When you’re looking for a flower that is versatile, easy to grow, and comes in cheery orange and yellow shades, two of the best candidates are marigolds and calendulas. In addition to their similar qualities in the garden, calendulas also have the nickname “pot marigold.”
These traits can sometimes lead new gardeners to think these two flowers are the same when they’re actually two very different species.
Marigolds and calendulas share the same plant family, Asteraceae, but from there, they differ in the genus (which class of plants they belong to), native area, physical traits, and uses. Marigolds have smooth, fern-like leaves and small to giant blooms. Calendulas have fuzzy, sticky foliage and medium-sized daily-like flowers.
Don’t let the common calendula name “Pot marigold” fool you. Even though marigold and calendula belong to the same family, they have distinct differences. Here’s how to tell these two orange and yellow beauties apart.
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What’s the difference between marigolds and calendulas?
Despite belonging to the same family, marigolds and calendulas are two vastly different plants. Here’s a glance at the primary differences:
|40 – 50 species
|15 – 20 species
|Annual or perennial
|Southwestern North America Tropical America South America
|Southwestern Asia Western Europe Macaronesia The Mediterranean
|Size: 6 inches to 6 feet tall
Stem: Reddish, smooth stems
Flowers: Single or double yellow, orange, or red flowers
Leaves: Dark green, fern-like leaves
|Size: 1 to 2 feet tall
Stem: Fuzzy and sticky stems
Flowers: Single or semi-double yellow, orange, red, white, or pink flowers
Leaves: Lime-green, oblong, slightly toothed
|Long, thin seeds with a fluffy white tip
|Brown, spiny, and curled seeds (horseshoe-shaped)
|Herbaceous, spicy aroma
|Slightly sweet fragrance similar to tree sap
Protect plants from pests
|Toxic (mildly): Contains phototoxic thiophene
Each of these plants exhibits its own beauty and unique traits. You’ll be able to easily distinguish between the two plants after scanning through the table and photos.
For those looking for a bit more depth, continue reading.
Are marigolds and calendulas the same?
Whether marigolds and calendulas are the same is a frequently asked question, especially when you see a plant tag calling a calendula a “pot marigold.” To clear the confusion – marigolds and calendulas are not the same, despite calendula’s misnomer.
Both members belong to the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. However, marigolds are members of the Tagetes genus and are native to Northouth America. In contrast, calendulas are members of the calendula genus and are native to Southwestern Asia and Europe.
The flowers have a similar growth habit, where they grow upright and bushy without creeping or spreading over their neighboring plants, although their stems and leaves are very different from each other.
Marigolds have more variation in their height, as well as more variation in the blooms, from small French marigolds to giant round flowers. Calendulas only produce single or semi-double blooms, never double.
Meet the marigold
Marigold belongs to Tagetes spp. plant genus. There are around 40 to 50 different species of these cheery and reliable bedding flowers.
These low-maintenance plants are true annuals – they complete their life cycle within a year.
Marigolds have dark green, pinnated, or fern-like foliage with warm-colored blooms ranging from yellow to mahogany red and bi-color. The flowers vary from diminutive, single-petal flowers to sizeable, 4-inch double-petal blossoms.
These hardy plants are notably pest-free and can bloom almost non-stop from early summer until frost with the appropriate care.
Marigolds have a distinctive herbaceous, pungent aroma. Many gardeners plant marigolds among their vegetables and other plants to deter pests who don’t appreciate the flower’s scent.
Marigold care requirements
Marigold plants are vigorous growers and exceptionally low-maintenance once established. They are ideal for garden beds, vegetable patches, containers, or edging plants. Deadheading will help encourage continuous blooming.
|Plant marigolds in full sun to ensure healthy plants with abundant blooms. Shade may cause them to turn leggy and produce fewer blooms.
|Moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Ensure the pH ranges roughly between 6.0 and 7.0.
|Ensure seeds and new plants have consistently moist soil. Then, scale back to weekly watering schedules once the plants are established.
|Marigold seeds only germinate at temperatures between 65°F to 75°F. However, these plants thrive in USDA zones 2 to 11.
|Prefers relatively dry air but will tolerate a wide range of humidity levels.
|Marigolds do not need additional fertilizer.
|Ensure you keep your marigolds deadheaded to achieve almost non-stop flowering through summer to early fall.
Best uses for marigolds
After its beauty, marigolds are top performers as companion plants to deter harmful nematodes and other pests.
These flowers attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps that prey on harmful insects. Therefore, these plants can significantly reduce insect damage in your garden and vegetable patch.
Meet the calendula, aka pot marigold
Calendula is part of the calendula Officinalis genus. The calendula includes around 20 species and grows as an annual or short-lived perennial in warm climates.
Despite being called “Pot marigold,” the calendula does not belong to the same species as the marigold (Tagetes spp.).
Calendulas boast bright, daisy-like flowers in yellow, orange, red, white, or subtle pink hues. Most varieties are single flowers with one row of petals, though some varieties are semi-double with two rows of petals.
Calendula flowers are commonly used for herbal home remedies, fabric dyes, cosmetics, and food garnishes. In the garden, calendulas don’t have the same pest-repelling qualities, but they do draw pollinators and beneficial insects with their flowers.
These flowers will bloom from spring through the first fall frost, making them an excellent option for a very long season of blooms. Calendulas are also prolific self-sowers, so you should only have to plant them once if you let a few flowers go to seed at the end of the season.
Calendula care requirements
Calendulas are straightforward to grow from seed. You can directly sow calendula seeds into your garden or containers after the first frost. After that, calendulas just need to be deadheaded to keep producing new flowers.
|calendulas thrive in full sun. However, they may start wilting in intense heat. Consider providing afternoon shade in sweltering temperatures.
|Organic, well-draining soil. Aim to plant calendulas in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
|Ensure juvenile plants have consistently moist soil. Then, water the calendula every week once the soil completely dries.
|calendula prefers cooler temperatures between 70°F to 85°F. However, these plants can USDA zones 2a to 11b and grow as annuals.
|Calendula prefers low humidity levels.
|Garden-planted calendulas require no additional feeding. However, provide a diluted balanced fertilizer monthly to container plants.
|Pinch back young calendulas to promote more compact, bushy growth. In addition, deadhead its old flowers to encourage reblooming.
Calendula flowers can be planted into the landscape flower bed, the cutting garden, or companion planted into the vegetable garden.
The flowers can also be harvested for their medicinal and culinary purposes at home. The flowers can be infused into tea, oils, salves, and soaps. Calendula petals are edible, so try sprinkling them into a salad to add a splash of color.
Speaking of color – calendula flowers are also used as a dye for fabrics and yards. You can try using them to dye Easter eggs, too, for a natural dye along with purple cabbage leaves and red beets.