By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
Calendula is a useful plant in any garden. It is often grown with vegetables because it benefits the soil, deters pests, and is an edible herb. As its common name “pot marigold” describes, calendula is also commonly grown in containers. Although some varieties are short-lived perennials in zones 8-10, most gardeners grow calendula as annuals. Calendula winter care isn’t necessary when they are grown as annuals, but this article will discuss what to do with calendulas in winter.
Calendula is a versatile garden plant. It can be grown in containers or directly in the garden as an ornamental plant, a bright border, a pest deterring companion plant, or a medical herb and can even be grown as a soil amending cover crop. Calendula flowers are edible and the flowers have been cultivated for hundreds of years to use in dying foods, such as cheeses.
The flowers are also used to garnish soups, stews, and salads. Calendula has natural anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. It is used herbally to treat skin conditions and wounds, and made into immune boosting teas. Cosmetically, calendula is used to soften and moisturize skin and hair. For many of us in cooler climates, winter can provide us with time to make soaps, salves, and herbal infused oils from dried plants we harvested throughout the summer.
Because calendula are grown so easily from seed, most gardeners do not find it necessary to keep calendula over winter. It only takes about 10-14 days for calendula seeds to germinate and plants are usually harvestable in 55 days.
In warm climates, calendula can be seeded in succession and grown nearly year round, but in northern climates, calendula cold tolerance is limited. In fact, these frost intolerant plants would need to be grown indoors in the home or a heated greenhouse through winter. When over wintered indoors, calendula will need bright light and steady temperatures between 70-75° F. (21-24° C.).
In warm climates, specifically zones 9-10, calendula can be grown almost year round. Calendula plants are not frost tolerant, but they do prefer cooler temperatures. In the south, calendulas may bloom from late winter into spring then die back during the extreme heat of summer. In warm climates, most calendula are still treated like annuals because of their intolerance of the summer heat. Calendula plants are seeded in autumn for late winter blooms or as a winter cover crop. Seeds can be sown again in spring for an extended bloom time.
Even in cool climates, calendula plants grow so readily from seed that they can be planted in succession to extend the enjoyment and bounty of these blooms. In cool climates, calendula seeds should be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected frost. These early spring blooms will benefit pollinators and are great companions for fruit trees and early vegetable crops.
Calendula seeds sown directly in the garden in mid-late summer will provide autumn blooms. A general rule of thumb is to plant calendula as you would plant cool loving crops such as spinach.
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Brighten the shortest days of the year with winter flowers. By filling your home with blooming color, you’ll dodge the winter blues by adding other hues to your scenery. Winter blooming flowers thrive indoors in all regions, but in warmer areas, you can also ignite some floral fireworks outside. Learn what kinds of winter flowers you can count on for a taste of spring—in the heart of winter.
Outdoors, there’s no shortage of flowers that bloom in winter, provided you live in Zone 6 or warmer. You might even squeak by with a little floral color in colder zones, but during a typical January and February, blooming petals can’t stand up to frigid temperatures. Classic annual winter flowers for outdoor enjoyment include nemesia, sweet alyssum, flowering stock and calendula.
Pansy is the cold weather champ for reliable winter flowers. These cheery plants can even freeze solid and jump back into blooming following a thaw. Johnny jump-ups or violas also perform like winter pansies. Paired with colorful ornamental cabbage and dusty miller, pansies and violas can fill winter scenes with steady color from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day—and beyond.
Indoors, draw upon winter flowering plants to fill your home with inspiring beauty. Many potted plants that thrive in cool weather are available, including cineraria, kalanchoe and azalea. Orchids typically blossom in winter, and moth orchids are exotic and easy. Cyclamen offers eye-catching leaves topped with fluttering blooms. These pretty plants crave nights in the 45- to 55-degree range.
Draw upon fragrant winter flowers to enhance living spaces with color and sweet floral perfume. Potted gardenia and jasmine unfurl blossoms that exude luscious scents. Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can also fill a home with fragrance—and they’re a cinch to grow. Just perch them over water and watch the magic unfold. Stems emerge, stretch and pop open to reveal crisp white blooms packed with intense perfume.
Another bulb that makes an enchanting winter flower is amaryllis. These chubby bulbs give rise to towering stems topped with velvety trumpet-shaped blooms. Look for flowers in a wide variety of hues including Santa Claus red, snow white, and shrimp pink. There’s even an amaryllis that resembles candy canes with red and white streaked petals.
Forced spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, provide another option for winter flowers. Watch for forced bulbs at your local grocery store or florist, and grab a few pots to fill your home with color. Choose hyacinth, and you’ll be bringing home a fresh floral fragrance.
Creating your own winter floral arrangements offers another option for adding fresh flowers to your home. You’ll find buckets of blooms at your local florist, including cool-weather favorites like snapdragon, ranunculus, anemone and freesia. You might even be able to find cut bleeding-heart flowers, which last more than two weeks in a vase.
For Christmas, celebrate with classic winter flowers, like Christmas cactus or poinsettia. Choose from poinsettias in a host of hues, such as red, white, pink and marbled blends. Many florists now spray paint poinsettias in shades of blue or purple. There is literally a color to please every palette.
Pansies boast one of the best low-maintenance personalities. Give them the conditions they need and they'll thrive.
Light: Pansies do best with about six hours of sun daily. In warmest regions (Zone 7 and warmer), protect plants from full sun during the hottest part of the day. Too much heat can slow flower formation. New trailing pansy varieties, like Cool Wave, need a minimum of six hours of full sun to flower best. For winter plantings, consider adding pansies beneath trees that have dropped their leaves for the season, allowing sunlight to reach soil.
Nothing adds color to fall settings like perky pansies, which hold their own in containers. Whether planting in spring or fall, space pansies close together to create a full looking container garden. For a textural contrast add sweet alyssum with its tiny blossoms.
Photo by: Ball Horticultural Company
Ball Horticultural Company
Soil: Pansies thrive in soil that's rich in organic matter. Mix finished compost, leaf mold, bark fines or other locally available organic matter into planting beds. For pots, choose a bagged commercial planting mix labeled for use in containers.
Fertilizer: A slow-release fertilizer mixed into soil at planting time works well with pansies. In warmer zones, avoid giving pansies high-nitrogen fertilizer during September to keep plants from stretching. Most commercial soil mixes for pots contain slow-release fertilizer. For pansies in pots, apply liquid plant food roughly four weeks after planting and any time you cut plants back to encourage more flowers.
Pests: For the most part, pansies are pest-free. Occasionally aphids may attack in early spring. An insecticidal soap spray removes those easily. Slugs are the biggest potential threat to pansies, especially early and late in the growing season. Use slug bait (look for earth-friendly types) or traps to deal with slugs or snails.
Celebrate the holiday season in natural style with a freshly cut Christmas tree. Enjoy the best experience by choosing a well-hydrated tree. One way to check is to gently grasp a branch and pull away, running it through your hand. If it's a good tree, it will hold onto its needles. If it has started to dry out, you'll end up with a lot of needles in your hand.
Some trees hang onto their needles better than others. Some of the prizewinners for needle retention are Douglas fir, Fraser fir, white fir, white pine, and red pine.
Keep your tree looking fantastic through the holidays by locating it in a cool place (the cooler the temperatures, the longer your tree will stay green) and keeping an eye on the water level in the stand.