Calendula & Marigolds (Flowers for every Garden)
I’ve never been much for flowers, but I have come to see the importance of incorporating many flowers into your permaculture design, not just for aesthetics but for practical function as well. Two of my favorites are calendula and marigolds. Not to confuse things too much, but calendula is sometimes called pot marigold, but calendula belongs to the genus Asteraceae, while marigolds belong to the genus Tagetes.
It is very important that you get heirloom varieties of calendula and marigolds. They will be hardier and better at some of the benefits they provide. Avoid hybridized varieties with especially showy flowers. For example, hybrid marigolds have shown to provide little in the way of pest repellant when using the flower as a garden companion.
Calendula can be a perennial in zones 8-11, but typically it is a hardy self-seeding annual. Calendula has a very large seed that must be planted, and is very easy to germinate. I planted a lot of calendula on my berms, and they have done very well without any special care at all. Apart from producing beautiful orange or yellow flowers from the early summer until fall, they are also excellent pollinator and beneficial insect attractors.
Calendula flowers are edible and the plant has been used for medicinal purposes as an anti-fungal and disinfectant. Calendula can grow as a companion to most garden plants, so feel free to plant them wherever you like throughout your garden.
Marigolds are more of a strict annual, so you will probably need to replant them from year to year. Because of this and the fact that they make great companions in my annual gardens, I simply replant them with my zone 1 annual garden rotation each year.
Marigolds will grow in most soils, but they do need a sunny spot. Many people start marigolds in a greenhouse 6-8 weeks before their last frost date, but I just direct seed them as soon as I think I can get away with it. It is just such a pain to transplant, seeding is much easier.
Heirloom marigolds make an excellent companion for most plants because of the pest deterrent they offer. They also help under the soil by deterring nematodes. I like to plant marigolds with eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots.