it nice and moist before planting the seeds so you do not risk moving them with a deluge of water.
Once the seedlings have developed a good set of leaves I will tip them out from the pot and start separating them. The aim is to break the soil apart softly and keep as much of the root of each seedling as intact as possible.
You can then pot them on into individual pots or a couple of seedlings per pot if you are running short!
I will then grow them on in pots until all risk of frost has passed. At this time they can be planted out in the garden.
If you have grown your Calendula in a heated area, such as a heated greenhouse or inside your home then you will need to gradually acclimatise them to outside life before planting out.
Benifits of Calendula
Calendula is edible and was commonly known as poor man’s saffron. This is because they can be used to colour food dishes in much the same way as saffron is, although they do not taste like saffron. The flower petals can be added to salads for a splash of colour.
Beyond being edible calendula flowers have been used for many hundreds of years as a herbal remedy.
It has antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties and is used in all sorts of things from topical creams to lip balms.
What is Calendula’s common name?
Calendula are known as pot marigolds. Despite this, they are not marigolds but the name stems from them looking very similar to marigolds and either commonly being used in pot cooked food dishes or the fact that they grow well in pots, depending on who you ask.
How to tell Calendulas and French Marigolds apart
There are a few easy ways to differentiate between the two plants.
The more common marigold is grown as an attractive flower and is not usually considered edible, although some varieties are. This is a whole other topic which is hotly debated and I’m not going to get into it here, for the sake of simplicity I will say they are not edible.
They are grown for their flowers and also as a pest preventive. Marigolds are commonly used in companion planting as they are believed to deter certain pests.
Calendula and Marigolds are from the same family of plants (Aseraceae) but are from different genera. French marigolds are from the Tagetes genus whilst pot marigolds are from the Calendula genus.
They have both been simply referred to as marigolds in the past but now pot marigold is the common name for calendula. To avoid any confusion though I think it is simply best to refer to them as calendula.